The short answer is “no.” The slightly longer answer is “maybe… it depends on the details.”
I’m seeing some teachers criticizing CPS’s contract offer as it’s being portrayed in the media. At this point we don’t know the details of the offer, and the details matter very much. The proposal is 40 pages long, yet folks are debating a paragraph or two we’ve seen on the CTU website or in the media. All we have are very general and vague descriptions. I really hope that we can all maintain perspective and look at the proposal with an open and critical mind when we get the details.
Negotiations don’t produce a 100% win for either side. I hope that this contract will be one that we can all live with. I hope it defends our profession. I hope it protects our members from abuse. I hope it strengthens our schools for our students and our communities.
Much of the criticism I’m seeing isn’t terribly well founded. I don’t know exactly what economic concessions are part of the current offer, but keeping steps and lanes is huge and having any cost of living raise is a significant economic win in this climate. My guess is that any reduction in the pension pick-up or increase in health insurance costs will cancel out some of those gains, but just breaking even at this point – along with some enforceable protections is a pretty good deal in my opinion. Of course “enforceable” can be a slippery thing with Rahm and Rauner. Does this mean that if they close a school, those teachers will be given other jobs in the district? What about enrollment based layoffs? How will that work?
My feeling is that we need to get rid of the pension pickup one way or another. CTU never should have approved it back in the day. People don’t understand it and it makes us look bad… like we’re getting some kind of sweetheart deal. You and I know this isn’t true, but it’s misleading and makes us look like we’re getting something for nothing. It needs to go, but we’re not willing to take a 7% pay cut to make it go away, and CPS can’t afford what amounts to a 7% raise to make it go, so we need some kind of compromise phase out.
We all know that CPS is broke. Yes they’re broke, in some measure, on purpose; but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re truly broke. A financial transaction tax or a progressive income tax would have to be approved by Springfield. TIF reform is long-term and returning the TIF surplus is only a short-term bandaid that doesn’t address the real problems. We need to keep up the fight fund schools fairly, but we’ve been working without a contract for nearly a year and this needs to be resolved ASAP.
CPS didn’t fund their side of the pensions for decades. Our pensions were FULLY funded in 2001, and now they’re only 50% funded. Teachers didn’t cause that, but we do have an interest in seeing that it’s fixed. I also think that the CTU played a role in this mess from the mid 80s to 2010. We allowed the pension holiday to happen with little protest. We took significant raises knowing that the system was not sustainable without major tax increases or funding reform… yet we didn’t fight for that reform. Former CTU leadership and Daley were scratching each others’ backs while the system was getting to a tipping point. It’s tipping now.
I look forward to seeing the details of the offer. I trust that our Big Bargaining Team will have critically analyzed each and every aspect of the offer before they send it to the House of Delegates. If we see the details and we can’t live with them our representatives will vote “no” on approving the offer. I sure hope that the offer is a reasonable one that will strengthen our profession and our schools, so we can vote “yes.”