By: Alyssa Diaz & Mario Chandler
You’ve probably been made aware of the status of Chicago Public Schools’ current financial issues including but not limited to: teachers’ contracts, sports fees, lack of books and technology, crowded classrooms, and schools closing. You most likely are, know, or have seen someone who has been affected by any of the issues listed. Not only are the students affected, but the teachers are too.
Back in 2012, the teachers were seeking pay fairness, protection of benefits, fair evaluation procedure, teacher training, and a timetable for air conditioning from CPS. A reoccurring problem between CPS and the teachers is pay fairness. Now what does pay fairness mean to teachers?
According to the Chicago Teachers Union, “CTU seeks a fairer distribution of pay and to preserve the schedule for career advancement established 45 years ago in the Union’s first labor contract.”
At that time, Rahm Emanuel wanted teachers to get paid the same amount for a longer amount of days and time in school. This was the problem with pay in 2012, but now teachers are facing problems with their pensions.
How do teachers’ pensions work? DNAinfo.com explains the pension as so: “By state law, teachers have to put aside 9.4 percent of their yearly salary for their retirement fund. As of now, teachers only put about 2 percent of their salary into their own pensions, while CPS picks up the other 7 percent or so.”
If CPS gets its way, the teachers will have to pay their own pensions fully. They will be losing seven percent of their pay, and CPS is justifying this by putting it on the tight budget.
The tight budget can be attributed to the way that CPS and Chicago choose to spend their money. They use money that could be put into education for other projects. This money can be put into the education of millions of students who are in CPS competing against millions of other students with better resources than the ones given to public school students.
After speaking to Lindblom’s CTU Union Representative, Ms. Eichhorn, the Talon also discovered other objectives for this strike. She told us that every summer CPS cuts around 1,000 teachers. This creates a major problem for the students who go to these schools.The class sizes dramatically increase because the school does not have enough teachers to have a normal class size.
Ms. Eichhorn said, “The task of this strike is to try to prevent [conditions] from getting worse, but then also restore some of the positions cut to try to make class sizes smaller.”
Walking into classrooms this year, students have to be overwhelmed to have so many kids in a confined space with only one teacher and 30 plus of them. CPS claims to be trying to help these students, but they are only hurting them by cutting teachers who could help this problem.
As students, we are meant to see this as CPS trying to protect us and our education. But in doing so, they are unfairly treating those who educate us. Not to mention they have also messed with our funding in general, meaning we suffer from lack of textbooks, technology, and other necessities that make our learning effective. But that is another problem, of the many, CPS is trying to deal with.
Ms. Eichhorn made sure to stress the fact that a strike is the teachers’ last resort. They do not want their students out of school and on the streets having extra time to themselves. Also, that it is incredibly hard on the teachers because they “do not get a paycheck, and they want to be at work” to continue doing what they love, teaching.
It is important to stand by the teachers who have spent countless hours preparing their lesson plans, reading over every word of our papers, and are up when they should be asleep just to make sure our papers are graded.
This job is their livelihood. Teachers are the ones who mold students into the learners and the creative people they become. Preserving the profession is another objective of theirs. It is important to the teachers that people want to continue to become teachers as well, and the people of Chicago and CPS don’t fully understand this.
CPS and residents of Chicago alike are taking our teachers for granted. One, because they want to take away a previously agreed upon pension plan, and the other because they don’t want their taxes to be raised any more than they have. Money is a major issue in today’s society, but money should not take precedence over a quality education with experienced teachers who have a passion for what they do.
For the CPS students, the immediate changes they will hopefully see if the teachers win the strike are better and more resources, smaller class sizes, better schools across the city, more teachers being hired in all different subject areas.
It is important to remember the teachers are fighting for education and inalienable rights that students have so they have access to the same resources that are offered at other schools as they fight for fair contracts. If you would like to stand with your teachers, they would be very appreciative if students came to the picket lines, took time to learn about the strike, and about what else needs to be done to preserve education for generations to come.