Is Chicago Public Schools setting up the Chicago Teachers Union to strike?

Maybe I shouldn’t have obsessed over the Starz program Boss.  Maybe Sunday’s binge watching of Scandal raised my sensibilities.  Still, I’m trusting my gut, and my gut has never been wrong either.  Underhanded political games similar to those in my favorite television dramas may be gluing all of us to our TV sets and mobile phones for the next few months.

Today, the Chicago Teachers Union announced that Chicago Public Schools leaders asked teachers to take a 7% pay cut.  Because Chicago Public Schools leaders—in their infinite wisdom—have not responded to this accusation, I’m believing this is true.

On the same day CTU announces this, the interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz (or the communications department) sends out a thank-you letter (dated yesterday) wishing teachers a “Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.”

Teacher Appreciation Week May2015 (1) copy

Seriously—WTF.

We’re all hearing that compensation is a strikeable issue for teachers under SB7, but finding a crystal clear explanation is difficult.  Neither the senate bill or law itself, CTU’s fact sheet, nor CPS’s make this information easily accessible (please post below if you have something besides a news summary).

We have not heard if CPS leaders will dictate a pay cut to the many well-paid central office employees.  CPS CEO-on-leave Barbara Byrd-Bennett is still making her $250,000 salary while the Feds investigate suspicious million-dollar contract decisions, according to news reports.  I have not learned what the interim CEO’s salary is.  If CPS is not paying Jesse Ruiz, he’s still getting a large salary from somewhere.

Network office staff members generally make large salaries also.  We have not heard if they will take a pay cut.  (While I know some of these employees and consider a few of them good friends, this issue is about equity in salary, not friendships.)

CPS’s request to the union is suspicious.

Compensation is one of the only issues Chicago teachers can strike over.  During Teacher Appreciation Week, CPS reportedly asks us to take a 7% pay cut while thanking us for all we do.

Are they pushing us to picket lines for some other underhanded move?

It seems too easy for us to vote and authorize a strike.

Which is what makes all of this realistically surreal and perfect for television, radio, and online drama.

Update May 6: Around 8:45 a.m. this morning, Chicago Public Radio reported that the 7% salary decrease is caused by CPS’s proposal that teachers pay all of their pension contribution.  Currently, the district is supposed to pay 7% of our pension and teachers contribute 2%.  Another education journalism source told me this is what the Chicago Teachers Union is reporting but reporters have not seen CPS’s official proposal. If this is true, I’m hoping CTU representatives give us the full situation today.  We need the facts before we get the implications.

The Chicago Teachers Union did communicate this was due to union members picking up the Board’s 7% pension contribution in yesterday’s statement.  This missed many eyes, however, because it was not mentioned in the first paragraph when pay decrease highlighted.

We’re still waiting to hear if this is an official proposal from the Board.

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