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The leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, captured here at a press conference last fall, unveiled a 10 point list of contract demands on March 26, 2015. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Editorial: CTU’s contract demands just a political manifesto

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SHARE Editorial: CTU’s contract demands just a political manifesto

Call it a political manifesto.

Call it a wish list.

Call it a vision for an alternate reality.

But don’t call it a list of “contract demands.”

With great fanfare, theChicago Teachers Union last week released 10 so-called contract demands.

Unfortunately, almost nothing on the union’s list is something the CTU can legally bargain over as contract talks continue with the Chicago Board of Education. The contract expires June 30.

Lower class size? Class size is the board of education’s call.

More counselors, nurses, librarians and physical education teachers? Staffing formulas are also non-negotiable.

End standardized tests in pre-K through second grade? Not part of the contract.

Freeze charter school expansion and “return” tax-increment financing dollars to the schools? Also outside the contract.

You get the picture. And so does the teachers union.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey admits some of the “contract demands” are political in nature. The CTU’s leadership is in the forefront in a national fight against excessive standardized testing, attaching high stakes to standardized tests and charter school expansions. They use whatever stage is available — this time contract talks — to advocate for their vision for a better school system. They are also heavily invested in the outcome of the April 7 mayoral election. Chuy Garcia, who agrees with many of their demands, is their guy.

We also agree with some of their “demands,” such as more mental health clinicians and fewer standardized tests. So do many of the CPS folks they are negotiating with. But manyof their demands — such as CPS retrieving upward of $1 billion by suing banks over so-called toxic swaps deals entered into with CPS — are not at all based in reality.

The real problem is this: The CTU is doing a disservice to its members, the public and to its bargaining partner, CPS, by raising expectations that these issues can be resolved at the bargaining table.This is a setup to make CPS look miserly and unreasonable. It’s also a setup for disappointment for CTU members.

And nowhere do these “demands” acknowledge the huge financial challenges facing the school system — challenges that get in the way of hiring librarians, lowering class size and expanding pre-school. CPS, which is projecting a $1.1 billion deficit next year and massive and growing pension bills, is out of tricks to pay for the school system it currently has. And that’s before any new expenses are added.

CTU calls them contract demands. We call them something else entirely.

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