CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson and CEO Forrest Claypool speak to reporters on Thursday, March 24, 2016, at Amundsen High School in Chicago. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

CPS to parents: Best to make your own plans for April 1 walkout

SHARE CPS to parents: Best to make your own plans for April 1 walkout
SHARE CPS to parents: Best to make your own plans for April 1 walkout

In the wake of a Chicago Teachers Union vote to strike on April 1, Chicago Public Schools officials announced they’ll have at least 250 sites open citywide for children that day — but advised parents to make their own plans.

“We ask that if parents have another option that they exercise that option,” chief education officer Janice Jackson said. “However, we know that it’s our responsibility to make sure there’s a place that provides a safe and orderly environment.”

CEO Forrest Claypool said details about those sites — split among schools, libraries and park district facilities — will be announced Tuesday, adding that the Chicago Transit Authority will provide free transportation for children that day.

Speaking at Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen, which will be one of the sites, the head of the broke school district could not put a cost estimate on the contingency plans that will include two meals for students and educational activities. CPS won’t be able to accommodate the 300,000 students affected if all teachers walk out.

“Our priority is obviously the safety of the kids and being able to provide them with food and engagement, so frankly, we’ll spend what it takes to do that,” Claypool said.

However, no plans were made for the unpaid furlough day CPS recently scheduled for Friday, which Claypool again defended, saying it would save the district money on a day when 8,000 teachers asked to be off for the Good Friday religious holiday.

But he said he knew that “many teachers at schools were in opposition to the action CTU leadership took” so he invited them to show up for a regular work day on April 1. “We welcome and hope teachers will come to work that day either at their local school or at any of the contingency sites,” he said.

Claypool continues to argue that the CTU’s plans constitute an “illegal strike” but CPS has not yet petitioned the the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, the state body with the authority to declare the strike legal or not.

In its response to Claypool’s claim that the one-day strike is illegal, the CTU responded that this kind of strike hasn’t happened before “so the CEO doesn’t know how the courts will rule should he seek to use money the district doesn’t have on unnecessary legal fees.”

“Chicago Public Schools is on the verge of financial collapse. Classroom conditions are deteriorating. Instead of threatening educators who are engaging in a historic day of protest to fight for revenue to save our schools, Mr. Claypool should join them in this courageous day of action,” CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said.

CPS says it will not pay teachers who don’t show up for work on April 1 without proof of illness or an emergency. The CTU has not yet said how it will treat those who do show up.

The teachers union voted Wednesday night to approve a one-day “showdown” strike on April 1 — which will include a massive downtown rally — to bring attention to ongoing contract negotiations and the state’s education funding crisis.

The 27,000 union members have been working without a new contract since June 30. Claypool recently imposed three unpaid furlough days on all CPS workers, the first one on Friday.

During the last teachers strike in 2012, which lasted seven days, CPS opened about 140 sites citywide for children who didn’t have other options.

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