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Sunday Letters: Why CTU teachers are unhappy

A few days ago I was checking my news feed and found an ask — to me as a Big Bargaining Team member and a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools  asked me for shared responsibility in this financial crisis. In his Feb. 5 letter to the editor in the Sun Times, he talked about how he so badly want to “right the ship” of the district’s finances, but in order to do that, he needed the CTU’s help. His idea of help is for us to sign the proposal that he offered us last week. This offer, which he has implied as generous, would help prevent CPS from jumping off of the financial cliff that it has intentionally created over the past 10 years.  Here is a refresher course on how we have sacrificed:

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CPS instability has cost us our mental health. The crisis that Claypool and his predecessors have created over the past few months — even years — has led to a climate and culture of fear in our buildings. We walk into our schools each and every day not knowing whether or not he will make true on his threats — will he impose arbitrary cuts and fire thousands of teachers? In what profession does one enter the door each and every day with the uncertainty of whether or not they will keep their job?

During the 2011-12 school year the mayor refused to honor the 4 percent contractually agreed upon raises that we, as members of the Chicago Teachers Union, were entitled to. Over the past five years, this sacrifice, on behalf of our membership, has saved the district over $500 million. When the mayor found himself unable to fund extracurricular activities and sports programs, he cut them. What did teachers do? We sacrificed our time. Even though we had a longer day and year, we still sponsored clubs and coached sports with no compensation. We know how important it is for students to have opportunities outside of the classroom. When Claypool and your unelected Board of Education fail to prioritize spending for what is important, we sacrifice to do right by students.

When the mayor implemented a longer school day and year and refused to put the adequate funding behind it, teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff didn’t receive the a raise proportionate to the additional work time. Students did not receive the rich curriculum that the mayor promised to provide with a longer day (art, music, recess, etc). Instead, the mayor made the teachers work longer and harder without giving them the resources they need to do the job.

While CPS privatizes janitorial services under the guise of saving money, teachers, literally, have spent their time cleaning up the mess. We have found our classrooms dirtier and our bathrooms void of toilet paper. Teachers have paid out of pocket for basic necessities like Kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. This is happening while Aramark continues to increase the costs of its contract — $22 million over budget in the first year alone with a bill of $86 million.

While CPS is passing unbalanced budgets and continuing to privatize the array of services in the district, teachers continue to advocate for short-term and long-term revenue solutions. We have built relationships with community groups, parents, and students to fight for a fix to the financial mess that your friends created.

Lastly, we sacrifice our time. We are the educators. We are the professionals in this career. We made a decision to dedicate our lives to this profession and we will do everything we can to preserve the profession. If that means that we must spend it on the streets, spend it on a hunger strike, or spend it in jail cell, we will continue to fight for what is right for children.

Alison Eichhorn, CTU teacher

Keep your promise

When these aldermen are running for re-election, please don’t break your promise to remind us of the names of the 25 aldermen who voted against giving the Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson, oversight over their aldermanic slush funds for neighborhood improvements.  History has proven over and over that Chicago’s aldermen regularly stray off of the straight and narrow path of honesty.
Lee J. Regner, Park Ridge

Tough job

The job of president of the United States is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job. It is a high-stress job, capable of causing heart trouble and, or maybe a stroke. It takes a higher toll on the person than a normal job. We need to be mindful of the fact that if Bernie Sanders wins the election his chosen vice [resident could very well wind up in that job. Retirement is for the older generation for a reason. Just take a good look at the grey hair on our current, very young President Barack Obama.

Trump, if he wins the election, represents another reason to be very careful of just who could wind up as our next president.

Edwina Jackson, Longwood Manor

Through the looking glass

We have clearly gone through the looking glass. Trump accuses the Pope as “political” on the issue of immigration. Guess what, Donald, contrary to the bogus platitudes you spout to sound “Christian”, you have not a clue about the foundational principal of Christianity. Love of neighbor is not a ” political ” stance. It is what the Pope stands for when he stands with the disenfranchised on the border of Mexico.

Edward David Juillard, West Beverly