CPS should offer more meaningful solution to budget crisis

The Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to strike in October, which would be the fourth time it has done so since 2012 although this year, the key issue is restoring funds to the schools, not raising teachers’ salaries.

Chicago Public Schools is calling a strike unnecessary and unlikely and has shown it is willing to compromise by offering the union a raise, but CTU is insisting that the continuous decrease in school funds, which prevents them from teaching their students effectively, must be addressed. The two groups are at an impasse, and if a compromise is not reached, the results could be devastating.

The conversations between the two parties have been unproductive because neither has any control over Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who continues to cut funding for public education and whose personal agenda is to push for more charter schools, placing public school funding at a lower priority. Both the union and the school district should work together to get what they want from the state, while figuring out a way to effectively utilize current resources instead of constantly fighting each other.

The offer of a raise may seem like a positive development for teachers—most people in the workforce would find this an acceptable reason to keep working—but they are likely to view it as a ploy to keep them on the job and not a meaningful compromise. This causes resentment because it looks like the school district doesn’t care about the union’s concerns. 

Keeping kids in school and giving them the best possible education is the common goal of all parties, and having to cancel school because of a strike can disrupt learning and create other dangers, like leaving kids unattended while their parents work, especially considering many cannot afford to find other means of childcare. However, CPS needs to do more to restore the union’s faith in them.

The tensions between the two groups do not end with this disagreement; the two are also in a battle over how school board members should be chosen. CTU is backing a bill that would allow for an elected school board, which is currently at the Illinois Senate and, if passed, could be voted upon as soon as 2018. 

CPS currently has an appointed school board, and its goal is to keep it this way, protesting against the bill. Chicago’s school board is one of the last in the country to remain state-appointed, and the district’s commitment to this arrangement is troubling to the union, as it shows that it wants to keep school affairs in the hands of the government—which is exactly what caused this predicament in the first place.

Instead of offering union members a raise, CPS can put that money toward restoring some of the cuts made in schools suffering the most. Because the union already rejected their raises, it makes sense to use that money to fulfill these needs. They could also collaborate on fundraising efforts to raise even more money that could be used to supplement the funds they are allotted.

In addition, the two groups should work together to reallocate funding to keep all Chicago schools on track. While some schools face cuts in their arts and sports programs, others struggle to provide their students with the most basic of supplies. It is unfortunate that extracurriculars have been taken away from students, as they have proven to help both academic and social growth, but CPS has to make sure no school is left behind at the most basic level.

With so much at stake, the parties involved need to cooperate and remember the overall goal of putting forth the most efficient and meaningful education they can both give students in Chicago—and Illinois as a whole—even if it means putting egos aside and compromising.