CTU: Poll shows members unhappy with contract proposal

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In the ongoing battle between the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS over a new contract, CTU announced Friday that the first large-scale poll of its members found that more than 90 percent think the current proposal will “lower the quality of education in the city.”

But CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll fired back, accusing the CTU of putting out misleading information about the details of the proposal in an attempt to fire up the base. “If I were a CTU member, I would be disappointed,” she said.

The CTU also announced that it is planning a massive rally at 4:30 p.m. on May 23 at the Auditorium Theater. Once gathered, the group plans to march to district headquarters. The Board of Education holds its monthly meeting on May 23.

CTU delegates distributed the poll to members on Thursday. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the union would not reveal how many of the 25,000 members took the poll, or release specific results for each of the four questions asked. He said the purpose of the poll was to “get a temperature” of how members feel and to see how the logistics of such a poll would work.

The poll did not ask the members whether they would vote to authorize a strike, though one of the questions was whether the union should reject the board proposal. After negotiations broke down, the CTU asked to call a fact-finding panel, which is now in the process of meeting. The fact-finding panel is one of the final steps of a lengthy, legally required pre-strike process set out in Illinois law. The fact-finding panel’s report is scheduled to be completed on July 16.

Sharkey admits that the poll was designed to elicit specific “yes, no” answers to questions. He said the strongest reaction came to the question of whether members think the board’s proposal would harm students and lower the quality of education in schools.

Another question asked whether members think that  CEO Jean-Claude Brizard should resign. Carroll called that question “unfortunate.”

Sharkey said the union is not releasing the poll results for the Brizard question. With the recent resignation announcement of the chief education officer, he said there’s already too much instability in the district.  

Along with taking the poll, the union used the opportunity to present its summary of the board’s proposal. Carroll said many of the characterizations were inaccurate. On Thursday, CPS posted to its website its own fact sheet.

One example is that the union said CPS is offering a “one-time 2 percent raise with lanes and steps frozen; nothing in years 2, 3, 4 and 5 unless we agree to test-based merit pay and the elimination of lanes and steps.”

CPS negotiators have not included any proposal about a test-based merit pay system, Carroll said. Instead, the proposal is to have CPS and CTU come together next year to create a mutually agreed-upon compensation plan, she said.

Brizard has talked about a “differentiated compensation system” that would look at a number of factors, including student growth measures, she said. 

Union delegates say they are having no problem convincing members that the board’s proposal is bad for them. Sue Garza, a union delegate at Addams Elementary School, said all 58 members at her school came to a meeting Thursday morning and they unanimously said CTU should reject the board’s proposal.

“We just want our job to be validated,” she said. “We feel disrespected.”