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It comes down to trust

Friday, Sep 13, 2019

* The Tribune editorialized today against a CTU strike. Here’s part of it

We understand Chicago Teachers Union leadership is pushing to codify into the contract staffing increases for school nurses, social workers and case managers. You need more of them in your schools. No dispute there. But Lightfoot needs flexibility to phase in those expenses and keep the positions outside the terms of a contract, as the independent fact-finder also recommended. She publicly has committed to adding 250 nurses and at least 200 social workers during the next five years, and adding caseworkers during the next three. That’s reasonable.

* I reached out to Kyle Hillman with the National Association of Social Workers to ask about the cost of the CTU demand for more social workers. His reply…

I am not at the negotiating table, so I can’t speak to where CTU is at this point. I am not even sure if there is an additional cost but rather a desire to see it in writing so it actually happens. For example, last year CPS committed to hiring 160 social workers, by the end of March they still hadn’t hired 125 of them. They are also one of the first staff to go (if they aren’t locked to IEP [individualized education program] mandated hours) – so in writing – is the only assurances that social workers won’t be CPS’s easy chopping block. When you consider the level of trauma experienced by CPS students – it is shocking social workers would even be considered discretionary.

If CPS even filled the slots they have already promised in the media, that would get them only half way to the recommended standard. The district needs about 1200 social workers to address the size of the school district - they have roughly 410 (they have committed in the media to get to 671 over 5 years). I would be shocked if they even met their media commitment of 671.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - Montrose - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    Lightfoot is a lawyer. She knows as well as anyone else that it doesn’t count unless it is in writing. That’s why she doesn’t want to put it in writing, and why CTU is right to demand that it is.


  2. - Bruce (no not him) - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 10:55 am:

    “rather a desire to see it in writing so it actually happens”
    Absolutely. I once had a boss who said “If it isn’t written it down, it never happened”


  3. - Bourbon Street - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:02 am:

    ==When you consider the level of trauma experienced by CPS students - it is shocking social workers would even be considered discretionary==

    Time for some more federal oversight.


  4. - City Zen - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    That $150 million per year for the pension pick-up could fund many school nurses, social workers and case managers.

    Want to motivate CPS? Tie the pension pick-up to these new hires. Hired the full allotment? No more pension pick-up. Did nothing? Still gotta pay the full pick-up. And all points in between.


  5. - Colin O'Scopy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:22 am:

    I trust that the CTU is leading its members down a primrose path. I trust that if they strike, it will be a mistake. The public will not be with the strike like last time. I trust that it will blow up in their faces.

    I don’t understand why the CTU can’t take yes for an answer. A 16% raise over the course of the contract is a win, even in Jesse Sharkey’s book. Take the win and move on.


  6. - @misterjayem - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    “I don’t understand why the CTU can’t take yes for an answer. A 16% raise over the course of the contract is a win”

    This is only difficult to understand if you refuse to see that the teachers are acting with their students’ interests in mind — school nurses, social workers and case managers — as well as their own.

    Once you allow for that possibility, it all makes perfect sense.

    – MrJM


  7. - Colin O'Scopy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:32 am:

    =refuse to see that the teachers are acting with their students’ interests in mind=

    Puh-leeze. If this was a true statement, they would never strike.


  8. - Ano - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:35 am:

    Educating kids is expensive. More costs than just teachers.


  9. - Colin O'Scopy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:39 am:

    =Educating kids is expensive. More costs than just teachers.=

    This is a good point, although not in the way you probably intended me to infer.

    If this was not “just about the money” for teachers’ salaries, why not take less than the 16% and devote the difference to the “school nurses, social workers and case managers”? Say, take a 13-14% wage increase instead?


  10. - Anon Y - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    CTU and teachers seem to think there is a magic money genie somewhere 1,200 social workers at a low $40,000 and a low 50% benefit would be 72 million add the nurses which are highly pay, cost increases over $200 million? Then add the salary increases, who paying for it? Be careful what you ask for, cause cuts may be next.


  11. - lake county democrat - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 11:58 am:

    It’s true that it’s not enforceable if it’s not in writing but it’s not like there wouldn’t be a cost if Lightfood reneged or didn’t substantially fulfill. If she did it would be the gist of a demand to put it in writing next time.

    Also, CTU needs to spare us the “we’re doing it for the kids” line after they vowed to fight any more experimentation of advanced-merit pay after a first experiment showed striking improvement. I also think it’s counterproductive: the teaching profession has been hurt by sexist images that it is a women-dominated profession that does it as much for “the love of the kids” as earning a living. Nobody says to police or firefighters “you shouldn’t ask for so much money - think of the kids you’re protecting.”


  12. - Cornish - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    Lightfoot should negotiate to close more schools and the associated staff and costs as CPS continues to lose students and then codify more social workers. Seems like a fair trade.


  13. - City Zen - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:12 pm:

    ==The public will not be with the strike like last time. I trust that it will blow up in their faces.==

    There are a dozen or so neighborhood groups on the CTU payroll to ensure the public “perceives” things their way.

    Besides, what’s the alternative? Root for CPS? When you’ve got too sides in the midst of a tankapalooza vying for the first round draft pick, it’s best to stay home.


  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:13 pm:

    ===Besides, what’s the alternative? Root for CPS?===

    Exactly. lol


  15. - The Feelings Lady - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:19 pm:

    The students in CPS need real supports from highly skilled school social workers. If it’s not put in writing in a contract, how can we be sure CPS will hire what’s needed and then actually keep them!


  16. - JS Mill - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:22 pm:

    =The district needs about 1200 social workers to address the size of the school district - they have roughly 410 (they have committed in the media to get to 671 over 5 years). I would be shocked if they even met their media commitment of 671.=

    They are never going to get there for one simple reason.

    The candidates don’t exist. And those available will go to places that pay better and have a less stressful environment.


  17. - Honeybear - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:22 pm:

    Direct Action Gets Satisfaction
    I stand in solidarity with CTU


  18. - Ano - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    =those available (social workers) will go to places that pay better and have a less stressful environment==

    Listen to some folks and the only things helping people, like teachers, have in mind is money. Social workers too, huh?


  19. - Miss Mary Mack - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:15 pm:

    West side CPS social worker here.. Lets go over some stats.

    -20% of the youth population has a diagnosable mental health condition

    -Over 60% of incarcerated individuals meet diagnostic criteria for mental illness.

    -At our own Cook County Jail, 1/3rd of those incarcerated has a diagnosed mental illness

    -Cook County Jail is considered the largest mental health care provider in the country.

    -Studies show that for many people living with mental illness, the only time they get treatment is when they are in jail.

    These are Cook County people, which means many of them have gone through our CPS schools. Every summer we see the same tour of press conferences around the south and west side and some snappy new program targeted at addressing the violence in our city. We can’t have a serious conversation about ending cyclical violence, unemployment, and homelessness until we are prepared to get serious about investing in mental health. We have an opportunity to get in on the preventative end and provide Of course that comes with a price tag. But so does jail. We have an opportunity to do work on the preventative end in our schools and save money and lives. Neither the current staffing levels nor those “promised” by the Mayor allow us to do that effectively.

    The average ratio of social workers to students is roughly 1:850. Currently, I split time between two schools, with 2.5 days each week entirely dedicated to parent meetings and paperwork that leaves 1 day at each school that students have access to therapy. That’s not nearly enough given the immensity of the problems facing our children- particularly those on the south and west sides.

    As it stands, to be poor and have a mental illness in the city of Chicago is to be damned. If we fail to address mental health in our schools, we’ll be left to deal with it in our jails or our hospitals. Any Mayor who claims to give a damn about alleviating poverty in this city would do well to engage with those of us who are already out here doing the work and negotiate in good faith. She has failed to do that. She has yet to attend a bargaining session, opting instead to engage via the press. Her mayorship so far has been littered with broken promises and flip flops. It needs to be in writing.


  20. - @misterjayem - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    “If this was a true statement, they would never strike.”

    Clipping my statement and then “refuting” the altered quote is lazy, dishonest or both.

    – MrJM


  21. - Tim - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    Colin’o’scopy hits the nail on the head. Real professionals don’t abandon children. Ever. For any reason.


  22. - Garrett Walker Texas Ranger - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:29 pm:

    What’s to stop the mayor from walking back from this like she has from previous campaign promises? I’m old enough to remember when she committed an increase in the real estate transfer taxes to wraparound services for the homeless.


  23. - Jilly from Illy - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    As a school board member in a suburban district it blows my mind that CTU members are having to justify the need for mental health care in CPS schools. This would never fly in the burbs. As soon as resources change in white suburbs, you’re gonna hear about it. I can’t help but think that the ven diagram of people complaining about CTU’s legitimate request for more resources and people who joke about gun violence in Chicago is actually a circle. Lori needs to put her promises for social workers and librarians in writing right now! I stand with CTU on this one.


  24. - Mamma Bear - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 2:12 pm:

    I support the things CTU is asking for. They’ll benefit everyone whether you’ve got kids in CPS or not. And putting it all in writing is important.

    But I don’t support a strike at this time. CTU spent much of the last year destroying their own credibility, even implying they’d strike if their candidate didn’t get elected. Now here we are - I just don’t trust that they’re acting in good faith. I can’t throw in with them again the way I did last time.

    I hope we get the staffing levels and support that the union is asking for. And I hope that the membership cleans house and gets rid of their current leadership.


  25. - CatAttack - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 2:18 pm:

    OK - the people saying that if teachers really care about kids they’ll never strike? That’s ridiculous. Strikes are often the only leverage front-line workers have to enact change, and in this case the change they’re asking for will help kids. “Suffer in silence” isn’t a long-term solutions-based approach.


  26. - Moody's Blues - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    No one is disputing the need for more social workers and librarian. And it’s fine to “stand with CTU.” But that’s empty rhetoric. This discussion would benefit from advice on where, exactly, CPS gets these millions of new dollars.


  27. - Cornish - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    Moody’s Blue makes the most important point. CPS is facing a budget disaster from its pension debt obligation. There is not enough money to fund all these things. Money is tight, pick your battles CTU. You want higher wages? Expensive benefits? There will have to be less resources in the system then.


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