CHICAGO — Chicago Teachers Union bosses don’t have the guts to tell parents why they keep complaining even after claiming the all remote-learning start to the school year as a victory.
So, I will. They’re using the coronavirus crisis to try to milk taxpayers out of more cash for teachers doing less work, robbing kids of precious instructional time, according to people familiar with the union’s backroom demands.
CTU leaders publicly claim they’re righteously fighting to provide more services to school kids, while privately lobbying to eliminate standardized testing, student grading and teacher performance evaluations, sources told me Wednesday.
They also want to carve out an additional hour — two hours total — out of every school day for teacher prep-time, collaboration and professional development during time set aside for real-time teaching.
“These minutes can be accommodated in the daily schedule because it is unnecessary that all student school time be screen time,” according to the CTU’s demands, which school officials flatly rejected.
That’s what public schools chief Dr. Janice Jackson was talking about when she gave reporters her thoughts on the labor grievance CTU officials filed in response to the e-learning school reopening framework.
“At the end of the day, if I’m being a transparent, this is really about a few things we are just unwilling to give up on,” she said.
“We are unwilling to reduce the amount of instructional time for our students. They have lost so much already. We are unwilling to take accountability out of our system when students and families deserve that.”
To me, those aren’t the most preposterous of CTU’s demands. The union also wants teachers who volunteer to conduct remote-learning sessions from empty classrooms to receive hazardous duty pay, sources told me Wednesday.
After emailing CTU officials asking for somebody to explain what’s so hazardous about working in alone in an empty room, and why taxpayers should pay a premium for teachers who volunteer for the duty, and got a one word response. “Nope,” spokesman Ronnie Reese said.
That’s typical of CTU leadership that specializes in issuing written statements, starting Twitter wars and manipulating their role in public education in a failed attempt to build political might.
“When we fight, we win,” is the lie they tweet to themselves.
But if you dare to ask why they kicked in $10,000 to a campaign fund controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan as the FBI corruption probe inched closer to the Illinois Democratic Party chairman — or any tough questions, really — CTU bosses, Jesse Sharkey and Stacy Davis Gates, go mute.
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The cowardly CTU bosses continually rely on friendly journalists to print their criticisms without fear of facing questions about what solutions they have to offer in response to the trials that public schools face amid an unprecedented pandemic.
And this week’s battle over the remote-learning start to the school year is no different.
Not a single education reporter in town included the only line in Sharkey’s immediate and whiny response to CPS’s remote-learning plan that tells Chicagoans what CTU bosses are after: Money.
“CPS has received $205 million from the CARES Act,” Sharkey’s statement said. “There shouldn’t be a student or a family in need of anything right now.”
But that’s just the propaganda of a union ploy that uses kids and their parents as political leverage in public, while in a backroom fighting to get bigger cut of federal grants in the name of hazard pay.
Sharkey spins the losing battle to the public like as if CTU is a victim.
“Everything we proposed to CPS was rejected, so it’s almost like we’re being punished for our work in helping secure remote learning to start the year, and keep educators, students and their families safe,” according to his disingenuous public statement.
He doesn’t mention that the rejected proposals include giving members more time in a virtual teachers’ lounge — which sure sounds like an end-around contract provisions that increased classroom instruction time negotiated away to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012 in exchange for a 17-percent pay hike.
It’s as if CTU bosses have embraced Emanuel’s oft-quoted political strategy amid a public health pandemic: Never let a good crisis go to waste.
Rahm would be so proud.
Mark Konkol, recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, wrote and produced the Peabody Award-winning series, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story.” He was a producer, writer and narrator for the “Chicagoland” docu-series on CNN, and a consulting producer on the Showtime documentary, “16 Shots.
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