Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool has said he agrees with the Chicago Teachers Union that Springfield needs to pass a budget in order to shore up the district’s finances and change the way the schools in Chicago are funded. However, he’s opposed to the one-day walk out the CTU is waging to address those problems.
WBEZ’s Jenn White talks to Claypool about the district’s contingency plans for CPS families during Friday’s strike, how much blame the district deserves for the strike and whether the district’s and the union’s shared dissatisfaction with Springfield could lead something positive in the future.
This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
On the case for furlough days
Two of the furlough days are at the end of the year when students [would] have already left for the year. They were professional development days set up for teachers, so no student instruction time [will be] lost.
The other day was Good Friday; more than 8,000 teachers had called off as of early March, and we would not be able to keep instruction going because that’s a traditional religious holiday… So what we’ve tried to do is protect instruction days and today is [one] that is being lost because of an illegal strike.
On the upcoming fact-finders report
We’re hoping the fact-finder will examine testimonies from both sides, clearly understand the financial condition of the district which…we’re on the precipice of insolvency. And also look at the very generous offer that was presented to the union—that in fact was accepted by the union’s leadership in January.
Obviously the ’big bargaining committee’ rejected that, but it shows you that we can get a deal, and [since it] shows that the leadership accepted it, I think it shows a fair deal. I would expect that the fact-finder would probably see that as well.
On getting back to common ground (We asked CTU’s Vice President the same question)
Our team, almost from the first day, has been talking relentlessly about discriminatory funding formula in Springfield where Chicago Public School kids get just 73 cents in funding for every dollar that children in the rest of the state receive on average even though 85% of our kids are low-income and minority. …We have gotten no help from the Chicago Teachers Union in our repeated request to join with us…So we are happy then that in the last few days we finally heard the CTU talking about Gov. Rauner and state funding problems because those are at the core of the fiscal crisis, and frankly, we need CTU’s voice in Springfield, where they are very influential…
On CPS’ role in repairing the relationship with CTU
The best thing to do is be at the bargaining table, which we are every day. We’ll be there again on Monday. We have been bargaining in good faith for months. …It’s unfortunate that the rank and file—the elected delegates—of the union never got a chance to vote on it. But it was blocked by an unelected body of the so-called ‘bargaining committee.’ But it does show that we had a productive relationship…and I’m hoping we can get back to that.
A message to parents pulling their children out of Chicago Public Schools (or use related story below) leaving the city (or use related story below)
My message would be to join us in this fight for fair funding. And I think this financial crisis—which is really driven by a state funding formula that discriminates, and also by a massive pension mandate that only Chicago has to pay; no other school district—[We] have to look beyond it.
The academic performance of CPS has never been better. For years, especially under Mayor Rahm Emanuel…we have seen record test scores…Our kids are leading the state in academic growth. Our kids in fourth and eighth grade reading and math led the nation last year. So the academic gains in our system are being masked by the financial crisis. And actually, frankly, more parents are choosing Chicago public schools. But all of that is at risk if we cannot get the state of Illinois to live up to its moral and legal obligations.
On Gov. Rauner’s vision for CPS
Springfield is dysfunctional right now and kids in Chicago are suffering the most because they’re the ones who have this radically unfair system that gives them a fraction of the resources as the rest of the state. …It’s an incredible shame. We have to let parents and taxpayers have their voices heard. We cannot wait any longer for the adults to act responsibly… Our kids only get one chance for a good education.
On making a case to keep CPS from the state’s oversight
Don’t hold school kids hostage in an adult war in Springfield.
We’re bringing you the latest developments about the CTU all day— click listen live below or follow the day’s events here.