The following are just a few examples of how CPAA has worked to improve the working conditions of school leaders and the learning conditions of their students.
After hearing from our members that their students were being denied special education staffing CPAA conducted groundbreaking research on the issue and presented our findings in individual meetings with over 30 community organizations, citywide advocacy groups, the Illinois Attorney General and the United States Department of Justice. We then joined with several of these groups to petition the Illinois State Board of Education to intervene with CPS. Although many of those organizations were dedicated and powerful advocates, none of them came with the level of data and research that CPAA brought to the table. Our testimony before ISBE and before the Illinois General Assembly was, by far, the most comprehensive. As a result of our work, and the work of our many partners in this effort, the Illinois State Board of Education investigated CPS, found its special education policies violated federal law and illegally denied services to students who need them, and appointed a state monitor to oversee changes to CPS special education policy. As a result of this work, CPS was compelled to add hundreds of additional special education positions in schools across the district.
In the fall of 2016 CPAA conducted and published research showing that 52 school districts within 15 to 45-minutes of Chicago paid their school leaders more than CPS does. On October 26, 2016 we sent a message to all of our members stating:
“Now that CPS has reached a tentative agreement with teachers, it is time they show how much they value the educators who lead their schools. Toward that end, CPAA is commissioning a member-led policy group that will produce a Comprehensive Proposal for Administrator Compensation.”
We also notified CPS official of our plans. One week later, on November 2nd, CPS sent school leaders an email with the subject line, “Important Updates for Principals and AP's.” The message stated the following:
“As we work to provide you increased clarity on what the new CTU contract will mean for you and your school, we want to acknowledge what we all know: principals are overdue for a raise…. it is time that our financial commitment to you lives up to all we ask of you.”
It was the prospect of an organized group of principals and assistant principals demanding fair compensation that prompted CPS to act. As a result of CPAA’s advocacy, CPS was compelled to give school leaders their first pay raise in more than seven years.
On February 15, 2018, CPAA introduced legislation in Springfield that would--among other things--prohibit lump-sum budgeting (which CPS euphemistically refers as “student-based budgeting”) for special education. A few weeks later, on March 7, 2018 CPS announced it would end lump-sum budgeting and return to position based budgeting for special education programs. This change was the direct result of pressure applied by Springfield lawmakers who signed on to our bill.
CPAA has engaged in advocacy on a local, state, and national level to address severe understaffing in our schools, a rigged competition with charters, inept facilities management (Aramark/Sodexo), flawed accountability systems (SQRP), and the undermining of neighborhood public schools. Although we had some successes in our advocacy, we know the most effective way to make change is with bottom-up participation from our members and the communities they serve. From burdensome redundant compliance to the attacks on principals due process rights, the most effective way to change our reality is to think, plan, and act collectively with our colleagues and communities for the common good of all. In short, the answer is to organize.