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CPAA Statement on Principal and AP Furlough Days

The following is a statement from CPAA President Troy LaRaviere regarding the furlough days announced by CPS last week. In short, it asserts the need for CPS to prioritize spending on staffing, questions CPS spending priorities, highlights examples of contradictions in those priorities, encourages our members to question the justifications for the furlough, and presents the work of two of our policy teams in addressing both the furlough days and the underlying budget narrative on how the furlough days are being justified.

In Education, Staffing Should be Priority

CPS’s latest furlough announcement represents yet another instance of our political leaders’ efforts to systematically disinvest from public schools by repeatedly failing to invest in the most important element of public school education: the compensation of staff members who manage our schools, lead our classrooms, and provide academic and social services to our students. The core of the educational enterprise is not the buildings, the computers, or any materials; it is the teachers, administrators, counselors, and others whose skill, competence, dedication, and stability have the greatest in-school impact on student development. Yet our officials continue to invest heavily in unnecessary construction, privatization schemes, costly borrowing, giveaways to real estate developers, and charter expansion, while disinvesting in the people in the schools who actually work to educate children. 

Questionable CPS Priorities

Consider the following:

  • The Board of Education authorized a quarter-million dollar payment to a law firm managed by a former campaign contributor to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, to prepare a lawsuit that was never filed.  When asked about the $250,000 expenditure, Claypool responded that he’d spare no expense for the “strongest” legal work.  The contract is now under investigation by the Inspector General who recently took the extraordinary step of appearing at a CPS Board meeting to publicly declare that CPS officials were blocking his investigation into this expenditure.

  • In October, our appointed Board of Education voted to approve nearly a billion dollars in borrowing for construction without providing adequate details on how that money will be spent.

Blatant Contradictions

You must ask yourself some troubling questions: 

  • How is it that CPS officials created detailed and cumbersome processes for you to obtain a $30,000 SECA position for your students, while they have no such procedures for determining the necessity of putting taxpayers $1 billion in the hole for unspecified construction goals?

  • Why are your relatively small SPED staffing decisions subjected to detailed scrutiny, while CPS not only shields Forrest Claypool’s extravagant contract from public scrutiny, but from the scrutiny of the Inspector General?

  • How is it that our CEO will spare no expense for gratuitous legal work for central office, but take a far different attitude about the worth of work done by principals, assistant principals, and teachers who he repeatedly states, “must make sacrifices”?  He hasn’t asked for such sacrifices from his former law firm and political contributor.

In summary, CPS approaches funding our schools with the premise that there’s little money available, while their approach to spending on everything else appears to be based on the assumption that they have a limitless line of credit.

Question the Funding Narrative

We must question the narrative being fed to the public about the district’s need to “belt-tighten.” The belt-tightening has applied disproportionately to positions and salaries of school staff members, while those who stand to make a profit outside the classroom have loosened their belts more than a few notches

Take Action

The time to have prepared to oppose this year’s furlough was immediately after the last year’s furlough.  Our association—which was then under different leadership—should have initiated the long-term proactive work of organizing its members to assert the value and worth of their labor, and to work with parents and community members to generate public pressure to end the district’s wasteful spending, while addressing the irresponsibly inadequate local revenue streams that fund our schools. The good news is that we’ve started one half of this work with our Compensation Policy Team, and soon will tackle the other half  with our School Funding Policy Team. These teams — together with a rich web of network-based CPAA auxiliaries and community partnerships — will begin the work of addressing the current furlough, while focusing us on the goal of ensuring that furlough days and underfunded schools become a thing of the past.  If you are interested in joining the work of either of these teams, please contact us.

Troy LaRaviere