CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois state lawmakers have approved legislation that could throw a wrench in Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans, lifting limits on the Chicago Teachers Union’s bargaining rights, which could force the district to negotiate with the union over the phased return to in-person classes.
On the same day in-person classes resumed for pre-kindergarten and some special education students at CPS, the Illinois Senate approved legislation to repeal a section of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, which had restricted CTU’s bargaining rights.
That part of the law allowed the district to avoid mandatory negotiations with CTU over issues such as layoffs, class sizes, staff assignments, class schedules, the length of the school day and year, outsourcing services, and use of technology to deliver educational programs. That provision of state law left it entirely up to the district whether or not to bargain with the union over those issues.
Those bargaining restrictions only apply to unions negotiating with CPS, not any other school district in the state.
The Illinois House had approved the proposal to repeal that section of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act in 2019, so the measure will now go to Gov. JB Pritzker for his signature or veto.
Pritzker did not say specifically Monday if he would sign the measure, but said he has supported the proposal for years.
“I have favored passage of that bill since I was a candidate, since really before I was a candidate, and so that bill I know is coming to my desk, and I’ll obviously take a serious look at it, but you know where I’ve stood for several years,” he said.
In a statement, CTU said the proposed legislation passed “because of the tireless work of our rank and file members, and the vital support of a broad coalition of grassroots allies, our students and families.”
“The CTU and our allies have struggled for years to win back the fundamental labor rights that every other union of educators in the state has today: the right to bargain with management to improve our students’ learning conditions. In Chicago, where 90 percent of our students are Black and Brown, the passage of this bill represents the restoration of our ability to bargain for real equity for our working class students and students of color,” CTU said in a statement.
The union last month had sought an injunction to prevent CPS from moving forward with its plan to resume in-person classes until it negotiated over the specifics of reopening plans, but the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board denied the request, ruling the issues CTU wanted to negotiate were not mandatory subjects of bargaining under state law.
If Pritzker signs the legislation, that would change, and open the door for the CTU to force CPS back to the bargaining table when it comes to in-person classes during the pandemic.
While in-person classes resumed Monday for pre-kindergarten and some special education students, K-8 schools are not set to reopen until Feb. 1, and high schools will remain on remote learning indefinitely.
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