Measure allowing CPS principals to unionize could add to labor pressures

"If HB5107 becomes law, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will likely see an already contentious labor environment grow more complex."
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(The Center Square) – A measure out of Springfield that would grant Chicago Public School principals the ability to unionize is facing criticism from a credit rating agency and economic analysts. 

House Bill 5107 passed both chambers in the 102nd General Assembly and would require CPS to negotiate separately with its teachers and principals for all collective bargaining issues. Fitch Ratings said this will add another layer to a system already struggling with collective bargaining issues. 

“If HB5107 becomes law, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will likely see an already contentious labor environment grow more complex,” the agency said in a statement. “CPS will need to negotiate with both its teachers through Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and its administrators through their own separate, elected bargaining unit. This adds another layer of labor negotiation in a district well-known for its standoffs between mayors and CPS and union leadership.”

Ted Dabrowski of Wirepoints said allowing principals to unionize would have plenty of downsides for students. 

“We have had four strikes in the last 10 years by the Chicago Teacher Union. They’ve kept kids out of school with their power,” Dabrowski told The Center Square. “Now you’re adding principals to the mix. They won’t be able to strike but the principals can start setting demands that make it even harder to keep schools open.” 

The bill was passed through the Illinois House and Senate and can now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a signature. 

Dabrowski said if Pritzker signs the measure, it would lead to more problems for CPS. 

“We need to get back to the key principles of managing something properly,” Dabrowski said. “Fitch is calling it out. The more power you give now to principals to negotiate, on top of what the Chicago Teachers Union already does, makes you more dysfunctional.” 

According to the Fitch report, CPS spends nearly two-thirds of its budget on employee salaries and benefits and negotiated wage increases.Glassdoor shows the average salary for a CPS principal is $218,437 annually. 

Dabrowski said this highlights the powers that CPS administrators already have. 

“It’s really hard to believe this is true,” Dabrowski said. “Anybody who follows Chicago Public Schools knows the Chicago Teachers Union already has the most powers in the country and they dominate what happens at CPS.” 

Fitch Ratings has CPS listed as a 4 out of 5 ranking on its website for Labor Relations & Practices, which reflects the influence of labor-related issues on the credit profile for the taxing body. The report claims the measure will not affect their rating in the short term but could change down the line due to negotiation issues. 

Andrew Hensel
Andrew Hensel reports on issues in Chicago and Statewide. He has been with The Center Square News since April of 2021 and was previously with The Joliet Slammers.

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