Chicago Crusader staff report
As the Chicago Teachers Union drifts closer to strike, a Black pastor is proposing a unique alternative to keep thousands of students off the streets if talks fail between the union and Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Rev. Paul L. Jakes, Jr., pastor of New Tabernacle of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, said Black churches should open their doors to students and offer classes, field trips and other activities to help weather a possible school crisis.
“The Black church has always played a role in the community and this could be one of them,” said Jakes in an interview with the Chicago Crusader.
This week, CPS added to the city’s debt burden by borrowing another $725 million at an interest rate of 8.5 percent. This bond deal is on top of the $1 billion in auction-rate securities CPS issued from 2003 – 2007.” Because of the high interest rates, CPS will pay an estimated $100 million more in today’s dollars than it would have on traditional fixed-rate bonds, over the life of the deal.
In the latest battle, thousands of teachers on February 4, demonstrated in downtown Chicago after CPS proposed to layoff 1,000 teachers. The proposal also includes taking 7 percent of the CTU’s pay and putting it into pensions.
The proposal came after CTU President and the “Big Bargaining Team” rejected a contract offer that would have prevented layoffs, but would have required teachers to make higher contributions to their pensions. In addition, the deal would have included raises of 2.75 percent in the next school year and then 3 percent for each of the next two years. More raises were proposed through June 2019.
After the contract offer was rejected, CPS and the CTU entered the final legal stage of negotiations that started a 105-day countdown to a strike. Teachers would have to wait until May to walk off the job.
With no resolution in sight, Jakes believes now is the time to prepare for the worst. Jakes said he is concerned that students left on the streets would contribute to Chicago’s high number of gun shootings. According to the latest figures, 312 people have been shot this year in Chicago. The number is higher than the number of shootings that occurred around this time last year.
With few options available, Jakes believes the Black church could fill a need in the Black community. He said he would look into bringing together pastors and ask them to use their buildings and services in the event of a strike.
“This could be a serious problem for the Black community if a teachers strike occurs,” Jakes said. “What will happen to our youth? Where are they going to go?”