Chicago Public Schools principals file petition to unionize

Chicago Public Schools principals file petition to unionize

The Chicago Principals and Administration Association president said the new union would advocate for better pay and working conditions. But Chicago Public School principals already earn nearly 30% more than their Illinois peers.

The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association announced plans May 12 to unionize, becoming the first group of Chicago Public Schools administrators to file to form a union since Gov. J.B. Pritzker granted only Chicago principals that power.

The education association representing roughly 1,100 Chicago principals and assistant principals said it submitted signatures of almost 80% of its members to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board seeking certification.

CPAA President Troy LaRaviere said the new union would advocate for better pay and working conditions for CPS administrators, including improved job security. A spokesperson for the board said it will confirm whether the petition includes signatures for more than 50% of the workers the union intends to represent.

Principals at Chicago’s public schools already earned about 30% more on average than their counterparts in other parts of the state before Pritzker signed House Bill 5107 in February, giving only CPS administrators the power to collectively bargain.

The average salary for a principal in Illinois is $116,398, according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s 2021 annual report. But its data on principals’ salaries shows CPS principals average $149,628.   

Under the new law, only those administrators who negotiate with unions or formulate district-wide policies are prohibited from unionizing.

While the law appears to prohibit principals from going on strike, a principals union may argue Amendment 1 gives them the power to strike. A union could argue that by prohibiting principals from striking, the state is violating the part of the amendment prohibiting lawmakers from diminishing their rights.

The law, originally written by the CPAA president, doesn’t prevent other administrative employees from going on strike and interrupting the school day.

CPS already has to negotiate with 10 other unions representing employees, including CTU. More unions, or special sub-units created within the current unions to include any newly organized employees, means more time negotiating – and more money spent on negotiations – and less time and money utilized for classroom-centric needs.

While the language of HB 5107 is limited to Chicago Public Schools for now, it paves the way for principals to unionize in other parts of the state. The broad language of Amendment 1 already grants a right for any “employees” to unionize and bargain, including school district principals.

LaRaviere said he is hopeful Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration will support them.

“Given that the majority of the forces behind Johnson are union forces,” LaRaviere said, “it would seem our chances are pretty good.”

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