Response to UCSN Letter

We are the UEU – United Educators of UNO Charter School Network – the democratically elected representatives of UCSN teachers and staff. We can assure you that no one other than UEU members at UCSN direct the activities of our organization!   We are committed to achieving what is best for our students and families.  

As you know, we are attempting to reach agreement with current UCSN management on terms for a new labor contract.  Regrettably, management persists in its attempt to discredit our efforts and our motives by presenting misleading information concerning negotiations and staff working conditions.  This letter will address the contentions in CEO Richard Rodriguez’s letters.

UCSN finances

Mr. Rodriguez asserts that UCSN’s funding “was reduced by more than $5.7 million dollars.” This contention is both factually incorrect and misleading because it omits reference to UCSN’s considerable cost savings this year.

Published budget reports show that UCSN’s actual budget (including CPS, state and federal funding) for last school year (FY 2016) was $87.64 million, and its projected actual expenses for last year were $83.57 million, allowing it a small profit.  On September 28, 2016 UCSN published its proposed budget for the current year (FY 2017) of $88,194,321 – a slight increase over its actual budget from last year.

Mr. Rodriguez neglected to mention that the UCSN Board of Directors approved a budget for this year that includes $4.3 million in savings as a result of UCSN’s separation from UNO.  These savings come in the form of reduced rent, overhead and management fees. Due to these savings, UCSN’s expenses have dropped substantially. The UEU recognizes that CPS has been reducing the amount of funding it provides per pupil – both public and charter – in Chicago.  But UCSN’s budget picture, viewed as a whole, is far brighter than current UCSN management suggests.

Compensation and Work Year

Mr. Rodriguez’s letter suggests that UCSN salary exceeds CPS salaries, and therefore its proposal for a salary reduction is fully justified.  But again Mr. Rodriguez omits several critical facts:

1. UCSN requires teachers and staff to work nearly 11% more workdays than CPS teachers, which can be gleaned from Mr. Rodriguez’s graph showing UCSN workdays (201) compared to CPS work days (190). The UEU believes a shorter school year is healthy for both staff and students while allowing students to participate in summer enrichment programs important to their future.

2.UCSN pays very little more to its teachers who obtain advanced graduate degrees to improve their teaching ability.  UCSN pays a flat adjustment worth between 2-4% of salary for teachers who obtain their Master’s degrees, and it pays nothing more to teachers who earn their Doctorate.  CPS pays up to 21% more salary to its teachers who obtain Master’s and Doctorate degrees.  When total compensation is considered, including credit for advanced degrees,CPS salaries well exceed UCSN salaries.

3. UCSN’s salary proposal to the teachers admittedly reduces total teacher pay by over $500,000 per year.  Its proposal to non-teaching staff is nothing – no raises at all for this year and only 1% for next year.

4. Mr. Rodriguez neglected to mention that UCSN’s proposal to force teachers and staff to pay more for the same level of pensions will reduce teacher and staff pay by 3-4%.  These enormous cuts to teacher and staff pay mean that many teachers and staff will actually take home less pay than they do now under UCSN’s current proposal.

5. The CPS salary schedule that UCSN is using on their graphs is derived from the contract that expired in 2014, this is outdated and not reflective of their current negotiations.

Mr. Rodriguez encourages teachers to contact our building representatives for more information.  We wholeheartedly agree!  We also encourage our UEU members to reach out to parents, outside of school hours, to inform them of misconceptions and reassure them that we are dedicated to providing them with quality educators.  We, not UCSN management, are the educators of UCSN children and have dedicated our careers to their success.

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