Leaders from the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association blasted Chicago Public Schools’ plan to expand the privatization of building engineer work during a news conference in front of CPS Headquarters on Wednesday.
The district is expanding a pilot program that would replace school engineers and custodians with private contractors.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey warned against the expanded deal with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, who were awarded more than $300 million in CPS contracts two years ago to manage engineer work at 33 schools.
Critics have questioned SodexoMAGIC’s $250,000 in donations to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 mayoral campaign. This came after the company was awarded their $80 million contract with CPS in 2014.
“The air is saturated with corruption and pay to play,” said Troy LaRaviere, who was recently elected president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.
LaRaviere, who was removed from his post as Blaine Elementary’s principal and reassigned without a school after facing charges from the district, called the contracts a “massive problem.”
The principal has claimed that his opposition to the contracts led to the district’s discipline against him.
Sharkey claimed to have received countless compaints about poorly-maintained facilities.
"We've seen hundreds of complaints,” Sharkey added. "The bathrooms at many of our schools are atrocious.”
Nevertheless, CPS issued a statement Wednesday, defending the expansion of the program based on its success.
"CPS is expanding the successful Integrated Facilities Management pilot to help determine if a District-wide transition to this approach would improve facility services and allow our principals to focus more of their time on students and instruction, without increasing costs,” CPS spokesman Michael Gassman said in a statement. “We recognize there is a need to improve facility services, and initial results from the IFM pilot project suggest it is a more effective way to maintain our schools.”
“Current CPS engineers will not be impacted by the expanded pilot, and IFM vendors are required by CPS to employ union-represented engineers and custodians,” he added.
But the workers won't receive the same salary and benefits as those tied to labor contracts with CPS for more than 100 years.
President of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143 Bill Iacullo claimed the privatization contracts are “ruining our schools” during Monday’s press conference.
“They can do whatever they want,” Iacullo said. “That’s atrocious.”
Meanwhile, the mayor stayed out of the debate.
“The mayor does not get involved in contracting decisions and anyone suggesting otherwise either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or isn’t telling the truth,” Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins said.