Chicago Public Schools Getting Preference Points For Firefighter Exam


“CITY HALL — Union firefighters are threatening to sue over a city initiative that gives graduates of Chicago Public Schools preferential treatment in city hiring, just as Mayor Rahm Emanuel trumpets a new round of recruitment for the Fire Department.

Emanuel’s office made a point Wednesday of drawing attention to an online application for the Fire Department open through Sept. 16. It costs $30 to apply, with a written exam set for December for qualified applicants.

The job description makes clear that those who already have completed fire or police training receive preferential treatment for firefighter and police positions, as do relatives of those who died in the line of duty as police officers, firefighters or military personnel. It also states a hiring preference for veterans and CPS high school graduates.

Yet that last attempt to give a leg up to CPS grads is a sticking point for some firefighters.

“There’s been an outcry by our membership on some of this,” Tom Ryan, president of the city’s firefighter union, said Tuesday. “They just feel that, being taxpayers and citizens, that should be enough, that all children who live in the City of Chicago should be given the same treatment.

“It’s a tough issue,” Ryan said. “And you want to do the right thing by everyone.”

The Fire Department hiring notice, first posted online last week, specifies: “The City of Chicago offers a CPS Graduate Preference to high school graduates from the Chicago Public School system.”

Emanuel has touted the CPS grad preference frequently in urging kids to stay in school.

“The hiring preference policy encourages Chicago Public School students to stay in school and get their diploma so they are prepared for college and a career,” mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Wednesday.

Quinn cited a city policy stating that the Department of Human Resources ensures that “a minimum of 20 percent of the candidates referred for a position that has the CPS hiring consideration are CPS graduates.”

Tom Ryan, president of the firefighters’ union, says there’s plenty of time to work out a compromise on hiring preferences.View Full Caption

DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Yet firefighter union board member David Quintavalle wrote recently in a post that appeared on Facebook: “I, and numerous [union] members who I have spoken to, are outraged that the city would harm so many other qualified applicants who have received educations from private schools.

“To hold this against these applicants is criminal and needs to be addressed in court immediately,” Quintavalle added.

The union “has been contacted to explore the possibility of litigating this issue on behalf of our members’ families before anyone is harmed. Many of our members have sent their children to these private schools for personal reasons or religious beliefs,” Quintavalle said.

Ryan said the objection to the hiring preference isn’t necessarily about the tradition of firefighters passing the profession on to their children.

“I’ve heard from many people, some who don’t even have kids,” he said. “By singling out one specific group over another, it’s not the fair way.”

Ryan made no mention of litigation and said it was still open to negotiation, with ample time before the firefighter exam in December.

“Things have changed within the testing process in the past,” he said. “It is not unusual, so we may re-examine this and take under advisement the complaints that have been lodged. It’s still very early.”

Ryan pointed out that it was only last week tgat the city announced the new round of Fire Department hiring exams, adding, “Things could certainly change.”

Quintavalle, though, said if the union doesn’t pursue a lawsuit to stop the CPS preference provision, “We, the members, will have to take it upon ourselves to stop this injustice.

“It’s not enough that our members must live in the city and pay all the taxes that fund the CPS system, but now you must send your child to a CPS school in order to get a preference in the upcoming firefighter’s exam. This is pure and simple discrimination; the city should not promote this type of discrimination, and [the union] should not tolerate it.”



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