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New mom explains why she voted 'yes' for a CTU strike

by erin Franzinger Barrett - Telpochcalli School  |  September 23, 2016

I live in Little Village, down the block from Telpochcalli, the spectacular small neighborhood school where I work. Our school has hosted visitors from Japan, Argentina, Egypt and around the U.S. who are interested in learning and collaborating with us in the areas of arts integration, dual language instruction, special education, and community and cultural work. Universities from around the state consistently place pre-service teachers with us because of the exceptional mentorship our staff provides.

I am voting "yes" to support a strike because when my daughter turns three, I want her to be able to walk with me and our neighbors to school every day to access these world-class opportunities that our community has built for them. If we don't strike, neighborhood schools as we know them will be destroyed by the mayor, his handpicked board of education, and the wealthy policy makers who have no real investment in our public schools.

We are striking for a contract with decent working and learning conditions, for a system that values and prioritizes the needs and lives of our communities, and to create a more just world for ourselves and the people we love. The corporate media may continue to portray us as greedy teachers, but as Chicago Teachers Union members, residents of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools graduates and parents, we know the sacrifices we've made, and we know that the only way to win the equitable, bright future that our daughter and all of Chicago's children deserve is through collective action and struggle.

ILLUSTRATION: Erin and Xiobhan Rocio


VP Sharkey on the democracy behind week's strike re-authorization vote

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  September 22, 2016

The Chicago Tribune is comparing our strike vote to some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world. What I find enraging here is that the Chicago Teachers Union is held to a ridiculously high standard for voting on a strike. (75% of entire membership must vote in affirmative.) Think about that—an 80% yes vote on an 80% turnout would still fail. But the CTU is not credited for meeting a democratic standard which virtually no elected official could meet. We are condemned.

The appointed Chicago Board of Ed is not compared to North Korea and castigated for stalling negotiations for 22 months while its unelected members slash public school budgets. So the Tribune's attack on our vote-by-petition reveals how deeply they despise our power and voice.

Why vote by petition? We are voting by petition because our original vote in December 2015 is being challenged by the Illinois governor’s appointed labor relations board and the CTU's elected executive board and House of Delegates voted to approve this procedure. We also want to ensure our members talk to the newly hired teachers in their buildings.

Our original vote took over a month to plan and was held on three successive days. It required printing three sets of ballots, ballot envelopes, ballot boxes, ballot seals and voter lists, and delivering and picking up the materials from 550 worksites by courier on three different occasions. The entire procedure cost well over $100,000 and literally thousands of hours of volunteer time on the part of hundreds of rank-and-file CTU members.

When we started considering a re-authorization vote just weeks into the school year, we considered that unions typically hold strike votes in members-only meetings and take a standing vote on the spot. It's not that the voting is public—votes are shared with neither the boss nor with non-members —but the matter is discussed among union members in the workplace. This is a reasonable way to approach the decision about a strike, and one that the union movement has used for over 100 years.

Our members-only voting requires that we talk to each other, respect each other’s opinions at work and make important decisions as a group.

Consider how much work it requires to maintain the level of participatory democracy the CTU exhibits. Elected officers work at the union office and receive the most media attention but consider this: An elected executive board steers the organization while working full-time in schools, 800 elected delegates conduct union meetings, meet regularly as our House of Delegates and are the face of the union in more than 500 schools, and thousands of members participate in CTU events, read, argue, stay informed, and will ultimately authorize or not authorize a strike, and approve or reject a contract.

Not only do I think the CTU is most democratic union in the country, I think it’s the most democratic institution in the city of Chicago. It's possible that the Tribune attacks the CTU because they do not understand what we really do, which is a bit pitiful considering how much time they spend fulminating about us. But I suspect the real reason the Tribune voices disdain for our workplace democracy is precisely because it is the type of democracy that leads to a more active and combative union, and that is what they truly fear and despise.

Strike authorization vote in second-day; teachers decry 20 percent reduction in school supports amidst high crime

by ctu communications  |  September 22, 2016

CHICAGO—Chicago public school teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals entered the second day of their voting for strike re-authorization by calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked Chicago Board of Education to stop eliminating nurses, social workers, counselors and psychologists, leaving students impacted by violence and poverty without equitable access to crisis intervention in their schools.

Since 2013, social workers have plummeted from 378 to 309, a decline of 18 percent, according to Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) research. However, the number of district students per social worker has increased by 13 percent, from 861 to 971 students per social worker. However, like other clinicians, social workers also service students across many CPS charter schools, spreading insufficient resources even thinner. 

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has steadily cut the number of certified school nurses as the district turns to outsourcing clinician services. There are now just over 160 certified school nurses, down from over 200 in 2013—a 20 percent decline. The ratio of students to nurses has increased over this time period by 15 percent—from over 1,600 to 1,850 students per nurse.

“Our clinicians provide a vital service to our students, and to cut them at a time when the city is under siege by gun violence, violent crime, poverty and cuts to social service programs is poor judgment,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. “Psychologists, social workers and counselors help students cope with problems brought on by family stress, neighborhood violence, unemployment, low-paying jobs and a variety of other issues associated with life in poverty.”

“One logical step the mayor could take is to ensure that all students have equitable and appropriate access to the services they need,” Sharkey added.

CPS changed its budgeting formula, decreasing the number of school counselors available at many of its large elementary and high schools. Schools have lost over 130 counselors since 2013, from nearly 800 down to 685. Counseling services also suffer because the district fails to provide enough resources for special education services, resulting in school counselors doing double duty as special education case managers. Last year, over 60 percent of elementary school counselors were also tasked with case manager duties.

Educators say these troubling statistics underscore why so many are fed up with the district’s mishandling of city schools and are considering a third strike since 2012. CTU members engaged in a one-day unfair labor practice strike on April 1, and say if they are forced to withhold their labor again, a potential fall strike could be much longer.

Results of the re-authorization vote will be announced next week after the Union has informed its rank-and-file members and school leaders of the results.  The last day of voting in schools is Friday, Sept. 23.

Message from CTU President Karen Lewis on this week's strike vote

by Karen Lewis - CTU President  |  September 21, 2016

We cannot let the mayor and his CPS CEO continue to make terrible cuts to PSRPs, classroom teachers and special education while slashing after school programs, libraries, counselors and school nurses. Our ability to strike is our most powerful weapon to demand justice for ourselves and our students, so it is imperative that you vote "yes" for strike re-authorization this week.

After we went on strike in 2012, the Board of Ed restored contract language regarding class size; left our steps and lanes intact; backed off increasing health care costs; gave us the ability to grieve evaluations and discipline; implemented a short-term disability system (which gave maternity and paternity benefits to our members for the first time); and stepped back from its proposal to eliminate rights for laid off teachers. Again, we must make our power felt to compel the mayor to take our demands seriously.

We sacrifice—and will continue to sacrifice—for our students and classrooms. In addition to this, however, the district has taken pension holidays costing us more than $2 billion; rescinded a 4 percent salary increase in 2012; closed 50 schools in 2013; and mandated three furlough days last year. Enough is enough. We are not asking for exorbitant raises. We are asking that the mayor and his handpicked Board of Ed properly fund our classrooms with the hundreds of millions available via progressive revenue sources such as the city’s TIF surplus, a corporate head tax and/or taxes on LaSalle Street commodities traders.

This week's vote is to reinforce the democratic sentiment your union made last December when members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. We know that the mayor and the governor will attempt to take away our power through their appointed labor relations board. This is a vote to protect our rights and prepare our buildings for a possible strike. If we remain unified, we will have more power to push our elected and appointed officials to treat us with dignity and respect.

This week, vote "yes" to protect your students, your classrooms and your profession.

In solidarity,
ILLUSTRATION: strike vote letter
Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT
President, Chicago Teachers Union

Strike re-authorization voting Sept. 21-23

by ctu communications  |  September 20, 2016

Schools are being asked to complete strike authorization voting by end of day, Wednesday, Sept. 21, if possible. Any schools that do not have 100 percent of staff voting on Wednesday can run the vote on Thursday, Sept. 22, and if necessary, continue to run the vote on Friday, Sept. 23.

Members who are citywide, clinicians or based at network offices may vote at any school or at the Chicago Teachers Union office, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza #400, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The preferred time to vote will be Wednesday, Sept. 21 before school. Members must provide proof of union membership, such as a CTU card or a pay stub showing CTU dues deduction.

Citywide members who received a yellow voting ticket should present that when they vote. Citywide members who did not receive a yellow voting ticket should bring their CTU card or a pay stub showing CTU dues deductions to vote. Chicago Public Schools employees who are new to the CTU bargaining unit will be allowed to vote after completely filling out a union card and submitting the CTU membership form.

Members may also vote at any of the 11 voting drop-off locations below. These are designated spots where delegates will be leaving voting materials. CTU staff will be collecting these materials and members will be able to vote at these locations when providing proof of union membership. The dates and times for these drop-offs are Wednesday Sept. 21, Thursday, Sept. 22 and Friday Sept. 23, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Look for a CTU-marked car in the school parking lot.

Drop-off Locations and Addresses (UPDATED)

Simeon 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. Staff parking near 83rd & Vincennes
Bogan 3939 W. 79th St. Staff parking lot entrance off Springfield
Taft 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Staff parking lot on east side of building off Northcott Ave.
Hyde Park 6220 S. Stony Island Ave. Staff parking lot
Lane Tech 2501 W. Addison St. Staff parking lot
Mather 5835 N. Lincoln Ave. Staff parking lot
Juarez 2150 S. Laflin St. Staff parking lot
Julian 10330 S. Elizabeth St. Staff parking lot
Washington 3535 E. 114th St. Staff parking lot
Westinghouse 3223 W. Franklin Blvd. Front of building
Chicago Teachers Union 222 Merchandise Part Plaza Near west side Mart entrance on N. Franklin-Orleans

David Orr: TIF Money Should Go to Schools

by David Orr  |  September 19, 2016

Opinion: Tax surplus should go right to Chicago public schools

David Orr

Students enter Edwards Elementary School earlier this month for the first day of the Chicago Public Schools new year. Cook County Clerk David Orr argues that surplus funds from tax increment districts should be used to improve the public schools.  | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Students enter Edwards Elementary School earlier this month for the first day of the Chicago Public Schools new year. Cook County Clerk David Orr argues that surplus funds from tax increment districts should be used to improve the public schools. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In July, my office released an annual report that shows tax incremental financing in Chicago, commonly called TIF, will generate $461 million in property tax revenue this year alone, an $89 million increase over last year. TIFs in Chicago account for about 5 percent of the city’s budget, yet it is difficult for the average taxpayer to track these funds.

When TIF funds are not earmarked for specific projects, City Hall has broad discretion as to how to spend that money. Meanwhile, our public education system is strapped for cash.


I have long called on the Chicago City Council to engage in public debate on budgeting for TIF funds and projects. I also have called on the city to declare a TIF surplus, which would require property tax revenue to be returned to struggling taxing districts.


A proposed ordinance, the Chicago Public Education Revitalization Ordinance, would require Chicago to annually determine if the Chicago public schools are financially distressed and, if so, to return CPS and Chicago’s portion of any TIF surplus to the public schools. Through TIFs, cities and towns typically divert future property tax revenue increases from a particular area to fund economic development projects in the community.

I support this ordinance for two reasons.


Read the entire article at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Don't be fooled: Chicago is not broke

by tom tresser - TIF Illumination Project  |  September 14, 2016

Mayor Rahm Emanuel would have us believe that Chicago is broke. That is, our obligations exceed the resources to meet them.

This publication would have us believe it. Crain's just editorialized in favor of $235 million in regressive utility fees over five years. "We urge the City Council to approve the water and sewer tax," the Editorial Board wrote.

This is on top of the trio of property tax raises approved by the Chicago Board of Education on Aug. 24.

Hold the phone.

new book I co-authored with Ralph Martire, Dick Simpson, Thomas Gradel, Jackson Potter, Jamie Kalven, Hilary Denk, Ron Baiman, Bill Barclay, Amara Enyia and Jonathan Peck examines ways Chicago could save and generate $5 billion in revenues annually. We focus on three buckets of funds.

Please click here to continue reading at

Letter: If Chicago is a 'city of readers,' then it should support its librarians

by Julie Todaro president, American Library Association and Audrey Church, president, American Association of School Librarians  |  September 13, 2016

Chicago public school students heading back to class this September will be missing a key part of their instructional team thanks to a drastic reduction in school librarians across city schools. According to reports, only 1 in 4 CPS schools now has a school librarian to instruct students in critical thinking skills and manage libraries and library resources.

Amidst the deluge of reports on the state of Chicago Public Schools, we hope that this image stands out. Countless research studies indicate that in today's digital environment, students without regular access to school libraries staffed with certified school librarians will lag in academic achievement, workforce readiness and adequate college preparation. From a nationally recognized public library system to a wealth of academic libraries and the much-anticipated Barack Obama Presidential Center, Chicago boasts that it is a “city of readers.”

We are deeply concerned that the disinvestment in Chicago public school libraries and the elimination of librarians undermines the vision of a “city of readers.” The drastic reduction of school librarian positions in CPS schools makes it impossible for CPS to achieve its mission of preparing all students for “success in college, career and community.”

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Facts on the Chicago Public Education Revitalization Ordinance

by ctu political department  |  September 09, 2016


The Chicago Public Education Revitalization Ordinance popularly known as The Garza-Cardenas TIF Ordinance


The Chicago Public Education Revitalization Ordinance popularly known as the Garza-Cardenas Ordinance provides the City of Chicago (the City) a process for directly aiding the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) by declaring TIF surplus and providing a supplement grant from the City’s share of TIF surplus.  Currently there is no process for providing TIF dollars to schools.

Current Process: 

Currently, the City determines the amount of TIF surplus by privately analyzing TIF funding requirements and surplus availability.

Proposed Process:

When the school district faces financial distress, this ordinance will require the City to annually calculate and distribute available TIF surplus based on clearly defined standards for:

  • Incremental tax collections
  • Existing contractual agreements
  • Financial obligations

This proposal would end the practice of excluding “potential” future project obligations, which may or may not occur, from calculations of the available TIF surplus at these times of financial distress in the schools.

Enhanced Transparency: 

The Ordinance would require the City to provide its annual TIF surplus calculations on the City’s website detailing its assumptions and contractual obligations.

Increased City Support of Public Education: 

In addition to the CPS receiving its proportional share of TIF surplus distribution (approximately 53%), the proposed Ordinance would require the City to contribute its proportional share of TIF surplus distribution (approximately 20%) as a Public School Revitalization Grant to pay for CPS operating costs.  

The Ordinance also requires the City to encourage other taxing districts (e.g. Cook County, Chicago Park District, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and City Colleges of Chicago) to contribute their respective proportional shares of TIF surplus as additional Public School Revitalization Grants.

Expected Impact:

From the Fall 2015 TIF collections of approximately $371 million and fund balances, the City of Chicago declared TIF surplus of $116 million during through June 30, 2016, of which CPS received an estimated $61 million (53% of surplus distribution) for operations.

Fall 2016 collections are projected to be $461 million or $89 million more than 2015 (Source: Office of the Cook County Clerk).

Under the proposed ordinance, if the City contributed $205 million of TIF surplus by December 31, 2016, CPS would receive an estimated $150 million (73% of surplus distribution) for operations.  

Comparison of the Cardenas-Garza TIF Ordinance and the Emanuel-Pawar proposed TIF Ordinance

Garza-Cardenas TIF

Emanuel-Pawar TIF

  • To keep cuts away from the classrooms, this proposal would commit the city’s portion of a TIF surplus to the schools, allowing CPS to receive well over 70% or the total TIF surplus.
  • The city would encourage other taxing districts to do the same, in line with a proposed state law, with the potential to provide 100% of a TIF surplus to the schools.
  • The proposal encourages thoughtful, deliberate and transparent plans regarding TIF surplus. It considers what districts are most in need of those dollars and removes political motivations from the process.
  • This ordinance would increase transparency and public reporting on the calculation of a TIF surplus.
  • This proposal would conservatively provide the school district $100-150M to help address the current crisis.
  • Should CPS continue to face financial distress, we can reasonably assume similar amounts of funding to be available in coming years given the large increases in property tax rates and anticipated increases in assessed values.
  • This proposal only provides schools with 52% of the total TIF surplus.
  • The proposal is voluntary and individual aldermen have to “agree” to give the money to the schools. It there is no agreement by the aldermen the schools would receive NO additional funds.
  • The proposal does not guarantee any funding to the schools regardless of the level of need or the amount of unused TIF resources available.
  • The proposal does NOT include support to the schools from the City of Chicago’s portion of a TIF surplus and drastically decreases the odds of support from other taxing bodies or the state.
  • The Emanuel-Pawar proposal is sub-optimal use of TIF surplus.  One should ask the question, do unidentified developers of hoped for future projects need the money more than our schools do now? If the City were to declare a TIF surplus, do the Metro Water Reclamation District, parks and city budget really need a cash windfall more than our schools? 
  • This proposal would allow unused and uncommitted TIF money to continue to sit in TIF slush funds while any surplus TIF money that is declared would have a smaller portion dedicated to protecting CPS schools.


Blaming teachers not the way to resolve teacher contract talks

by gina caneva - Lindblom Math and Science Academy  |  September 08, 2016

Nothing says “Welcome back to school” to Chicago students, parents, and teachers quite like the threatening atmosphere that accompanies current contract negotiations between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union.

In early August, CEO Forrest Claypool discussed the continued conflict between CPS and the CTU with the Chicago Tribune editorial board.  In the discussion, he stated that CTU must concede to a district-wide teacher pay cut, or classrooms will feel the effect of cuts to resources and teachers—cuts that will exacerbate conditions in the already overcrowded and ill-equipped classrooms in which we teachers currently operate.

By publicly threatening cuts to the classroom, Claypool is not inviting a compromise but inciting a surrender-or-strike choice.  It is not as solutions-oriented a choice as one that an educator might propose.  An ultimatum like Claypool’s reveals a misunderstanding of how to run an effective, high-poverty school district.  It is a CEO’s way of dealing with numbers, not an educator’s way of dealing with professionals who teach Chicago’s youth, 86 percent of whom come from low-income families.

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Chicago Teachers Union