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Union teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals begin citywide referendum on CPS CEO Forrest Claypool

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will hold a vote of “no confidence” in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool next Monday, May 15 through Wednesday, May 17. The vote will take place in every school throughout the district as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked CEO fumble CPS finances and continue to change the number of dollars needed to keep the city’s public schools adequately staffed and resourced.

CTU delegates voted at the Union’s last House of Delegates meeting to take up this referendum in every CPS school and workplace. The vote will highlight the failure of district leadership to advocate for our schools and students, and refusal to take the actions needed to properly fund and protect CPS.

“Some people have greatest hits and some have greatest misses, and the list of Forrest’s greatest misses is long—from his dire threats of 5,000 layoffs, cutting our members’ pay by seven percent and ending the school year three weeks early, to his sick day witch hunt and that ridiculous lawsuit against the state,” CTU President Karen Lewis said.  

CTU members casting “no confidence” votes next week will also be sounding off against the targeting and firing of experienced teachers as the result of Claypool’s harmful privatization, evaluation and budgeting schemes. Targeting CTU activists for termination and discipline has also been the CPS CEO’s method of punishment imposed upon outspoken advocates for students and school communities.

Among these activists are the CTU Six, a group of Union leaders targeted for their willingness to speak up on behalf of students and colleagues. They are:

  • Sarah Chambers, delegate at Saucedo Elementary School. Helped lead a CTU campaign to increase investment in special education and use TIF funds to support our most vulnerable students. Suspended today by Claypool and the district because of her activism.
  • Jose Contreras, delegate at Carson Elementary. Helped organize community meetings and mobilize CTU members to speak out against abusive and disrespectful behavior by administration. Was unfairly targeted as a result.
  • Joseph Dunlap, delegate at Tarkington Elementary. A 12-year veteran with stellar evaluations. Has been targeted through the ratings system by AUSL because of his activism and refusal to allow the administration to violate the rules of REACH.
  • Jessie Hudson, veteran teacher at Beidler Elementary for more than 20 years. Helped save the school from closing and has received citywide accolades for work on Special Olympics. Recently, she helped blow the whistle on illegal special education violations and was immediately disciplined.
  • Laura Sierra, delegate at Whittier Elementary school. Has been bullied and harassed by administration since speaking up about contract violations. Was recently successful in overturning discipline action against her.
  • Kevin Triplett, delegate at Barton Elementary School. Disciplined after complaining about climate and culture issues in schools. Has continued to advocate for his staff and students despite the harassment.

In addition to targeting teacher advocates and potentially eliminating hundreds of school clerk positions through the introduction of the KRONOS self-service pilot program, special education services have been devastated by Claypool creating numerous obstacles for teachers and staff, such as the paraprofessional justification form, which is designed to interfere with the special education team’s legal responsibility to determine the services a child needs and deserves. This is causing a drop in much-needed support and special education intervention received by students.

Investment in classroom instruction has also plummeted under Claypool’s management, while the amount spent on district administration has doubled. His efforts to promote himself as pushing for increased state funding has been designed to cover up his refusal to advocate for immediate solutions to protect CPS students. Claypool has failed to call for the city to use TIF funding, end out-of-control charter expansion or take action on other revenue-generating options that would avoid any need for budget cuts, staff cuts or furloughs.

“The day he was appointed to that position, I said ‘Run, Forrest, run’ for a reason, because I knew he would be a disaster for our schools, and for our members and their students,” Lewis said. “And he has been.”

The results of next week’s referendum will be delivered by CTU members from schools all across the city to City Hall on May 23, the day before the Chicago City Council could take up a CTU-backed tax increment financing (TIF) ordinance and restoration of the corporate head tax to fund schools.

Chicago Teachers Union