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New website presents a fresh face for our union

by Nathan Goldbaum, CTU Communications Specialist  |  October 05, 2018

By Nathan Goldbaum

The Chicago Teachers Union has come a long way in the seven years since we last revamped our website, and so has the Internet. As we move into a new school year, new contract fights and a new election season, the CTU has created a new online presence and freshened our look.

Members may recall that we held a vote in June of this year about our new logo. The winning logo combines a modern, web-oriented feel with the timeless symbolism of a classic union seal. To save costs, the CTU will phase in the use of the new logo on stationery and other paper goods already in stock. The Union is currently developing apparel that will feature our new logo and ordering information will soon be available. Meanwhile, the new logo will feature prominently on the new website. The website has also been reorganized and includes new features, like better search and progressive web application technology.

Re-organized website

The new site is organized around three different ways that members interact with the Union and its web presence. In the “My Union” section of the site, members will find information about CTU membership, our democratic structures like the House of Delegates, special offers for members, general news, the Chicago Union Teacher magazine and more. The “My Rights” section deals with every aspect of enforcing your rights at work. Here, you can access the contract, contact your field representative, and find advice on handling grievances (including common concerns) and standard forms you may need.

Finally, “My Movement” helps members and schools stay organized to defend our rights and our school communities. In this section, you will find the featured campaigns of the union, such as our contract campaigns, and an easy-to-fill-out form for contacting your elected representatives on the page. You will also find toolkits for organizing your school, such as ways to boost your Professional Problems Committee and Professional Personnel Leadership Committee, or how to unite around a particular issue.

We hope that the new design and organization will help you find what you need easily, without needing to search (although we've also improved the search function to find pages by topic and prioritize the timeliest information).

Educators of Chicago

One of the most exciting new features of the website is the “Educators of Chicago” (EOC) series. Modeled on the website,, EOC will feature profiles of the teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians who care for Chicago's students and guide their futures. In addition to highlighting what makes our members great, EOC stories are generated by rank-and-file members themselves in order to lift one another up in an act of camaraderie and solidarity. The website includes a form for any member to submit a colleague's profile. One can even profile a group of CTU members and the work they have done.

Math teachers need not worry, however, because the crack editorial staff of this magazine and the CTU Communications Department will be sure to lively up your prose and correct any mistakes. No one need fear the wrath of 25,000 red pens!

More New Features

We will be making a number of other improvements to the website based on better content documentation and new technologies. For one thing, the website will finally catch up to the ubiquity of phone browsers with a design that adapts to screen sizes from the smallest smartphone to the largest, high-density monitor. In addition, CTU staff will be going back through all of our past blog posts and news stories to ensure that they are properly tagged to improve the site's search bar.

We will also roll out emergent Progressive Web App technology that allows a website to be added to your smartphone's home screen with many features, such as notifications, that used to only be available through app stores.

Our New Address on the Web

With the purchase of the CTU Center, our Union has had a new address in the city for a couple of years now. The rollout of our new website merits a new web address, or domain name, as well. Instead of having two confusing, “commercial” domains— and—for our website and our emails, the Union will emerge with a new, more coherent site name in

Although the conventions are often flouted, .com domains are normally reserved for for-profit commercial ventures, while .org signifies not-for-profit status. We thought it more appropriate to switch to .org while maintaining a familiar moniker. We will also unite website and email in the one domain. But don't worry if habit forces you to type an old address. We will automatically forward you.

Keep an eye out in the near future for communications about new apparel, new functionality and a scavenger hunt on the new website with multiple prizes to win. Building our union's strength, power and unity in these times brings both great challenges and great opportunities. Our website renovation puts new tools at our disposal to face them.

Nathan Goldbaum is the CTU Communications Specialist.



At last, a measure of justice for Laquan

by jesse sharkey - ctu president  |  October 05, 2018

CHICAGO, October 5, 2018—Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey released the following statement today in response to the verdict in the murder trial of Jason Van Dyke.

“Laquan McDonald was our student. He could have been a senior in a Chicago public high school when he was gunned down nearly four years ago to the day in one of the most shocking instances of brutality in the history of our city.

“Our members taught him, and he was a child of the communities in which they live. He was raised on streets covered in the blood of the generations before him who've been bludgeoned by economic, social and racial injustice. He deserved justice, and today’s verdict shows that the jury recognized his humanity and the tragedy that befell him.

“Our city, however, is still suffering, and reeling from the tenure of a mayor who systematically closed schools, used public dollars to pay police settlements and ultimately covered up Laquan’s murder for political and capital interests. Emanuel spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees to block the release of the dashboard camera video of Laquan’s murder until a judge ruled in November of 2015—nearly 400 days after the shooting and after he won re-election—that the mayor’s actions violated the Illinois open records laws and ordered that the video be released to the public.

“We must build on this opportunity to come to grips with Rahm’s tale of two cities—one city that supports the elites and the politicians they bankroll, and another city that failed Laquan, just as it fails hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown students and their families every day. Laquan deserved first-rate early childhood programming. He deserved the opportunity to attend schools with rigorous wraparound services and supports. Instead, Rahm and his allies support an apartheid-like school district run by a handpicked Board of Education that has long neglected poor and working class Black and Brown children, and as evident in recent years, has systematically driven students and their families from the city. And this failure extends to every arena of life in Chicago, from who gets policed, to who receives mental health care, to who collects public dollars for affordable housing.

“With Rahm gone, the people of this city have the opportunity to write a new narrative and build a new Chicago that is safe for minority and working class families. We need accountability and transparency through truly representative, democratically elected bodies. We need to value the lives of all Black and Brown people in the memory of those who were ruthlessly taken from us, like Laquan, Harith Augustus, Rekia Boyd, Dakota Bright, Flint Farmer, Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier and Freddie Wilson. Remember these names, and remember that we need one city, with equity and dignity for everyone.

“Chicago must take this opportunity to heal from Rahm’s legacy of trauma and finally become a city that is built around equality and justice for all."

New book lifts up stories and successes in the fight for educational justice

by Kate Van Winkle  |  September 28, 2018

Contact: Kate Van Winkle
(317) 694-9578

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2018 

New book lifts up stories and successes in the fight for educational justice
Includes key moments from Chicago, including the Chicago teacher strikes, the 34-day hunger strike to save Dyett High School and the founding of Grow Your Own Teachers

What: The Chicago release of the book Lift Us Up Don’t Push Us Out! Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement (Mark R. Warren, Beacon Press, 2018), including a panel discussion from Chicago contributors to the book.

Lift Us Up! features voices from the frontlines of a new movement for educational justice that is growing across the United States. Contributors tell their own stories of how Black and Brown parents, students, educators and their allies are fighting back against profound and systemic inequities and mistreatment of children of color in low-income communities. The organizers and activists recount their journeys to movement building, lift up victories and successes and offer practical organizing strategies and community-based alternatives to traditional education reform and privatization schemes.

Why: The education justice movement is has gone nationwide recently with teachers strikes in Oklahoma and West Virginia, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! is a bold and exciting book that presents the stories we never hear—powerful stories of successful grassroots organizing in schools and communities across the nation, led by parents, students, educators and allies. The lessons we can learn from these inspiring activists and campaigns need to be spread far and wide.” —Karen Lewis, former Chicago Teachers Union president

Who: The panel features these contributors to the book, who will be available for interviews:

  • Chicago Teachers Union Deputy Political Director Brandon Johnson
  • Dyett Hunger Striker Jitu Brown
  • Grow Your Own Teachers Board Member Maureen Gillette
  • Lift Us Up! Author Mark R. Warren

When: Friday, September 28, 6 p.m

Where: EL Centro – 3390 N. Avondale, Chicago, IL


Mayor's handpicked Board of Ed bridges gap from Jim Crow to Trump with required IDs, speech restrictions for open meetings

September 25, 2018

Parents, advocates barred from speaking at consecutive board meetings, must show ID to get into public meeting.

CHICAGO, September 25, 2018—Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates released the following statement today regarding a new Chicago Board of Education policy requiring photo identification to attend its monthly meetings.

“As a majority of Chicagoans and every single mayoral candidate with a semblance of common sense call for an elected, representative school board, Rahm’s handpicked Board of Ed doubles down on its contempt for democracy by mandating that identification be presented to attend its monthly meetings. This requirement recalls Jim Crow-era voter suppression, and is a GOP-Trump Administration tactic that has been used to disenfranchise Black voters and scare off undocumented residents. That goes doubly for the new ‘requirement’ that if you spoke the previous month, you cannot speak this month. We have parents and advocates who come in to raise and report on critical specific issues with the Board each month – and now they are being ordered to sit down and shut up.”

“This is unconscionable in a school district with a majority of Black and Brown students. So is the mayor still practicing the tactics of the GOP and Donald Trump? And if so, why?

“I am a working parent of CPS children, and as a parent, if I take time off work to attend a meeting at 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, then it’s clear that the issue is important to me. So not only is the timing already not conducive for most working parents, but now they have to present photo ID to attend a meeting that, for years, has been open to the public with no requirements? And you cannot come in two meetings in a row to raise – and report on – concerns!? This is yet another reason our city needs an elected, representative school board. Because City Hall control of our schools has been a failure, and continues to be with our lame duck mayor.

“We know that Rahm’s handpicked board is planning at least one other round of school closings. Is this a move to keep voices of resistance at bay? Or is the Board using another Trump tactic of making sure chamber seats are filled with nothing but functionaries and private charter operators who applaud every discriminatory move it makes?

"In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the mayor repeated claims that Chicago was a ‘sanctuary city’ to present himself as some sort of champion against Trump. Requiring identification to attend an open, public meeting, however, puts him closer to Trump than the real champions—parents, educators, activists—he is trying to censor."

# # # 

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at


SY 17-18 REACH Ratings Released

by Adriana Cervantes  |  September 21, 2018

Final REACH Ratings for SY 17-18 Available on RLS Now

CPS released final summative REACH summary reports for SY 17-18 on the RLS web site today (Friday, September 21, 2018).

There are three kinds of REACH summary reports:

  1. Informational reports are for educators who will not receive a final rating because they received an “Inability to Rate” or did not work enough days in SY 17-18 to receive a final rating.
  2. Interim reports are for tenured educators for whom SY 17-18 was year 1 of a biennial evaluation plan. This report will show them their REACH results from year 1 only and not contain a final rating.
  3. Final reports are for untenured educators, tenured educators who were on an annual evaluation plan in SY 17-18, and tenured educators for whom SY 17-18 was year 2 of a biennial evaluation plan. This report will contain a new a final summative REACH rating.

Now that final summative REACH ratings for SY 17-18 have been released, those educators who received a final report and rating may be able to file a grievance and/or appeal.

For more REACH-related information, please visit our Teacher Evaluation page.

Rating Grievances

The grievance process to challenge final summative REACH rating based on procedural errors is now open and will be open for 45 school days, starting today. Please use the Grievance Checklist to assess what procedural errors occurred and contact your field representative no later than Nov. 7, 2018.

To prepare for filing a grievance, educators should compile all related evidence and documentation, type up a timeline of their relevant evaluation experience and contact their CTU Field Representative. Please refer to the updated CTU Grievance Checklist on the Teacher Evaluation page to identify whether evaluation procedures were followed during your evaluation plan.

Emerging Developing & Unsatisfactory Rating Appeal Process & Workshop

What REACH-evaluated educators are eligible to file an appeal of their SY 17-18 final summative rating?

Educators are eligible to file an appeal of their SY 17-18 final summative REACH rating if they:

  • Received a SY 17–18 Unsatisfactory REACH rating, or
  • Are tenured and received a SY 17–18 emerging Developing rating (score between 210-250), or
  • If they were laid off out of seniority order and they received a SY 17–18 Unsatisfactory or Developing (score between 210-284) rating.

CPS is emailing educators with information about the appeals process. Details about the Appeals process can be found in Article 39-9 (pages 167-169) of the contract.

How can eligible educators get help to start their appeal process?

The CTU is holding a REACH Rating Appeals Workshop on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 from 4:30-7 p.m. at the CTU Center (1901 W. Carroll Ave., in the computer lab) to help members begin the appeals process and connect with CTU staff who can further assist them.

Please email Vera Lindsay to RSVP for the workshop and please include your rating and total REACH score (out of 400) in the email.

Educators attending the workshop should bring a laptop or tablet with them to the workshop. There is free street parking nearby and a parking lot behind the building.

How does the REACH final summative rating appeal process work?

All appeals are completed through the RLS website. Those educators eligible to appeal should be able to access the “Appeals Process” tab in RLS now.

There are two parts of the appeals process and each has a specific deadline:

      1. Educators have 10 calendar days (until Monday, October 1, 2018) to file an Intent to Appeal on the RLS website, and
      2. Educators have 30 calendar days (until Monday, October 22, 2018) to upload Evidence for the Appeal including all relevant documentation to the RLS website to complete the appeal.

Both parts of the process must be completed in order for the appeal to proceed and be reviewed.

Educators intending to complete an appeal, should go on RLS and complete the Intent to Appeal immediately. Educators completing the appeal are also reminded to make sure to “opt-in” to allow the CTU access to their appeals and rating information on RLS so that CTU staff can more fully represent them in the appeals process.

How can an appealing educator get additional help to file their appeal?

Educators who complete the Intent to Appeal by the Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, deadline are also invited to bring their laptops and get additional help in filing their appeal at two Rating Appeals Drop-In Support Sessions on Tuesday, October 2, 2018, and Tuesday, October 9, 2018, from 4–7 p.m. at the CTU Center (1901 W. Carroll Ave., computer lab). Educators do not need to RSVP for Drop-In support and can come at any time during the session to get help. Educators can come to one or both sessions for support. Educators should bring their laptop to the session.

In addition to the workshop and drop in session, appealing members can also email the specialist for help as well as your field representative.

Professional Development Plans

Tenured educators who received a Developing final summative SY 17-18 REACH rating are required to co-create a Professional Development Plan with their evaluator within 30 school days of the release of the ratings. The PD Plan process is not the same as the remediation process for tenured educators who receive an Unsatisfactory rating. The PD Plan must be co-created within 30 school days of the release of the final summative (so no later than Monday, November 5, 2018).

CPS emails educators and their evaluators about the start of the Professional Development Plan writing process. This email should include the template for the actual Professional Development Plan. Pages 62 and 64 of the SY 18-19 CPS REACH Teacher Evaluation Handbook review the main guidelines about PD Plans. Delegates and PPC members should work to ensure that tenured teachers who receive a Developing rating have the opportunity to co-create their PD Plan before they are observed this year for REACH purposes.

Unsatisfactory Remediation Plans

Tenured educators who received an Unsatisfactory final summative SY 17-18 REACH rating and are still in their position are required to co-create a Remediation Plan with their evaluator and an assigned Consulting Educator within 30 school days of the release of ratings summative (so no later than Monday, November 5, 2018). Once a plan is created, the educator will begin the 90 school day remediation period per contract Article 39-8 (page 165-167).

CPS emails educators and their evaluators about the start of the Remediation Plan writing process. This email should include the template for the actual Remediation Plan. The Handbook reviews the main guidelines about Remediation Plans. To see contract language about the remediation process, please see Article 39-8 (page 165).

Tenured educators who receive an Unsatisfactory rating should prepare for the remediation process by examining their areas of weak observation scores and identifying or beginning professional development in those areas. CTU members with high previous ratings will act as Consulting Educators and work with our tenured brothers and sisters who receive an Unsatisfactory rating during the remediation process to help them complete the remediation process successfully. The educator, with the help of the consulting educator, must execute the plan, be observed by their evaluator at a mid (after 45 school days) and end (after 90 school days) point and needs to remediate to Proficient (at least 285) at the end of the 90 school day remediation period.

Rest in power, George Schmidt (1946-2018)

by CTU COMMUNICATIONS  |  September 19, 2018

ILLUSTRATION: George Schmidt

Union activist, journalist and retired Chicago public school teacher George N. Schmidt died peacefully at home on Sept. 17, just a few weeks before his 72nd birthday. He died of lung cancer, diagnosed in August, complicated by a series of strokes.

He was the editor of Substance, an independent newspaper in Chicago covering public education that he helped found in 1975. George was preceded in death by his parents, Neil and Mary Schmidt. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Sharon (nee Griffin); sons Dan (29), Sam (17) and Josh (13); brother Thomas; sisters Joan (late Don O'Toole) and Terry (Glenn Foreman), their daughter Jade; father in-law and mother in-law Emory and Jean Griffin; brother in-law James Griffin (Jennifer Bierman), their nieces and nephew Alison, Kyle, and Amy; and dozens of Schmidt and Lanigan aunts, uncles and cousins.

George was an exciting person, a dynamo in his youth, whose multi-faceted career spanned five decades. He helped many thousands of people with his tireless energy, intense focus, intellectual gifts, desire to serve and unwavering commitment to the truth. A University of Chicago alumnus, George was a brilliant English teacher, who worked inside his classroom and within the Chicago Teachers Union serving in various roles including delegate, mentor, consultant and researcher for quality education for students and fairness for school workers.

While he believed that public schools and unions are essential in improving the lives of working class people, George knew the institutions needed watching. He used print newspapers and an online news service to hold accountable those in power. Much of his ongoing critique of the Chicago Board of Education was against racist policies. His fight against injustice began in the 1960s when he worked with soldiers in the GI Movement, organizing against the Vietnam War, in part through the production of underground newspapers.

George was a voracious reader, who sought to understand everything in history and politics. He loved poetry and literature, as well as biographies, essays and news writing. As a reader and writer, he relished the truth, which had to include the context of events. George was compelled to tell the full story. He loved his sons and wife passionately, enjoying and encouraging their gifts. George will be dearly missed by them and by so many others whom he helped or inspired over the years. 

A complete obituary will be available on the Substance News website on Oct. 1. See Those who wish to contribute testimonies for publication at Substance may email them to Loop Church pastor Mark Brouwer will conduct a funeral service at 2 p.m.. on Saturday, Sept. 22, in the Mt. Olive Church sanctuary, 3850 N. Tripp, Chicago.

Friends and family may pay their respects at the visitation on Thursday, Sept. 20 from 4 to 9 p.m., or on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 1 to 2 p.m., at Mt. Olive Church. In lieu of flowers, donations in George's name may be sent to Loop Church, 11 E. Adams St., Suite 1200, Chicago, IL 60603 ( or FAIR, 124 W. 30th Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting is the nonprofit progressive national media watch group (

Teachers’ union chief Jesse Sharkey on school closings, contract battles, and life after Rahm

by ctu communications  |  September 14, 2018

Two disruptions in the city power dynamic leave the Chicago Teachers Union in unfamiliar, and interesting, territory. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last week that he won’t seek a third term and has yet to endorse an heir apparent. Meanwhile, the union — which rarely misses a chance to spar with the mayor — officially promoted Vice President Jesse Sharkey to the top job, as expected, to succeed the formidable negotiator Karen Lewis, who has brain cancer and retired early.

Chalkbeat Chicago spoke with Sharkey about entering contract negotiations this fall amid seismic shifts in City Hall. We also asked about his negotiating style, if he really failed to return messages from former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey, and how he plans to rally membership post-Janus. Observers predict a blow to union membershipnationwide in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

This interview was edited and condensed for publication.

Rahm Emanuel announced he’s not seeking re-election the day before you were officially promoted to union chief. How does that change your approach to entering a contract year?

It raises certain questions about how contract negotiations are going to work. I will say this: In order to manage schools, you have to know a bunch of stuff about education. Right now, there is an administration in Chicago Public Schools – not that we don’t have disagreements with them, we do – but, frankly, (CEO Janice) Jackson’s administration is completely capable of beginning the work of hammering out a labor contract. When we get to the tactical questions about what working conditions should be like, we expect to be able to start negotiating with her administration and the Board of Education.

Obviously, toward the end, there’s going to be some broader questions about direction, and whoever the mayor is going to be is going to want to weigh in on them. But I expect to be able to begin and stay a timeline so we can get a contract landed by the time school starts next year. 

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Why our union and union dues matter

by ctu communications  |  September 06, 2018

solidarityAs someone who spent 36 years working in private and public schools, I never questioned the wisdom of paying union dues once I entered the public sector as a teacher at Von Steuben. 

Before I came to CPS, I taught social studies for 18 years in private schools. It was a wonderful and fun experience, but the pay and benefits were meager.

Eventually, I decided to move to the public sector for two reasons. First, I wanted to put in enough years to qualify for a reasonable pension. Second, I was becoming restless because I didn’t have much of a say about how these schools were being run. At my last private school, a priest got into a heated argument with a member of the lay faculty – reminding him that it was the religious order’s school, not the teachers’, and that the religious order would make decisions regarding the school.

So it was refreshing to join the faculty at CPS’ Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center and become a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. For the first time in my career as an educator, I felt that this school was my school, because I had a voice as an educator through my union.

The salary and benefits gains were immediate. My starting income was much higher than in the private sector. Plus, there was a great pension plan, accumulative sick days, and other benefits like vacation days and paid holidays.

I realized immediately that none of this would have been possible without the Chicago Teachers Union and our dues-paying members. The union had to fight for our higher pay and benefits, and there had been a number of strikes before I joined the CTU.

Now, in the wake of Janus, CTU members are being told we should quit our union and stop paying union dues. If we quit on our union, we totally disregard the CTU members who sacrificed and walked the picket line to win financial security for our members.

I never complained about the need to pay union dues because those dues were more than offset by all the benefits I received. This became even more obvious after I retired in 2010. My pension guaranteed a financially secure retirement for the rest of my life. The pension and the salary hikes that I received far exceeded the dues that came out of my paycheck while I was employed at CPS.

While I was at Von Steuben for 18 years – the same amount of time I spent teaching in private schools – I also had the opportunity to serve as a union delegate and as a member of the CTU’s High School Steering Committee. In addition, our CTU contracts with the Board of Education mandate a Professional Problems Committee (PPC) and a Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC), which together ensure that teachers and staff have a voice in how our school is run. Topics at the time included discipline procedures, teacher evaluations, late homework policy, school improvement plans and funding for various departments and programs. Working with the principal and the Local School Council, our objective as CTU members was to make the school the best that it could possibly be. Our union guaranteed through our contract that teachers and staff have a voice. As a result, our students benefited.

Teachers and staff thinking about quitting the union should realize that the gains made possible by previous generations are not etched in stone. Our guaranteed benefits expire once our contract is up for renewal – and they all need to be renegotiated. Only a strong union can guarantee that its members will be respected. And the union is strong only if we all stand together, as active, dues-paying members.

Decades ago, I’m sure that the original members of the CTU wondered if they could make the impossible possible. As a senior who pays retiree dues, I will be forever grateful that our union was successful. It is my hope that current members will respect the legacy of our forebearers by continuing to support the union with your dues and the advocacy that our contract guarantees. Only a strong union can preserve what we’ve already won, and only a strong union can move forward to make working and educational conditions even better.

In solidarity with my union, forever.

Larry Vigon, retired CPS high school teacher and proud CTU member


CTU delegates vote in new president, vice president

by ctu communications  |  September 06, 2018

Standing ovation for retired President Karen Lewis—and overwhelming support for new leadership team that has stewarded union in wake of Lewis' illness.

CHICAGO, September 5, 2018—The CTU House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly this evening to replace retired President Karen Lewis with her slate's vice president, Jesse Sharkey, who has led the union in recent years as Lewis battles illness. The HOD also overwhelmingly voted to fill Sharkey's newly vacated vice president's seat with CTU Political Director Stacy Davis Gates.

“I bleed CTU red, I truly do,” said Sharkey as he took the gavel for the first time as President, to the cheers of delegates.

"It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Karen as a colleague and a partner in our battle for educational justice for our students and for the rights and dignity of our 27,000 members," said Sharkey. "For the last eight years, this union under our leadership has put the lie to Rahm Emanuel's austerity agenda and his disrespect for our educators and the students they serve. Rahm is on his way out because this union led the way in battling his toxic agenda. I'm honored to formally carry the flag as President of this union, to advance our groundbreaking brand of progressive unionism. Our unity gives us the power to continue to build our larger movement for educational justice, and take back our city from those who seek to serve only the 1%."

Davis Gates, who taught for twelve years before assuming the role of CTU political director, has guided the CTU's legislative and political agenda at a time when the union has made unprecedented gains in the electoral sector. That includes the elections of CTU members to seats in the City Council, the State House of Representatives and the Cook County Board of Commissioners, as well battling Emanuel to an unprecedented run-off four years ago.

When we fight, we win," said Davis Gates. "The boss quit yesterday. That's a testament to this leadership and this union. Chicago owes Karen Lewis a debt. She gave us the courage to fight back and demand respect, equity and justice. We don't get a fighting union and a community coalition of the willing without her leadership. Our enemies—billionaires like Bruce Rauner who don’t want to pay their fair share and neoliberal charlatans like Rahm Emanuel—want to end our fight for racial, economic, social and educational justice. They’ve tried and failed. Post-Janus our membership is stronger and more resolute. Our membership is committed, organized, and a fighting rank-and-file that will continue to fight and win.

The CTU's historic 2012 strike and running battle against the mayor's austerity-driven school budgets and school privatization schemes has helped inspire a new wave of union activism and resistance, particularly among educators in some of the nation's most politically conservative states. The CTU is currently gearing up for a contract fight on behalf of CTU educators in CPS-run schools, as well as ongoing contract fights in the union's charter division, which represents union educators in 34 charter schools. Those charter fights are building to the possibility of one or more strikes against charter operators—possibly as early as this October—in what would represent the first strike against one or more charter operators in the history of the United States.

Activist teachers aren’t just fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for their students.

by Elizabeth Todd-Breland  |  September 05, 2018

It's back-to-school season. Kids mourn the end of summer and excitedly meet new classmates. Parents rejoice for the end of the summer child-care scramble. And teachers set up their classrooms, finish lesson plans and, increasingly, protest.

This last step has become more visible with the wave of #RedForEd protests over the course of the past year in such places as West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and North Carolina. These protests have continued into the new school year, as teachers went on strike in southwest Washington state and educators in Los Angeles and Seattle considered following suit. These educators are protesting not just for better pay, but also for increased funding for public education to benefit students and communities.

These protests remind us that our government and the social safety net are failing. The result: Teachers have been forced to triage the symptoms of economic inequality. In addition to planning and providing academic instruction, teachers are often tasked with serving as social workers, counselors, nurses, food pantries, technology support specialists, accountants, facilities maintenance staff and janitors.

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Chicago Teachers Union