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CTU president to students on #NationalSchoolWalkout: I am so proud of you

April 20, 2018

CTU president to students on #NationalSchoolWalkout: I am so proud of you

Karen Lewis: “We fight for our students every day in our school communities. Today, students are standing up with leadership and courage to fight for equity and justice.”

CHICAGO—CTU President Karen Lewis issued the following statement today in support of Chicago public school students participating in #NationalSchoolWalkout actions:

"Chicago public school students stood up today against gun violence and all acts of violence that plague our city: unemployment, racism, mass incarceration and austerity. Literally thousands of our youth live with the trauma of life in a city where housing and food insecurity is just as prevalent as gun violence. These young people understand that, here in Chicago, larger dynamics drive violence: poverty, unemployment, hopelessness and the callous indifference of our mayor – indifference that mars their educations and undermines their futures. They took action with sit-ins and marches today to say ‘enough.’

“We fight for our students every day in our school communities because that’s our responsibility and our commitment to our students as educators. Today, our students are standing up with leadership and courage to fight to bring equity and real justice to our city.”

"As educators and members of school communities, we recognize what these young people understand intimately – that it is only through racial, economic and social justice that we achieve educational justice – the kind of justice that will allow our students to fulfill their potential. Our students took that message to the streets today in what is a growing movement not just against gun violence but against the root causes of violence and despair in cities like Chicago. Our union is honored to embrace and support their struggle.

This January, the Chicago Teachers Union embedded language in its constitution to promote racial, economic and social justice as the path to achieving educational justice – and embraced a commitment to build community and labor coalitions to win those goals.

'Your entire career can be derailed': For gay teachers, coming out remains risky

by Nara Schoenberg - Chicago Tribune  |  April 20, 2018

It was a simple question: “Mr. E., do you have a girlfriend?”

But Elijah Eiler, a teacher at the James Otis World Language Academy in Chicago, wanted to tread carefully as a gay teacher. It was the beginning of the school year, and Eiler didn’t know the seventh-grader well.

“No,” Eiler recalled telling the student — an answer that was honest, if incomplete.

For gay teachers, controversy and claims of discrimination over the treatment of Nathan Etter, a music teacher at Prairie View Grade School near Elgin who mentioned his husband to first-graders in class, underscore fears that coming out in school will trigger bias and backlash.


This is a “huge” issue, said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, a national nonprofit that advocates for safe schools for gay youth. “Imagine the stress of living in the country we live in, working as hard as teachers do to serve children, and having to worry that you might be attacked or fired for this. For just being yourself.”

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State bill allowing CTU to bargain over filthy schools and overcrowded classes one step closer to passage

by chris geovanis - ctu communications director  |  April 11, 2018

Springfield capital buildingOn Tuesday, a key legislative committee passed a bill that would once again give CTU members the right to bargain over non-salary conditions, from crowded classes to filthy schools. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey joined public school allies to testify Tuesday in support of the bill.

“In 1995, Chicago’s mayor and the state legislature robbed the CTU of the right to stand up for our students,” said Sharkey. “The results have been dismal: overcrowded classrooms, ten years of failure to pay into teachers’ pensions, an explosion of costly and failed privatization, filthy schools, deep budget cuts, the shortchanging of special education, excessive testing and a host of other management policies that undermine students and teachers. Now, legislators have moved to overturn this failed experiment and give back our right to fight for the needs and dignity of our students.”

The Illinois House Labor & Commerce Committee passed HB 4776 on Tuesday by a margin of 17 to 12. The bill, which now moves to the full House, strikes Section 4.5 of the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act, which bans the CTU’s ability to bargain—and potentially strike—over non-monetary issues, a right denied to only to teachers in Chicago. The change would give the CTU the power to challenge classroom conditions that negatively impact students and teachers, from overcrowded classrooms to filthy, poorly maintained schools that create health hazards for students and staff.

The legislative action comes in the wake of a series of CPS scandals—including recent Chicago Sun-Times reports on filthy public schools. The fault, argues the CTU, does not lie with union janitors, whose ranks have been slashed since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel privatized maintenance services in 2012. Yet Section 4.5 effectively banned the CTU from challenging those conditions through collective bargaining.

“Section 4.5’s restrictions on collective bargaining have meant that, for decades, we’ve been hamstrung from forcing CPS to remedy critical problems—including deplorable conditions in our schools that can be directly tied to Emanuel’s failed $800 million privatization of facilities maintenance. Today, hundreds of schools are plagued with rodent and insect infestations, crumbling facilities, exposed asbestos-laden floor and ceiling tiles, and thousands of water sources that have never been tested for lead or other health risks,” Sharkey said. “We urge the full House to follow the lead of the Committee, pass this bill, and return to our members the power to directly challenge this dangerous failure of leadership.”

Legislators are currently considering four other CTU-supported bills that directly impact conditions in public schools: HB 5481, requiring school districts to report class size data to ISBE and sets targets for K-12 class sizes beginning in 2020; HB5721, which mandates improved public input and transparency in CPS capital spending and provides supports for schools and students hit with school actions like closings and turnarounds; HB 3786, which requires fully empowered local school councils in publicly funded schools, including charters, that must vote by a super-majority to approve school closures and reorganizations; and HB 4800, which would move surplus TIF funds to public education needs.

Notice of Election for Elementary Functional VPs

by Maria Moreno, CTU Financial Secretary  |  April 10, 2018



Craig A. Cleve Columbia Explorers Academy
Erin Young Burbank Elementary School
Gabriel Sheridan Ray Elementary School
John Schussler Logandale Middle School
Nicholas M. Limbeck Barry Elementary School
Caprice A. Phillips-Mitchell Fort Dearborn Elementary School
Makeesha D. McLaurin Morrill Elementary School
Andrea S. Parker Fulton Elementary School

Eight members were nominated for Functional Vice President of Elementary School Teachers at the April 4, 2018 House of Delegates meeting. At the May 2, 2018 House of Delegates meeting, all voting delegates who are members of the Elementary School Teachers functional group may vote for two candidates to fill the two Functional Vice President of Elementary School Teachers vacancies on the executive board.

Commentary: I'm a proud member of the Chicago Teachers Union. Here's why.

by gina caneva - lindblom math and science academy  |  April 06, 2018

When I first started teaching in Chicago, I was skeptical about being a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. I was a hotshot rookie teacher who looked at the “step-and-lane” system of pay as archaic. When I saw then-Harlem Children’s Zone CEO Geoffrey Canada tell Oprah Winfrey that teachers unions were the greatest impediment to school success, I began to further question my union’s purpose and my allegiance to it. If someone had told me during those first few years that I could’ve skipped paying my dues and opted out of the union, as may likely be the outcome of the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, I probably would have. Boy, I would have been sorry. (The Janus case is about whether public-sector unions should be allowed to collect fees from nonmembers who benefit from collective bargaining. )

Now, after 14 years as a Chicago Public Schools teacher and CTU member, I see this issue much differently. I began my career and my union membership during the seemingly peaceful times of Mayor Richard M. Daley. During my eighth year of teaching, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took charge of the school district.

One of the first decisions he made was to ask for a longer school year and school day without offering teachers a raise for this extra time. It was this decision, as well as feelings of mistrust and disrespect toward the mayor, that led to Chicago’s 2012 teachers strike.

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Today’s critical struggles are embedded in Dr. King's vision of racial and economic justice

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  April 04, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.I write on a somber occasion - to both mark the loss of and to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago today, an assassin’s bullet cut down one of our nation’s most beloved civil rights leaders. Yet Dr. King’s impact – and his values – abide today. We see his influence in every protest against police violence, every picket that demands funds for public schools over cop academies, every lawsuit opposing Chicago’s racist gang database. The white supremacy that Dr. King defied has not ended in the years since he was gunned down – yet the heartbreak of his murder did not defeat his peers or the generations of activists that have stepped up since April 4, 1968. The struggle for racial and economic justice is growing today in this nation, despite fierce opposition from the highest ranks of government.

Dr. King denounced the "triplets of racism, extreme militarism and materialism." Those distorted practices continue to afflict our city and our nation today, often in the guise of policies promoted by those who proclaim themselves ‘progressive’ while they foist terrible injustice on poor people and people of color.

In Chicago, we’ve seen the ranks of Black teachers cut in half in just the last five years alone – with a lower percentage of Black teachers today in our city than when Dr. King came to Chicago in 1966. We’ve seen our schools shuttered and our students dispossessed by a callous, unelected autocracy that promotes segregationist policies and educational apartheid for the bulk of our students. We’ve seen unarmed Black and Brown people gunned down by state agents who face few – if any – consequences for their actions. We’ve seen our Black and Latinx neighborhoods robbed of their fair share of funding for housing, health care and living wage work.

In the face of all of this inequity and opposition, the movement for racial and economic justice endures. A growing number of Chicagoans are mobilizing to demand an elected, representative school board, an end to racist school hiring practices, and sustainable community schools that offer poor Black and Brown children the supports they need and deserve not just to survive, but to thrive. Progressive projects – with youth of color in the lead – are demanding living wage work, an end to handouts of public lands and public dollars that privilege the wealthy few, and a city that protects all of its residents from the perils of poverty, eviction, criminalization, deportation and violence.

Dr. King died in Memphis defending the rights of striking Black city workers. Chicago’s mayor has simply privatized many of these workers – including in our schools. Yet the struggle to advance labor rights continues, including the battle in Springfield to close the 4.5 loophole – Section 4.5 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. Ending that loophole will return to Chicago’s teachers the power to challenge intolerable conditions like overcrowded classrooms and third party contracts that leave our schools filthy while Aramark and Sodexo get filthy rich.

In the last month, teachers’ strikes have broken out across the nation, as educators join with parents, public workers and grassroots residents to demand equity and take a stand for the dignity of their labor. We saw a wave of truly progressive Black and Latinx political candidates win races in last month’s primaries, ousting some of the region’s most intransigent political hacks. And Chicago is the locus of a growing movement against school privatization and the lie of school ‘choice’, grounded in a deeper drive for economic equity – the thrust of Dr. King’s work in the last years of his life.

For Dr. King, racial justice was intrinsically coupled with economic justice – and today’s activists and allies do not merely acknowledge that intimate connectedness, but demand its embrace.

Today’s critical struggles link directly to Dr. King's memory, legacy and vision – and his values are as relevant today as they were fifty years ago. The Chicago Teachers Union is proud to stand today with Chicago's Black and Brown communities in our ongoing struggle to bring into being Dr. King's vision for a more just and equitable nation.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union

The mayor is outraged by filthy schools (a situation he and his appointed school board created)

by Fred Klonsky  |  April 04, 2018

When Mayor Rahm’s appointed school board privatized custodial work at CPS in 2014, Tim Cawley, CPS’ chief administrative officer at the time said the deal was, “truly a win, win, win,” He said it would save CPS millions of dollars, free up principals to focus on instruction and result in cleaner schools.

Now, after a secret inspection of over a hundred schools by CPS, the Mayor says he is beyond outraged that they are filthy.

Teachers and students have been saying it for years.


CTU-endorsed candidates victorious in historic triumph for progressive political agenda

by ctu communications  |  March 21, 2018

After Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed a record 50 schools in Black and Latinx neighborhoods in 2013, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that the CTU would organize to change our city and county’s political landscape. Two years later, Emanuel was forced into a runoff, along with 18 aldermen, and CTU member and school counselor Susan Sadlowski Garza was elected alderman of the 10th Ward.

Last night, former mayoral contender, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, was elected to Congress by a margin of more than 40 percent. CTU organizer and former Jenner Academy of the Arts and Westinghouse College Prep teacher Brandon Johnson defeated incumbent corporate lobbyist Richard Boykin to become Cook County Commissioner of the 1st District; community organizer Delia Ramirez won handily in the 4th District of the Illinois House, defeating three opponents to replace retiring State Rep. Cynthia Soto; and CTU member and Back of the Yards College Prep college counselor Aaron Ortiz defeated Dan Burke, the long-standing incumbent in the 1st District of the Illinois House, despite support from his brother, Ald. Ed Burke, who runs one of the oldest and most politically powerful ward operations in the city.

“What unites every one of these candidates is their commitment to public education, and their vow to put people before profits and the needs of the many before the greed of the few,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. “We are proud that our members chose to support and put sweat equity into these campaigns, and we look forward to advancing this progressive wave in Chicago and across the state in November.”

Last night’s victories were the result of years of organizing for a just and equitable city and county, as educators, parents and public education activists drew a line in the sand following Mayor Emanuel’s mass school closings five years ago. Since then, coalitions have worked to build a solid infrastructure to push past the politics and policies that shield billionaires like Gov. Bruce Rauner from paying their fair share; defeat the lie of right-to-work promulgated by right-wing ideologues; dispute the unfair characterizations of retirement security; and support the need for democracy in Chicago Public Schools.

Last night’s victories were about the people who need public schools and the county health care system fully funded and resourced. Voters in Chicago and Cook County pushed back on austerity—and won.

CTU rank-and-file members interviewed, endorsed and worked tirelessly for candidates who respect and support public educators, and demand that the rich pay their fair share of taxes. These champions of public education are prepared to fight in Chicago, across Cook County and downstate in Springfield for the rights and dignity of our students, their families and the future of all of Chicago’s people, not just a handful of wealthy elites. Among the CTU-endorsed winners are:

  • Bridget Degnan, Cook County Board Commissioner in the 12th District
  • Incumbent County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin in the 13th District
  • State Sen. Kwame Raoul, an advocate for public education, who triumphed in his primary race for Illinois Attorney General
  • State Rep. Theresa Mah, who ran uncontested in Illinois House District 2
  • Lamont Robinson in Illinois House District 5
  • Rep. Sonya Harper, who ran uncontested in the 6th District
  • Incumbent State Rep. Kelly Cassidy in the 14th District
  • 19th District State Rep. Robert Martwick
  • Incumbent State Rep. Mary Flowers in the 31st District
  • 8th District Illinois Senate candidate and labor activist Ram Villivalam, who handily beat three opponents, including incumbent Sen. Ira Silverstein

Each of these candidates supports an elected, representative school board, fair and adequate funding for public education across the state, and a progressive income tax that will end the financial burdens that have put so many Illinois residents on their heels. Their victory is a victory for our students, their families and all of Chicago’s residents.

ILLUSTRATION: Brandon Johnson

(Newly elected Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson speaking to supporters in December.)

When the charter lobby wants your turf

by Julie Vassilatos - Chicago Public Fools  |  March 19, 2018

What does it look like when the charter lobby wants your district?

Have you ever thought about that? Do you wonder how charter corporations choose a neighborhood to set up shop? Have you sort of always figured, well, charter schools move into neighborhoods where they're needed, or where schools are struggling, or the children need better options? Places where those other schools are failing? You think--you, average rather privileged Chicago white person whose children will surely go through CPS's selective or magnet schools--well, charters may not be all that but at least they're better than those terrible schools in those other neighborhoods. I mean, you might not send your kid to one, but hey, we should take what we can get. And charters seem to be ready and willing to go to work, set up a few schools in those neighborhoods, make the sacrifices, spend the cash. So why not?

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Special education workload reduction funding and usage

by ctu communications  |  March 16, 2018

Using our contract for SPED workload reduction funding and usage: Article 45-4.7

Per Article 21-13 of our contract, the CTU and CPS are continuing to negotiate over the details and procedures for implementing a Workload Plan for Special Educators to help alleviate the burden of paperwork, special education job duties and caseloads. To date, we've only come to agreement over the procedure for dispersing funds to relieve special education workload issues in schools (Article 45-4.7). Click here to download an Excel spreadsheet of the allocation made to each school. Special education staff - including special education teachers, clinicians and case managers - should meet to determine the best use of funds within each school. The full procedure is outlined below.  

Suggested Uses of Funds

Special education staffs can choose to use the funds received as they see fit as long as the plan helps to decrease the workload of special education teachers and clinicians and is developed through the procedure below. Some suggestions for fund use include but are not limited to:

  • Substitute teacher coverage for a day to free up teachers to work on special education paperwork and duties (i.e. IEP reports, ESY, scheduling, completing assessments, etc.)
  • Substitute teacher coverage for classes so teachers can do evaluations, surveys or interviews with students in preparation for an IEP meeting.
  • Overtime for teachers to complete special education paperwork after school at their regular rate of pay or pay to conduct after school assessments.

Please stay in touch with CTU about this matter. Share your best ideas with CTU and colleagues at other schools. These funds are to help relieve the workload at the local level so do what works best for your school's special education staff.

Procedure for Determining the Usage of Funds

Workload funds will be allocated to schools on per special education pupil basis. Special education pupil means any pupil with an IEP or a 504 plan. To obtain the per pupil amount, $500,000 per year will be divided by the total number of CPS students with IEPs or 504 plans.

Schools shall determine how workload funds are to be used as follows:  

  • The special education teachers, clinical staff and the principal shall develop a plan for use of the funds to decrease the workload of special education teachers and clinicians. The plan must provide relieve to special education teachers and clinician workloads.
  • The special education teachers, case managers, clinicians and principal shall consult with and seek input from the PPLC on a plan for use of the funds.
  • In the event an agreement cannot be reached among special education teachers/clinicians or between teachers and the principal, the choices shall be put to a secret ballot vote by special education teachers and clinicians only, which shall be conducted in the same manner as a contract waiver vote (i.e., conducted by the Union delegate and certified by the delegate and principal). Nothing shall prohibit the school from having more than two choices and conducting run-off votes in the event a majority has not voted for one choice. The funds shall be expended in accordance with the choice of a majority of special education teachers and clinicians voting.

If it becomes necessary to have a vote to determine use of funds, please contact the Chicago Teachers Union and speak to your CTU Field Representative to discuss the voting. Click here to locate your field rep.

Chicago Teachers Union