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Making the ‘unseen’ visible: Tackling trauma in schools

by CTU Research  |  September 20, 2017

It's time for CPS to stop starving our schools of desperately needed trauma resources.

Trauma is a dominant issue in our school communities, and one that can range from healing from the death of a student to supporting a child whose parent has been deported. Trauma puts an enormous responsibility on educators to serve as healers for our school communities, and demands adequate resourcing from the top administrators who run CPS.

Adequately resourced schools provide students and educators with comprehensive systems of trauma support—from clinical services to classroom interventions—all built on a platform of comprehensive socio-economic learning. Yet CPS, which typically touts its superficial concern about the issue of trauma, has actually cut rather than provided the real resources that our students and staff need to tackle trauma within the school environment.

A majority of our students live in neighborhoods characterized by the drivers of trauma: high levels of poverty and unemployment, lack of affordable housing, neighborhood instability, and the violence and social discord that is driven by these conditions. The failure to address trauma in our schools can lead to lifelong learning deficits and undermine students’ well-being—outcomes that can be mitigated with adequate staffing and real resources for students and educators.

Yet CPS provides barely 20 percent of the social workers recommended by the National Association of Social Workers. Psychologists, school nurses and counselors are in desperately short supply as well, and always on the chopping block when CPS is looking for ways to "cut costs." At the same time, class sizes in Chicago are among the highest in the state, thwarting educators’ abilities to provide students with the attention and aid they need to address trauma.

We need to challenge—and change—this chronic lack of resources. We can support this goal by helping members of our school communities understand the drivers and consequences of unaddressed trauma, and encouraging them to support meaningful steps to address these needs.

UNSEEN: STUDENTS’ TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES, a short report by the CTU’s education policy team, gives readers a quick snapshot of what trauma looks like in our school communities and how effective programs to address trauma should work in our schools. It’s built on hard data, measurable outcomes and effective programs in other parts of the nation that we can use right here in Chicago.

Please read and share this report with parents, community residents, allies and public officials. Use it as a tool to jumpstart discussions in your schools and your communities about bringing truly adequate resources to the table and building a just and sustainable city grounded in the value of each of our students and all of our neighborhoods.

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DeVos and Rahm, stop attacking our schools!

by ctu communications  |  September 19, 2017

Community organizations and unions from across the city are mobilizing on Wednesday to target Trump secretary of education and billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos. Locally, we're also targeting Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who joined billionaire IL Governor Bruce Rauner last month in pushing through a school voucher 'compromise' that DeVos is promoting nationally.

Our message is simple: Our children are not tax shelters for the rich. We reject privatization schemes that continue to decimate and defund our school communities. And we demand that local, state and federal officials fully fund our schools!

Chicago protest for public schools

After the Wednesday protest, parents, teachers, community activists and students will deliver a letter to DeVos and Emanuel that condemns their refusal to tax the wealthy to support public schools. Protesters are demanding that both Emanuel and DeVos take meaningful steps to defend neighborhood schools and public education from vouchers and other privatization schemes. GEM -- the Grassroots Education Movement -- and its national counterpart, the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, are coordinating similar actions at regional Department of Education offices across the country. 

Emanuel’s, Rauner’s and Trump’s collective support of vouchers and private charter operators continues to create conditions that destabilize school communities that serve black and brown children. GEM also fully expects that Emanuel will move to close scores of predominantly Black high schools this year after the five-year moratorium on school closings expires. To push back, grassroots coalitions are forming across the nation to drive elected officials in both major political parties away from these devastating privatization policies. Join us on Wednesday to unite for our schools!

When: Wednesday, Sept 20th
Where: 500 W. Madison
When: 10 a.m.

A powerful victory in the struggle for healthy, clean and well-maintained schools

by CTU Communications  |  September 18, 2017

The Chicago Teachers Union has vigorously opposed the privatization of janitorial services in Chicago Public Schools, and has recently won the right to arbitrate these horrendous conditions. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education had fought our ability to even do that, and last Friday, in a unanimous decision, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board gave the CTU the green light to enforce our contract through arbitration regarding the cleanliness—or lack thereof—in our schools.  

CTU members have been ringing the alarm about school cleanliness issues since CPS started privatizing engineering and janitorial services in 2014. The district’s privatization schemes have poured hundreds of millions of public dollars into the corporate coffers of companies like Aramark and Sodexo. At the same time, wages for janitors and engineers have been slashed while their workloads have increased exponentially.

The results were filthy classrooms; failing HVAC systems and sweltering heat or bitter cold in schools; rodents and other vermin; teachers using their own cleaning supplies to keep classrooms and shared spaces hygienic and suitable for students and staff; and overall, chronic neglect of the spaces in which our students are supposed to learn and thrive. 

This powerful legal victory at last opens the door to improving school cleanliness across CPS and gives us the right to use arbitration to win our demands. Arbitration is one of the most powerful tools we have to force CPS to honor our contract and provide decent learning conditions for our students. 

We cannot stop pushing specific, enforceable demands to improve school cleanliness overall and in individual buildings, so it is critical that members and delegates continue to provide our grievance department with information about conditions on the ground. We’ve won, however, the argument in the legal framework to force the Board to do what’s right, and ensure that every one of our members and their students has access to clean classrooms, safe buildings and a learning environment that recognizes their worth. 

Notice of Executive Board Vacancy Election

by ctu communications  |  September 14, 2017

There are two (2) vacancies on the CTU Executive Board:

  • One (1) Elementary School Teacher Functional Vice President

  • One (1) High School Teacher Functional Vice President

All voting members of the functional groups of the House of Delegates may vote for one (1) candidate for each vacancy, no matter how many are nominated.


  1. Nominations for vacancies shall be advertised on the CTU website and via email preceding the nomination meeting, in the Chicago Union Teacher and in the meeting notice bulletin for the month of the election.             

  2. Only those members of the House of Delegates, who represent the functional group to be voted on, may nominate, second the nomination and vote. Only persons in the functional group may be nominated. Associate delegates may vote.

  3. At the October, November and December House of Delegates meetings, citywide delegates will be asked to declare which functional group they will vote with – elementary or high school.

  4. Nominations will be taken from the floor and seconded from the floor at either the October or the November House of Delegates meeting.

  5. Voting shall take place at the December House of Delegates meeting following the nomination meeting.

  6. Prior to the House of Delegates meeting where voting will take place, all eligible candidate names will be posted by functional group on the CTU website, listed in alphabetical order by last name.

  7. Pre-printed ballots will be provided by the Rules-Elections Committee. To prioritize the order, the Rules-Elections Committee will put names in a hat and list them in order of selection. Elected members of the Executive Board may vote within their functional group. Non-voting members of Executive Board may not vote, unless they are a delegate.

  8. At the meeting where the voting is to take place, each nominee shall have the opportunity to speak for one minute in the order in which they appear on the ballot, if they so desire.

  9. Delegates will be called to the voting area to pick up the ballots, have their badges checked and sign the voters’ signature list.

  10. Voters will place cast ballots in boxes at the designated locations.

  11. When voting is complete, Rules-Elections Committee members will count the ballots.

  12. Up to two representatives per candidate may be present during the counting. The candidate may be one of the representatives.

  13. The President will announce the results by the end of the meeting.

  14. If a candidate receives a majority (more than half) of the votes cast, that candidate will be seated in the vacant position. In the case that no candidate for a given position receives a majority of the votes cast, the position will remain vacant until a runoff election is held at the next House meeting. The runoff election will be between those candidates receiving the two highest vote totals in the initial election. Runoff ballots will list candidates in order of the number of votes received and beginning with the highest number of votes. In the case of a runoff, each remaining nominee will be given one minute to speak at the meeting where the runoff voting is to take place. The candidates will speak in the same order as they appear on the ballot

The Rules-Elections committee requests that the voting take place as early in the meeting as possible.

Teaching is a political act and we have a lot of work to do.

by Roxana Gonzalez  |  September 13, 2017

Teacher friends, 
It’s back to school time and you surely have a lot on your “To Do List”, but I hope you take a minute to read my letter and that you can take something away from it to help you as you start another year in the classroom. 

Today would have been the beginning of my 6th year in a Chicago classroom but last Spring I made the decision to accept a position that would bring me to Bogota, Colombia to teach at a university for a year. I felt like I needed a break or maybe I too would break. My heart feels heavy knowing I’m not teaching with you this year and because as you returned to classrooms across the city, 45′s administration made the announcement to rescind DACA. As you fight for your students, remember that you can support DACAmented individuals without criminalizing their parents, because at the end of the day, the whole system is guilty. Teaching is a political act. I saw this mural the first day I was on campus in Bogota and couldn’t agree more, so I wanted to share it with you. It says: 

Ser profe y no luchar es una contradiction pedagogica. 

To be a professor and not fight is a pedagogical contradiction. 

ILLUSTRATION: Bogota mural

Let that sit for a minute…

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CTU statement: As Trump ends DACA, Emanuel must step up to protect undocumented

by ctu communications  |  September 05, 2017

President Trump’s decision today to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an indefensible slap in the face of tens of thousands of hardworking Illinois students and their families, and a move designed to pander to the uninformed and the bigoted. The Chicago Teachers Union stands in support and solidarity with the 800,000 DACAmented youth in the U.S., the DACAmented CTU members working in our schools, and the thousands of former, existing and future students who qualify for protection under DACA.

We cannot choose to protect Dreamers but deport their parents, just as we must not pick and choose who we protect among any group in this nation: rich or poor; Black, brown or white; undocumented or born on U.S. soil. Yet Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has—like some in Washington—also endorsed policies that divide our communities into good and bad immigrants, while pretending to defend all.

We call on Emanuel to make our public schools true sanctuaries by ending chronic cuts that endanger and undermine our students, and fully funding the new state education formula with sustainable, equitable sources of revenue. Only then can we support students at places like Kelly High School, which has been forced to lay off counselors who’ve helped countless undocumented youth. We also call on Emanuel to pull back his new high school graduation requirements, which derail the ability of undocumented youth without DACA to find work or enroll in college.

We call on CPS not to purge DACAmented workers, and to instead sign onto the sanctuary schools resolution and increase protection for all students and their families. And we call on our union members to continue to organize to create sanctuary schools that increase protections for all of our students, documented and undocumented, and of all races, ethnicity, gender and orientation. 

On first day of school, CTU calls on city leaders to ‘fund the formula’

by ctu communications  |  September 05, 2017

CHICAGO—Members of the Chicago Teachers Union kicked off the first day of school with parents, students and Brighton Park community residents at Kelly High School this morning. The message was simple: Fund the formula by putting the dollars our schools need into this year’s budget.

Kelly is one of hundreds of Chicago public schools that have seen their budgets cut for the school year that started today, with 23 fewer staff, including the loss of most of the school’s counseling staff and one of the last remaining school librarians. While Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a compromise bill last week that makes important improvements to the state-wide education funding formula, that bill committed only $350 million in new funds for the state’s public schools for FY 2017-18, about 7 percent of what is needed across the state. 

And even with increased funding for Chicago’s public schools—funds that the CTU has lobbied aggressively for each year—CPS is still short roughly $500 million for the upcoming school year.

“Mayor Emanuel’s devastating funding cuts have left thousands of students, mostly in Chicago’s African-American and Latino neighborhoods, drastically short of the resources and support that students at more privileged magnet and private schools in the city receive,” CTU Financial Secretary Maria Moreno said.

The CTU has demanded that the mayor and his wealthy donors and corporate allies start paying their fair share of public school funding, instead of the city’s policy of relentlessly nickel-and-diming ordinary residents with regressive tax increases that have hurt working and middle-class families. The CTU is advocating instead that Emanuel reinstate the corporate head tax he cancelled as a favor to local elites shortly after he took office; dip into the city’s substantial tax increment financian (TIF) surpluses; pursue a commercial lease tax on large properties and the corporations who own them; and a range of other options that will force those who can most afford it to at last begin paying their fair share for public education.

“Last week, the mayor stood shoulder to shoulder at a bill signing for a new education funding formula with his former hedge fund boss, billionaire Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, but neither politician addressed how to adequately fund the formula for Illinois’ schools,” Moreno said. “It’s time for Emanuel to step up and provide the half a billion dollars our schools need for the upcoming school year.”

CTU members charge that Emanuel has failed to put as much energy and enthusiasm into passing legislation for sustainable, progressive revenue sources to fund the new school funding formula as he did for a voucher deal embedded in the new school funding formula. That voucher deal provides yet another tax shelter for millionaires and diverts public funds from state revenue streams into private coffers, undermining the effort to bring Illinois closer to providing equitable funding for all school districts in the state.

Welcome back to a new school year!

by Karen GJ Lewis - CTU President  |  September 04, 2017

I hope this message finds you well, rested and ready for another school year! I want to thank you personally for all the work you do to educate our students and keep our union strong. You are truly the backbone of public education for youth in this city, and priceless partners in the effort to improve conditions in our schools and our communities.

Recent Contract Enforcement Wins

We’re proud to inform you that we’ve won some powerful recent victories for our members, including:

  • protecting the job of a whistle-blower,
  • securing the right for all teachers with two half-time positions to be afforded the rights of a full-time teacher,
  • revising grading procedures to provide for more teacher autonomy and less paperwork while still ensuring fair and valid feedback for students, and
  • limiting excessive testing.

As we begin this year, the new contract books are being delivered to your school. Please take some time to read over the contract—it contains protections of our basic rights, the terms and conditions of our work, as well as many new provisions. Enforcing our rights at work is a major focus of our efforts that can only be accomplished if you know your rights and assert them. If you think a provision of your contract is being violated, talk to your delegate or your field representative immediately.

Check out September’s Chicago Union Teacher (the “CUT”) for more information on these wins—and on how to work with your delegates, your Professional Problems Committees and colleagues to improve working conditions using our contract. Our officers and our union staff, including field representatives and organizers, are here to help you use the contract to improve our collective strength and win better working conditions for members and better educational opportunities for students. United we stand, with our growing family of allies, to strengthen our gains and fight not only for our rights, but for the schools our students deserve.

Vote on Charter Merger and Constitution Changes

We’ll be voting this fall on merging with union charter teachers, who voted overwhelmingly last spring to join the Chicago Teachers Union. A ‘yes’ vote will give us the ability to cooperate more closely on shared issues, and derail management’s efforts to undermine CTU members by exploiting charter educators. A rising tide lifts all boats, and one big union thwarts the divide-and-conquer strategy of Mayor Emanuel and Governor Rauner.

We’ll also be voting on changes to our constitution in December that will make this unification possible, improve representation for smaller schools in the House of Delegates, and allow our union to innovate and grow under a new set of conditions. Look for more information about those changes in the coming weeks and months.

“Re-card and Resist”

We’re jump-starting our “Re-card and Resist to Build Union Power” campaign in order to undercut an expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case, which is designed to destroy our ability to fight for workplace parity, anti-discrimination policies, fair wages and better working conditions. We’re calling on all teachers, PSRPs, clinicians and others covered by our contract to reaffirm your membership and support for the union. Re-card—that is, sign up using our new membership card—everyone who is eligible for CTU, even if you are already a member! We want to reach 100 percent in every school, so look for more information from your delegate and in the back-to-school issue of the CUT.

Legislative Fight Continues

While we’re disappointed that our lawmakers caved to right-wing ideologue Bruce Rauner and created a tax shelter for the wealthy and a voucher program, we believe the new evidence-based school funding formula is a step in the right direction—as we have always said—and brings us closer to at last adequately designating public dollars to fund the schools that Chicago’s students deserve.

Through our fight we have won our schools almost half a billion dollars in revenue—the second year in a row we’ve used our political reach to bring substantial dollars to classrooms. We are also redoubling our efforts to force Mayor Emanuel to adequately fund our schools.

Solidarity Friday

We want to continue to share our solidarity every Friday with a sea of red in our schools as we renew our Solidarity Friday campaign – so post your pictures to Twitter with @CTULocal1 in the message and hashtag #SolidarityFriday, post pics to our Facebook page, or email pics to our comms team!

In solidarity,
Karen GJ Lewis, President
Chicago Teachers Union

Statement: Emanuel Must Adequately Fund Our Schools

by CTU Communications  |  August 31, 2017

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement today as local and state elected officials gather for the signing of SB1947, the state’s new education funding formula:

The new evidence-based school funding formula is a step in the right direction—as we have always said—and brings us closer to at last adequately designating public dollars to fund the schools that Chicago’s students deserve. But both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner must answer a simple question: Where is the revenue needed to fully fund the formula, for both Chicago’s public schools and public school districts across the state?

To meet the terms of the new formula, the state should be putting roughly $5 billion in new revenue into statewide public education coffers, yet the new bill only provides $350 million in new revenue overall. Instead of raising revenue, the mayor and the governor have attached a parasitic voucher program to the bill to create a tax shelter that will benefit big corporations and billionaire patrons like Ken Griffin.

Meanwhile, Chicago is still $500 million in the hole for the current budget year—a shortfall of $1,500 per pupil for this 2017-2018 alone. By its own estimates, CPS is short $250 million for this year’s budget, in a school system where educators and students have shouldered the burden of more than $2 billion in cuts over the last five years. Mayor Emanuel is setting the stage in Chicago for $500 million in additional budget cuts which will drive up class sizes and force sweeping school closures that will impact high schools in predominantly low-income neighborhoods and hurt African-American and Latino students the most.

“The stark reality is that it’s premature to celebrate a bill signing that does little to address persistent funding shortfalls and what our schools really need to restore art and music, school librarians, clean classrooms, special education teachers and wraparound services,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said.

The new law doubles the amount of property tax increases Mayor Emanuel can foist on working-class and middle-class families, including our own members, who’ve shouldered 5,000 layoffs among educators alone since he became mayor.

The mayor must put in place fair and sustainable sources of revenue—corporate head tax, commercial lease tax, tax increment financing surplus—rather than asking ordinary families to pick up the slack driven by the refusal of the wealthy to pay their fair share for public education.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, 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

CPS Students Will Learn History Of Chicago Police Torture

by Shannon Heffernan - WBEZ Chicago  |  August 30, 2017

As Chicago police misconduct makes headlines across the country, Chicago Public Schools announced Monday that students will now learn about one of the most infamous police scandals in the city’s history.


The new curriculum includes lessons on how more than 100 people have filed complaints that alleged police officers tortured them between 1972-1991 under the leadership of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

“These people were shocked with electricity. They were burned with a cigarette lighter, beaten, and tied up,” according to the lesson plan. “They were held for days without food or access to a bathroom and without contact with anyone else. They were denied sleep and left naked. They were hooded, threatened with death, and forced to participate in mock executions. They were verbally abused.”

The creation of the curriculum goes back to 2015, when aldermen passed a historic ordinance to pay reparations to people who said they were tortured into making false confessions. The ordinance promised to pay more than $5 million to those exonerated, as well as give free tuition at city colleges and access to mental health services. But the city added another unusual provision: All 8th and 10th grade CPS students would learn about Burge and the city’s history of police torture.

“Chicago will, in fact, be the leading force throughout the United States to change not only the curriculum but also the mind set,” said Darrell Cannon, a community activist who said he was tortured by police. “Because racism, unfortunately, still exists today in this city.”

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Chicago Teachers Union