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Sustainable Community Schools: Outlining the Path to Real Equity

by ctu communications  |  August 07, 2018

In our last contract battle, led by CTU President Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union won 20 Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) for families that rely on Chicago Public Schools. Much like the widely heralded I Promise School that LeBron James is building for his hometown of Akron, Ohio, these schools will serve as an anchor in neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago. The SCS model recognizes that transformative services for students are not a temporary, one-shot arrangement, but rather represent and embody sustainable changes to the way we think about educating the whole child—with family and community partner involvement at the core.

The irony of this particular investment in a post-Janus America[1] is that it was won in collective bargaining, a power that the CTU exercises to create justice and equity in our school communities. This is the same worker power that has been repeatedly marginalized by the likes of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel[2]. By using collective bargaining as a pathway to sound policy that enriches communities, the CTU is fighting to provide Chicagoans with powerful tools to combat the chronic defunding of public accommodation and the paralyzing violence that permeates our neighborhoods. Collective bargaining is the avenue by which students and their families will be provided health care and trauma-related counseling services—services that Mayor Emanuel has slashed.

Unlike the lion’s share of the investments approved by Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education at its July 25, 2018 meeting[3], these 20 Sustainable Community Schools will be established in neighborhoods that struggle with concentrated poverty and large-scale disinvestment—both public and private[4]. These schools are located in de-prioritized neighborhoods where Black and Brown families live, where housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable and where the unemployment rate and incidents of crime are regularly off the charts.

In contrast, the SCS model will build transformational schools where students, parents and their communities play a key, self-deterministic role in public education, in partnership with educators. This model also supports notions of racial and social justice through its effort to provide real equity to the children of color who make up the bulk of students in CPS. What will make these community schools sustainable is both a commitment to funding and resources, and a commitment to the long-term process of developing school-community relationships that support implementation of proven strategies to the fullest extent.

One of the catalysts for SCS came in 2012, when the CTU released a report titled The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve[5]. This report outlined 10 broad, research-supported practices in schools, including:

  • lower class sizes;
  • a whole child perspective that includes a broad and rich curriculum; extracurricular activities, and wrap-around services;
  • additional supports for English learners;
  • better access to early learning;
  • parent engagement;
  • an end to harsh discipline policies; and
  • both an increase in funding to schools and a more equitable way to distribute those dollars.

Five years later, after a four-year process in which the CTU was a key participant, the State of Illinois passed a landmark school funding formula. This formula was built on an evidence-based model that puts the state on a path to increased support for schools. The new formula also allocates dollars based on student need, and explicitly identifies the need for lower class sizes, more school counselors, additional school nurses, librarians in every school, and a broad and rich curriculum.

In other words, the CTU’s call for the schools Chicago’s students deserve is enshrined in state law.

The SCS model is one that incorporates practices that research[6] has shown to be effective. As a result of our work at the bargaining table, and leadership from our partners in the Grassroots Education Movement, the current CTU contract with CPS includes a provision to pilot 20-55 Sustainable Community Schools by 2019. In reality, however, every school in the city needs to be an SCS. The ultimate goal is for all schools to have robust staff, programming, and parent and community engagement.

Winning funding for the SCS pilot is a monumental achievement, but our work is ongoing. The mayor and his handpicked Board of Education continue to fail at providing resources that will help our school communities—forcing CPS students to learn in some of the largest class sizes in the state. There are fewer than 140 librarians and less than 150 certified school nurses across more than 500 public schools that serve 380,000 children. Student-to-social worker ratios are 1,100-to-1.[7] The only way to unlock our students’ full potential is to place funding where it needs to be, and to do that, two things must occur.

The State of Illinois and the City of Chicago need to raise revenue[8] from those who can most afford to pay, and the mayor must end his system of student-based budgeting (SBB). SBB punishes school communities for enrollment decline even when schools are far below the level of resources needed to serve their populations. SBB also treats every student the same, regardless of income level, segregation and/or language status. CPS, controlled by the mayor, could also utilize short-term efforts like tax increment financing (TIF) surpluses and a corporate head tax to bridge the gap to new funding.

The safety and security of our students is at stake, as is their ability to grow into thriving, productive and engaged adults. As President Lewis said more than a year ago, “We must eradicate the conditions that create violence. That means policy change and resources: fully funded schools and thousands of new jobs that pay a fair wage.”[9]

Having an SCS district is not out of reach—it simply requires a change in governmental priorities. Both Mayor Emanuel and Governor Rauner ensured that their children attend schools that provide the kinds of adequately resourced supports that sustainable community schools provide. Chicago’s public school students—the vast majority of whom continue to be denied these resources and this commitment—both need and deserve no less.

Chicago Teachers Union, August 7, 2018

[1] The Supremes v. the Unions: Recent rulings expose the high court’s anti-worker bias. The Progressive, August 1, 2018.

[2] Rauner’s war against public sector unions makes no economic sense. The Chicago Reporter, September 8, 2016.

[3] Proposed CPS Budget Reveals Geographic Disparities in Investment. The Voorhees Center for Neighborhood & Community Improvement, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago, July 25, 2018.

[4] The most American city: Chicago, race, and inequality. Brookings Institution, December 21, 2015.

[5] The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. Chicago Teachers Union, 2012.

[6] Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence. Learning Policy Institute, Dec. 14, 2017.

[7] CTU to Emanuel: We shouldn’t have to fight for adequate staffing. Chicago Teachers Union, July 16, 2018.

[8] Education Funding Report Shows Dismal Past for Illinois, Hope for Future. Matt Masterson/WTTW, February 27, 2018.

[9] Commentary: Invest in Chicago's schools, teachers to reduce violence. Karen Lewis, Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2017.

We must all work together to protect our students

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  July 30, 2018

As both a father and an educator, I’m disgusted every time I hear a report of abuse in our schools. Parents and teachers have a moral obligation to nurture and protect our children, and the lack of resources and training in Chicago's public schools make fulfilling that obligation all the more difficult.

Our school communities, and specifically, special education, have for years been chronically underfunded and understaffed in Chicago Public Schools, which has removed hundreds of teacher assistants from classrooms and put thousands of children at risk. This is due to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school budgets being downright amoral.

Despite our union's repeated calls to meet with district officials about establishing a sexual abuse task force to address the lack of staff training, supports for students, clinicians, teacher assistants and other issues, we have been ignored.

Sadly, there is no evidence that anything will change. In response, we see cover-ups, surface level triage and election-year posturing. The fact that CPS did the bare minimum when it came to providing information for these recent reports of abuse leads me to believe that there will be no action from the district unless our union, its educators and the people of this city continue to hold its officials accountable for these atrocities.

This latest scandal begins and ends with Emanuel and his handpicked Chicago Board of Education, who continue to ignore our requests for collaboration and proposals for change, which are:

  • Our school communities need additional paraprofessionals and clinicians
  • Professional development must be regular and intentional
  • The mayor must focus on students and safety, and we need progressive revenue to do so; his proposals to date (a few more social workers and case managers) will not fix our challenges

These efforts must be sustained, and not just reactions to crises or occurring during re-election campaigns. If our elected leaders and their handpicked sycophants can’t do the job of leading our city and our schools, then we need them gone. Immediately.  

Taft teacher wins 2018 Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching

by Teaching Tolerance  |  July 26, 2018

“If we’re going to solve the problems of the world,” former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove is credited with saying, “we have to learn how to talk to one another.” The teachers we celebrate here—the recipients of the 2018 Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching—work every day creating spaces where students learn how to talk to one another. They model ways to value identity, diversity, justice and action in their classroom instruction and culture, and they’re guided by those values in their work with families, communities and fellow educators. 

Awarded biennially, the Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes five classroom educators who help students develop positive identities, exhibit empathy, consider different perspectives, think critically about injustice and take informed action. Our 2018 nominees were an impressive group, and the winners inspired us with their dedication to—and effectiveness in—creating spaces, curricula and communities where all students can thrive. 

Because their exemplary practices and professional accomplishments are too numerous to list, here’s just a small sampling of the work that each of these exceptional teachers is doing every day.

Mayra Almaraz


Teaching students at William Howard Taft High School to recognize and fight systemic inequality 

ILLUSTRATION: Mayra Teaching Tolerance

“Teaching ethnic studies is so important, so vital in our society right now,” Mayra Almaraz explains. “People want to be in these conversations.” In her 11th- and 12th-grade Latin American history and ethnic studies classes, Almaraz encourages her students to look at systems “to understand why there’s inequality, why there’s discrimination, why some of us have more privileges than others.” To support students as they work to answer these questions, she established the Issues to Action Social Justice Club. Members work on projects educating, advocating and protesting to address problems they’ve studied in class. 

In the club, as in her classes, Almaraz’s students examine their own experiences and learn about the experiences of others. This is one of the goals around which she’s built her curriculum and her classroom’s culture. “I think something powerful happens when you hear different stories,” she says. “Reconciliation begins with truth.” 

And her students say...

“I learned from Miss Almaraz that in order to create change, you have to analyze the root problems of an issue.” 

Please click here to learn about the other Award for Excellence in Teaching recipients

The Rahm Emanuel TIF game: Slush funds and shovelfuls of cash

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  July 25, 2018

It’s not every day that I read American Banker, but then again, not every day does a story involving Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the trial of President Donald Trump confidant Paul Manafort and a Chicago bank CEO pop up.

And, to be honest, I don’t even care about the Manafort part. The real bombshell are the shamefully creative ways that Chicago’s mayor shovels cash to the connected at the same time he cuts funding for schools, mental health facilities and city services for the rest of us.

This particular Chicago bank CEO, Steven Calk, received $3.6 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds from Emanuel for creating “new” jobs. In effect, Calk received the money for laying off people from a bank he was closing and hiring them at a new bank he was building. Naturally, the mayor took this opportunity to crow at a press conference—as is his style—about all the new jobs he and the bank were creating.

The problem is that at the same time this TIF scam effectively shoveled risk-free profits to a wealthy CEO, Emanuel had just closed six of Chicago’s twelve mental health clinics, thereby putting thousands of the city’s most vulnerable citizens at risk. The value of those cuts was $3 million. And the article notes another important point: Rahm’s elimination of a corporate head tax to save large corporations $23 million a year. This occurred in a city where hundreds of schools had no librarian. That annual head tax, already too low, would have meant more than a room full of books for 230 Chicago public schools.

To add insult to injury, Emanuel rushed payment of part of the grant so that the Federal Savings Bank could book the money by the end of the year and top a list of “most profitable banks.” In contrast, the mayor has slow walked a program to create sustainable community schools that would provide physical and mental health care, language classes, and other vital wraparound supports to students and families at 20 schools across the city, even though this highly successful strategy is already used in dozens of other school districts across the country.

This article is a cautionary tale about the unaccountable, inequitable and race-to-the-bottom nature of Chicago’s corporate subsidies. The rich and connected keep winning, and everyone else has to pick up the tab. It’s time we take a different path and invest in communities throughout the city.

We need a corporate head tax that ensures Chicago’s elite, who just received massive Trump tax cuts, pay their fair share locally. We need an automatic TIF surplus that routes money to the city to develop job programs in neighborhoods with high unemployment and schools in need of lower class sizes—especially since those TIF hauls skyrocket with property reassessments and higher property taxes. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that record $660 million in tax revenue will be generated in the 2017 tax year from 143 TIFs controlled by the mayor and his City Council. Nearly half of that money goes to wealthy Chicago neighborhoods, which coincides with a proposed Chicago Public Schools budget that disproportionately favors North Side neighborhoods and again shortchanges South and West Side schools.  

We need community benefit agreements as a condition of any city subsidies of private projects like the Barack Obama Presidential Center. Finally, we need to end corporate welfare handouts like the windfall of cash for Amazon. Jeff Bezos doesn’t need it; he’s the wealthiest man in the world. We could use that money instead to hire Chicago residents to build affordable housing for the thousands of families in our city who need it.

That’s one press conference where the mayor could actually take credit for creating jobs.

UPDATE: August 3 CPS fingerprinting deadline

by ctu communications  |  July 20, 2018

The Union has learned that Chicago Public Schools is requiring employees who need to be re-fingerprinted to do so by August 3, 2018. The district claims the truncated timeline is to ensure that everyone completes the process prior to the first day of classes, but unfortunately, the lack of foresight in its original announcement now constitutes an emergency for 208-day employees who may be out of town and unable to complete the process in the upcoming weeks.

CTU staff and leadership have been in regular contact with CPS about this, and have advocated for rational changes to the roll-out of this process. We have asked that educators be given time for fingerprinting during their August professional development days before students report, and that there be no adverse consequences for members who cannot get their fingerprinting complete by August 3. CPS has acknowledged that there are valid reasons why employees may not be able to complete the process by August 3, and has assured the Union that there will be other opportunities to complete re-fingerprinting—including during the week of professional development at the end of August.

If you cannot meet the August 3 deadline due to extenuating circumstances, please send an email with your information to immediately and CPS will work with you directly. Let the Union know right away if CPS sends an unreasonable response or if you encounter delays at fingerprinting sites. Keep all CTU and CPS emails for your records, and we will continue to keep you updated on changes in the process and advocate for rational responses to important concerns about student safety.

If you are not traveling and still need fingerprinting, please read this document immediately for updates on the district's fingerprinting sites. CPS employees may visit any Accurate Biometrics location to have your fingerprints scanned—not just CPS sites. Please click here to find the Accurate Biometrics location nearest you.

When you visit an Accurate Biometrics location to have your fingerprints re-scanned, please bring the form below and state-issued photo ID. This will ensure your background check is charged to CPS and properly tracked.

Thank you to all of the members who have raised complaints and concerns about this process.

Accurate Biometrics form for CPS employees

Here Are Three Reasons for Chicago Public Schools’ Success

by gina caneva - lindblom math and science academy  |  July 19, 2018

With Chicago’s school closings, enrollment declines, funding issues and problematic special education reforms dominating the headlines for the past five years, it’s difficult to trust the research from Stanford University professor Sean Reardon that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students are growing more and faster than students in nearly any other district in the United States.

It’s even less plausible, given the volatility in the district during the years studied by Dr. Reardon—2009 through 2014—during which CPS changed its CEO five times, tangled with the Chicago Teachers’ Union in a seven-day teachers’ strike and closed 49 elementary schools.

However, after seven months, no one has been able to find a hole in Reardon’s research. This is good news for CPS and also good news for our nation.

If success like this can happen in Chicago against the often chaotic district backdrop, then learning from it or even replicating it elsewhere is a possibility. To do so, however, we would have to identify causes.

CEO Janice Jackson, other district leaders and researchers have pointed to principal training and sustainability, and using data to inform practice and hold teachers and leaders accountable. I also believe that three other factors are at play as to why Chicago students are growing farther and faster than other students even in wealthier nearby suburbs.

Please click here to continue reading at

'We're militant again': US teachers at convention galvanized by wave of strikes

by Mike Elk - The Guardian  |  July 17, 2018

Thousands of teachers gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this weekend for the American Federation of Teachers’ convention and to discuss a plan of action for the new school year after a series of extraordinary strikes across the US over pay and conditions.

The convention comes as the teachers’ union movement has been galvanized by a wave of strikes, mainly in traditionally Republican states. At the same time, public sector unions are facing a brand new assault on their finances after the supreme court ruled in June that public sector employees in unionized workplaces can opt out of paying union dues. 

Addressing the meeting on Friday former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said: “We have to gear up again, because the challenges we face now are truly unlike any we have seen for some time.”

However, teachers gathered in Pittsburgh say that instead of being deterred by the attacks on them that the attacks have forced their union’s member to re-engage more in order to keep members from leaving their unions.

“Whose schools? Our schools,” cried out Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey as thousands of teachers poured out of the David L Lawrence convention center and into the blistering heat of Pittsburgh’s streets.

Please click here to continue reading at

CTU to Emanuel: we shouldn’t have to fight for adequate staffing

by ctu communications  |  July 16, 2018

Union has battled mayor for seven years for adequate staffing of social workers, certified school nurses, counselors, case managers – with today’s CPS announcement still falling far short of need.

CHICAGO, July 16, 2018—The Chicago Teachers Union called today’s CPS announcement of more staffing for social workers and special education caseworkers grossly inadequate. A livestream of today’s press conference is at this link.

The CTU and its allies have been battling Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for seven years for more school social workers, psychologists, certified school nurses and case managers – positions that Emanuel has slashed since he took office in 2011.

“We’re proud of our advocacy and the results it produces – and disgusted that we have to continue to battle this mayor for what our students need,” says CTU organizer and teacher Brandon Johnson, who spoke at today's press conference. “The only reason CPS is taking action today is because of years of pressure from CTU members, parents, and advocates. Without that pressure – and the state takeover of CPS special education – the Mayor would have done nothing. Today’s announcement still falls far short of what our students need – and Emanuel is STILL starving our schools and our students, just has he has for years.”

CPS would need to hire roughly a thousand social workers to meet minimum recommended ratios of social workers to students. Emanuel has instead slashed social worker positions by over 20% since he took office. Today’s announcement fills less than a quarter of the existing need.

“To be blunt, we can’t trust the Mayor’s rule by press release,” says Johnson. “He has a sordid history of stats juking and bait-and-switch tactics, and he’s actually made staff shortages much worse since he took office. CPS’s challenges require two solutions – real revenue to support what students need, and an elected school board to ensure that people across the city have a voice in how the schools are run. Dictatorial rule by one person has resulted in a string of corruption cases, ethical lapses, accountability failures, and a chronic refusal to put our students needs ahead of the mayor’s distorted political agenda.”

The National Association of Social Workers recommends a ratio of one school social worker for each school building serving up to 250 general education students, or a ratio of 1:250 students. For students with intensive needs, a lower ratio, such as 1:50, is suggested. Currently the ratio in CPS is one social worker per more than 1,200 students, nearly five times the recommended ratio.

CPS also has severe shortages of school psychologists and certified school nurses. The CPS ratio for school psychologists is over 1,700 students per each psychologist – three times the recommended ratio. The ratio of certified school nurses to students is over 2,500:1 – more than four times the recommended average – and their numbers have been cut in half while their workload has risen 70% since 2010.

“Today’s announcement barely covers the number of positions Emanuel has slashed since he took office,” said Johnson. “Our students’ needs – including contending with the impact of continuing neighborhood violence, with six people killed this weekend alone – continue to go unmet. Our neighborhoods suffer from devastating unemployment at Great Depression-era levels in parts of the South and West sides. Today, our students’ unmet trauma needs are far greater than Emanuel’s proposal today even begins to address.”

Retired teacher Miriam Socoloff, who attended today's press conference, agrees. "How much corruption and scandal will it take for us to get an elected school board that ends one-man rule?" the Golden Apple awardee asked. "How many CEOs have to go to jail or resign under the stink of corruption? How many contract schemes and privatization deals that hurt our students and make the mayor's pals a pile of money do we have to endure? How long do our students have to attend filthy schools with lousy food while Emanuel's school bureaucrats fail to protect them from predatory adults? This man's rule over our school system must end."

UPDATE: Additional CPS fingerprinting sites

by ctu communications  |  July 11, 2018

Chicago Public Schools is working on adding additional dates, times and fingerprinting sites throughout the summer. We have asked employees to check back read this document for updates on CPS fingerprinting sites. 

Note that employees may visit any Accurate Biometric location to have their fingerprints scanned—not just CPS sites. Please click here for a list of Accurate Biometric locations. When employees visit an Accurate Biometric location to have their fingerprints re-scanned, we ask that they bring the form below and state-issued photo ID. This will ensure their background check is charged to CPS and properly tracked.

Accurate Biometric form for CPS employees

Emanuel election stunt can’t hide seven years of neglect of West and South Side students and their schools

by CTU communications  |  July 06, 2018

Emanuel recycles previously approved projects, while ‘investments’ fall far short of $3 billion in needed repairs, ignore West Side needs, ignore equity concerns and fail to address dangerous shortages of social workers, counselors, school nurses, trauma supports.

Rahm's failed education record

CHICAGO, July 6, 2018—Emanuel’s announcement of $1 billion in school ‘investment’ is another election year stunt – hollow and dishonest – say public school educators, who note that Emanuel’s hand-picked school board had already approved many of the expenditures, while few announced today address critical ongoing needs.

“Where is the investment in desperately needed wrap-around services – including a dangerous shortage of counselors, social workers and certified school nurses for students traumatized by violence, sexual abuse and poverty?” asked CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Will early childhood expenditures go to all neighborhoods, including those that serve low-income communities? Why are we expanding Emanuel’s costly, failed privatization of maintenance and facilities management? And why should we cheer facilities repairs that Emanuel has criminally delayed for years? Nothing in today’s public relations stunt ensures that ALL of our students will be provided with clean school facilities.”

Among the ‘initiatives’ Emanuel had previously announced are Pre-K and STEM expansions. North side schools that serve few Black students – Dirksen, Palmer, Waters and Rogers – will get new annexes, a move that the CTU

supports but argues that these kinds of investments must be equitably made. The CTU has long advocated for investments in both Kenwood and Washington high schools, with today’s announcement a testament to CTU members’ long-term advocacy with parents and students for meaningful facilities investments in these schools. And CPS will invest $70 million in a ‘new near west high school’ that could undercut rather than invest in Wells high school, while ignoring needs in low-income Black neighborhoods on Chicago’s far West Side.

Emanuel’s ‘announcement’ today also includes $60 million in previously announced expenditures for classrooms. That Emanuel claim particularly galls educators, who say that Emanuel is actually cutting school budgets and classroom staff next year. In March, CPS promised that there would be no cuts to school budgets or staff even if enrollment at a school dropped. Instead, in April, principals got budgets that cut funding for the upcoming school year, and CPS later announced it was cutting more than 500 positions for teachers and paraprofessionals.

Chicago educators had the right to bargain to improve conditions in public schools until 1995, when the legislature handed the mayor total control over CPS and eliminated bargaining on non-economic issues like school cleanliness.

Chicagoans overwhelmingly support a return to this most basic form of democracy, as a way to bring equity, transparency and accountability into CPS, which under mayoral control has been plagued with ethics violations, scandals in special education and sexual abuse, fat cat contracts that show no evidence of benefit to students, crumbling facilities and critical shortages of frontline staff, including counselors, social workers and school nurses.


Chicago Teachers Union