by ctu communications | September 04, 2018
CHICAGO, September 4, 2018—Chicago Teachers Union President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT, and Vice President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in response to the announcement that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not seek re-election.
“Rahm Emanuel came into the mayor’s office amidst a cloud of chaos and confusion, and now he exits Chicago's political stage the same way. Today’s announcement is unbelievable, but welcome by so many Chicagoans who have demanded leadership that is willing to tackle the problems in our communities rather than destroy the people living in them.
“We have been saying for almost eight years that this mayor did not deserve this office, but we are perplexed as to why he would make the announcement on a day that should have focused on the return of our students to their schools. Today’s news has catapulted the public into a discussion cloaked in political intrigue, but part of that discussion must now be how critical it is that we elect a mayor who abandons Emanuel’s lethal, neoliberal policies and puts the city on a more just and equitable path.
“Chicagoans want an end to our un-elected, rubber stamp Chicago Board of Education, and the right to elect a representative school board that puts transparency, accountability and the needs of our students above all else. We demand an end to Rahm’s educational hunger games and his immoral student-based budgeting scheme, which treats every student like a dollar sign and denies our poorest students the opportunity to live up to their promise. We want a truly sustainable community school district—one modeled on the pilot program that our union embedded in our contract that will, at last, launch this fall. This model ensures that each student receives the supports and resources they need.
"We want an end to the crony contracts, profiteering privatization and apartheid-like educational policies that the incumbent has burdened our families with for the last eight years. Our city needs progressive revenue, and the rich must pay their fair share.
“I commend the tireless advocacy and activism of our union’s rank-and-file members, who have fought for the last eight years to expose the failures of this administration and demand better for our students, despite fears of retribution. Chicagoans face a momentous choice next February, and it is imperative that we hold all candidates’ feet to the fire to demand the schools that our students and their educators deserve.
“Why would Rahm voluntarily give up such incredible power? And, why so abruptly? Who knows? Who cares? We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, actually. But while we acknowledge his service as a mayor and wish Rahm and his entire family well, it is our hope that in the final days of his administration, he chooses to leave our city in better shape than when he came into power. Chicagoans deserve better than the chaos we’ve had to endure for the last eight years.”
by ctu communications | August 31, 2018
by ctu communications | August 31, 2018
CHICAGO, August 31, 2018—Mayor Emanuel’s political grandstanding has done nothing to protect public school students, and instead has locked out committed, caring educators from their classrooms, charges the Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU has received dozens of calls from alarmed veteran educators who have been told they are not ‘cleared’ to return to their classrooms on the first day of school this Tuesday – and it’s feared that as many as several hundred have been impacted by a disastrous CPS roll-out of fingerprinting and background checks for around 6,000 educators.
CPS banned one educator after the vendor botched her fingerprints. Another teacher and CTU delegate with no arrest record was scrambling late Thursday to fight CPS’ notification that she was barred from teaching. And at least three educators who are also CTU delegates were arrested in 2016 for civil disobedience at a protest demanding that Bank of America pay their fair share of taxes to support public schools. Their charges were dropped, but this week CPS notified them that they were not approved to return to the classroom – even though they’d previously been cleared by CPS and returned to their classrooms. CPS emailed one teacher who was re-fingerprinted in June this week, stating that she was not approved to teach – with no further instructions on how she might follow up, provide additional information or challenge the ruling.
“As a father of two boys in CPS schools, I share parents’ outrage and concern, both for the abuse that CPS swept under the rug to protect the mayor, and for Rahm’s crass political exploitation of this crisis,” said CTU Acting President Jesse Sharkey. “This is not a school safety plan – this is political cover for a mayor who’s failed our students. Teachers who taught students this summer are now being told they’re not fit to return to the classroom on Tuesday. Members who were re-fingerprinted in June and July are just now learning they’re being turned out of their classrooms. One educator who was fingerprinted and cleared to work as a new employee last January is now being told she is not approved for the new school year. There’s no evidence that anything that’s been flagged in this train wreck of a background check process presents a threat to students.”
CPS’ process to re-fingerprint and re-run background checks on thousands of educators has been plagued with problems and false starts. Issues range from long lines in sweltering conditions with few workers at fingerprint sites to CPS’ unilateral move to push back the deadline for fingerprinting by roughly a month – at a time when many educators had scheduled vacations with family members. The CTU started receiving alarmed calls and emails from members in the last week, as CPS sent out notices that they were barred from their classrooms. CTU staff have been rushing to get members’ records to CPS and challenge those rulings by the first day of school – a process that CPS should have begun weeks earlier, charge CTU officials.
“It’s outrageous that some of our most caring educators are being targeted for putting their bodies on the line to demand that big banks pay their fair share to public education – and NOT for any actions that could remotely impact the safety of students,” said CTU Political Director Stacy Davis Gates. “We always knew this process would be political and punitive – and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. We protect students in our classrooms, and now this mayor is turning us away out of political retribution – and the incompetence of Rahm’s hand-picked school bosses.”
by ctu communications | August 30, 2018
Many of us got a mailer this week asking us to quit our union. We don't know how these union-busters got our names – not from us. But let’s be clear who paid for this: a right wing group bankrolled by allies of Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump. Their goal: destroy unions and the gains workers have made by fighting collectively. And they’re targeting our profession and our union, over 75% of whom are women workers – including thousands of Black and Latinx workers.
Here’s what else you can do:
- Hold a back-to-school union meeting. Get maximum attendance. Discuss who’s behind this mailer and why it’s important to stay united. Talk about what your school needs, and bring in your CTU organizer or field rep to participate in the discussion and brainstorm ways to use the PPC and PPLP to get what you need.
- Welcome all new teachers, PSRPs and clinicians to our ranks today by showing them solidarity and inviting them to sign a union card. Build our union, school by school! Remember, friends don’t let friends quit the union. Our goal is 100%!
- Send us -- or tear up -- that mailer, take a pic and post on your social media what you think of it. Tag the CTU so we can share on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, like Amy!
by gina caneva - lindblom math and science academy | August 28, 2018
On Sept. 4, about 370,000 Chicago Public Schools students will navigate our city streets, many using public transportation, to the first day of school. For these students, this is the only day of the year that their transportation fees will be free — unlike many students in other schools across the state whose transportation is provided for the entire school year.
Since 2011, the Chicago Transit Authority has offered free rides to students and their families on the first day of school. Last year, CTA estimated that it provided close to 128,000 of these rides at a cost of $140,000. However, every other school day CPS places the burden of funding transportation inequitably on Chicago families.
When CPS still operated on a neighborhood model, students were closer to the schools they attended — many were within walking distance. However, according to WBEZ, over 75 percent of CPS students now attend a high school other than their neighborhood school. As school choice has grown in our city, student routes to school have become more complicated and more costly.
To highlight the cost, consider the situation of one high school student, Curtis Robinson, I taught for three years at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. Curtis is now succeeding academically as a sophomore at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, but in high school he was sometimes tardy to his first class. When I asked students then to write about ways that CPS could improve, he wrote about the idea of free transportation and detailed the route to school at that time for him and his brother. His short essay was published in October 2016 in the Chicago Tribune.
by karen GJ lewis, NBCT, CTU President emeritas | August 27, 2018
Sisters and Brothers,
This week begins the new school year. May you each find success and new energy as you return to your classrooms and the profession you love.
As our new year begins, it is a time for us to renew our commitment to fighting for the schools our students and teachers deserve. Let us return to our Chicago Public Schools (CPS) classrooms with a renewed strength, laser focus and open hearts as we welcome our colleagues and students in this new season of growth and change.
As you know, I recently retired from CPS and therefore have resigned from my position as president of the Chicago Teachers Union. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to serve in a leadership capacity and to join each of you on the battlefield for justice and equity in public education.
The decision to end my tenure was one that weighed heavily upon me and was done in consultation with my husband, family, friends and colleagues. Since taking office in 2010, this has been a constant fight against powerful forces and their myriad of allies that seek to destroy collective bargaining and rob our children of their futures. Yet, as great of an enemy as this system has been, I had no way of knowing that all of this was preparing me for the biggest foe of them all.
Yet, I am not afraid.
With any fight, clear vision and bravery are prerequisites of struggle. While I continue to restore my health, I encourage each of you to channel your energy into a collective power that moves our union forward and guarantees the wins we’ve secured—and the campaigns we have started will continue until every child has every resource needed to be successful.
In my fight against brain cancer, I am reminded through my faith that when storms come, the brave do not jump overboard. They do not abandon ship, nor do they panic. Even if the captain is down and storm clouds are gathering, the rest of the crew must steer the ship on its charted course.
As you enter your building, remember: We have a contract fight on our hands—and the racist, misogynistic, homophobic and elitist voices remain strong. Our enemies are banking on this transition in CTU leadership to confuse, conflate and co-opt our union. Do not let them.
Transitions are not meant to be easy. Change never is. However, I have worked side-by-side with Vice President Jesse Sharkey, who has assumed my responsibilities as president as laid out in the CTU Constitution, beginning when I was first diagnosed in 2014. Under his consistent leadership, the CTU will remain a focused, fighting union that protects the interests of its members and those we serve.
Any presidency can only be as strong as the rest of its leadership team. Continuity is important. That is why officers Michael Brunson and Maria Moreno remain valuable in their current roles of recording secretary and financial secretary in this administration. As Jesse's role as president is formalized, the vice presidency now becomes vacant, and it is my hope that members will value the addition of CTU Political Director Stacy Davis Gates in that role.
Through our organizing, legislative and political efforts, the CTU has restored the pension levy, stopped the spread of non-unionized charter operations, and launched political campaigns that have sent educators Sue Garza, Brandon Johnson and Aaron Ortiz to public office. The CTU worked to reduce CPS's gaping budget deficit, won back hundreds of millions of dollars from the mayor's TIF slush fund, and fought off mismanagement and bank deals, charter companies and corruption. We successfully negotiated more than $10 MILLION for sustainable neighborhood public schools. Our political, organizing and communications model has been adopted by other labor organizations across the nation.
Even with these significant wins, there is still much more work to do. Let us channel our victories into renewed campaigns to ensure our careers are not threatened and that Chicago has an elected, representative school board.
Wages, benefits, and safe and collaborative working conditions are important to all of us and central to every contract campaign. But in a city rife with unemployment, poverty, and violence, so is ensuring that every student has access to a librarian, counselor, social worker, nurse, special education professional and the support services they need.
As I focus my attention on this next chapter of my life, I want each of you to remember that the detractors, naysayers and union busters will come. They will seek to take advantage of this moment in order to entice you to act against your own self-interests. However, if their offer does not make us stronger, if it doesn’t unite us, and doesn’t move our cause forward, then we must turn a blind eye to their schemes and keep our eyes on the prize.
CPS may always be a hot mess, but with our due diligence, creativity, expertise and insights we can one day make this the strongest school district in the nation.
Every teacher, paraprofessional and clinician who wears CTU red understands what this is about. Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes said it best when he challenged us in a work he entitled, “Democracy,” in which he states:
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Through compromise and fear.
Thank you all for your well-wishes, thoughts, and prayers. I love you all and I will see you soon.
Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT (Retired)
CTU President Emeritas
by ctu communications | August 26, 2018
by ctu communications | August 23, 2018
We're postponing our August 25 celebration of the life and advocacy of our retiring union president, Karen Lewis, and aiming to reschedule around our LEAD Dinner on Friday, October 26.
For those interested in ticket refunds, please reach out directly to the CTU's Romel Ferguson by email at RomelFerguson@ctulocal1.com.
by ctu communications | August 17, 2018
Schools must have democratic oversight from elected, representative school board – the path forward to provide transparency and accountability that protects students from harm, says union.
CHICAGO, August 17, 2018—Today, CPS released a report on system-wide failures to protect students from sexual abuse – an appalling example of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s failed control our schools. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement in response to the report's deeply troubling findings:
“Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school bosses have failed repeatedly to protect schoolchildren from harm,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Emanuel’s hand-picked administrators and board of education have repeatedly rebuffed our efforts to establish an independent task force to address this issue, just as CPS has repeatedly bungled its efforts in re-fingerprinting educators.
“Our primary responsibility as educators is to ensure the safety of our students – a responsibility the mayor has undermined. Instead, Emanuel has closed nearly a hundred schools, slashed school budgets, robbed our school communities of veteran educators and created a dangerous shortage of social workers, clinical psychologists, counselors and certified school nurses. These are exactly the professionals best equipped to train students and staff to be alert to potential abuse, and to identify and address any threats to students. Our teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals struggle under mayoral control—a school regime that has repeatedly covered up and concealed threats to student safety, whether that is rodent-infested buildings or sexual predators. Our schools and our students are little more than pawns in the mayor’s endless racket to enhance his political stature – a distorted agenda that has created what today's report calls "costly changes", and an inconsistent, dangerous culture in our schools that undercuts our students’ very safety and trust in our school communities.
“Rahm Emanuel owns this crisis – and he owns every single crisis our school district has confronted since he took over in 2011. His failed leadership of our schools must end, and the people of this city must be granted what they have repeatedly demanded – an elected, representative school board that is accountable, transparent and committed first, foremost and always to the wellbeing of our students and their school communities, rather than the mayor’s political fortunes.”
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 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. 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, these 20 Sustainable Community Schools will be established in neighborhoods that struggle with concentrated poverty and large-scale disinvestment—both public and private. 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. 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 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. 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 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.”
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
 The Supremes v. the Unions: Recent rulings expose the high court’s anti-worker bias. The Progressive, August 1, 2018. https://progressive.org/magazine/the-supremes-v-unions/
 Rauner’s war against public sector unions makes no economic sense. The Chicago Reporter, September 8, 2016. https://www.chicagoreporter.com/rauners-war-against-public-sector-unions-makes-no-economic-sense/
 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. https://voorheescenter.wordpress.com/2018/07/25/proposed-cps-budget-reveals-geographic-disparities-in-investment/
 The most American city: Chicago, race, and inequality. Brookings Institution, December 21, 2015. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2015/12/21/the-most-american-city-chicago-race-and-inequality/
 The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. Chicago Teachers Union, 2012. https://www.ctunet.com/quest-center/research/the-schools-chicagos-students-deserve
 Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence. Learning Policy Institute, Dec. 14, 2017. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/community-schools-effective-school-improvement-brief
 CTU to Emanuel: We shouldn’t have to fight for adequate staffing. Chicago Teachers Union, July 16, 2018. https://www.ctunet.com/media/press-releases/ctu-to-emanuel-we-shouldnt-have-to-fight-for-adequate-staffing
 Education Funding Report Shows Dismal Past for Illinois, Hope for Future. Matt Masterson/WTTW, February 27, 2018. https://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2018/02/27/education-funding-report-shows-dismal-past-illinois-hope-future
 Commentary: Invest in Chicago's schools, teachers to reduce violence. Karen Lewis, Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2017. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-chicago-school-funding-violence-karen-lewis-perspec-0307-20170306-story.html