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CTU victories this week

by ctu communications  |  March 09, 2018

Charter News

CTU-ACTS, the newly established division of the CTU for charter schools is growing. Two new charter schools have voted to unionize. Organizing campaigns at ChiArts (Chicago High School for the Arts), a Near Northwest Side specialty high school and Namaste Charter School, a McKinley Park elementary school, have been victorious. Members at both schools have taken a stand for their rights on the job and will be joining our ranks. Congratulations to our new members and to the organizers at ChiActs and CTU who helped win the campaign, and welcome to our newest members!

Arbitration Victory

Protecting the rights of tenured teachers is a vital aspect of the CTU’s work. An arbitration award, handled by CTU Attorney Latoyia Kimbrough, has affirmed the due process rights of tenured teachers in our correctional facility schools (York Alternative and Nancy B. Jefferson). 

Our members must undergo rigorous security screening and obtain security clearance through the Cook County Department of Corrections to teach in schools housed in correctional facilities. The County has broad discretion to revoke a security clearance, and in cases where a teacher’s security clearance is revoked, he or she is no longer eligible to continue working within the correctional facility. 

In this case,  the County revoked the security clearance of a tenured teacher at York. Approximately six weeks later, CPS ‘honorably terminated’ the teacher from her position, as she no longer had the required clearance for it, but advised she was eligible for rehire at other CPS schools. Months later, however, CPS unilaterally placed a DNH on the tenured teacher’s file on the basis of the same allegations that led to the revocation of her security clearance – effectively bypassing the tenured teacher’s rights to a dismissal hearing before being terminated for cause and declared ineligible for rehire. 

In arbitration, CPS argued that because the DNH was issued after the honorable termination when the teacher was no longer a CPS employee, it had no obligation to provide her due process. The arbitrator disagreed, and held that there is no exemption in the School Code for the due process rights of tenured teachers who teach at alternative schools housed in correctional facilities; that the teacher’s termination and DNH designation will be void; and that if CPS desires to dismiss her and assign her a DNH, it must follow the tenured teacher dismissal procedure in the School Code.

Wednesday's school board vote and next steps

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  March 02, 2018

Despite tireless efforts from the CTU and school communities across Chicago, the mayor's handpicked Board of Education voted on Wednesday to close three schools and consolidate others.

While we will continue to oppose the Board's deplorable decision, it's worth remembering that we succeeded in derailing CPS plans to co-locate a charter in Hirsch H.S. next year, and forced CPS to retreat on outright closing three of Englewood's high schools. That fight by our union and our allies means that 45 of our members will have secure work next year.

We can also report that, at the CTU's insistence, CPS has agreed to work to secure full-time positions for the coming school year for members impacted by outright closure, including teachers at Robeson H.S. We will also continue to defend all impacted members' rights under Appendix H of our contract and in our organizing and political work on the ground. We have made some changes in staffing in our contract enforcement department due to retirement and restructuring, so please look up your field rep at and get in touch with them should you have any questions. 

We will continue to battle this unelected school board and the mayor who controls its agenda of ignoring the wishes of the students and families of this city who cherish their neighborhood public schools as centers of learning and incubators of creativity and hope.

That's why we're asking you to contact your state senator and demand what every other school district in the state has: an elected, representative school board that provides our city with the democratic control and accountability we deserve. Please spread the word about this effort. The Illinois House has overwhelmingly voted to give Chicagoans this right. Now we need to push the Senate to do the same, and finally put an end to this mayor's pitiless and failed school policies.

The Board of Ed, top school bureaucrats and the mayor who dictates their actions ignore parents, students, community residents and our members at their peril. We will continue to fight school privatization, school closings and so-called phase-outs on the ground as partners in this city’s growing grassroots movement for educational equity, which is evolving into one of the great civil rights battles of our time.

The Chicago High School for the Arts teachers vote to unionize

by Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff  |  March 01, 2018

CHICAGO—Today, academic teachers and paraprofessionals from The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) voted to join the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the charter school local that has recently merged with the Chicago Teachers Union. Educators are organizing a union in a proactive move to more effectively advocate for the students they serve.

“ChiArts has the potential to be an international model for public arts education, but in order for us to get there it is absolutely essential that the teachers of ChiArts have a say in the negotiation of the policies that impact our students and us,” said Dan Duffy, English teacher at ChiArts. “The students at ChiArts deserve consistency in their education and in the culture and climate of their school. Now that the teachers of ChiArts have the power to negotiate with management over issues that impact our students and us, that consistency will be possible.”

“We welcome the educators from ChiArts into the Illinois Federation of Teachers with open arms,” said Dan Montgomery, veteran English teacher and President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “In both higher education and in our K-12 schools, we are seeing thousands join the labor movement in spite of continued attacks on collective bargaining from Governor Rauner and President Trump. It is clear that educators and other workers know that unions are good for America and our sisters and brothers at ChiArts are helping lead this charge for both workers’ rights and better schools.”

These teachers have taken a courageous stand for their students, their dignity and their rights on the job,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “In the face of enormous pressure from management, ChiArts educators have embraced what we know to be true in the CTU: when we come together as a union, we leverage our democratic strength to improve learning conditions for the children we serve, and strengthen our struggle for living wage work and the respect that is our due as educational professionals. We share common values and common goals -- and we’re proud and honored to welcome ChiActs into the family of union educators in this city, as CTU members and as partners in the battle for educational justice for our students.”

“We understand the hard work and unwavering commitment to students that it takes to organize in the face of management opposition to labor rights -- and we understand the power that comes from standing together,” said CTU/ACTS president Chris Baehrend. “By voting to unionize, ChiArts teachers have joined a growing movement to empower teachers who work for charter operators -- and to strengthen those teachers’ ability to secure the educational resources their students deserve. We welcome them into the CTU/ACTS family as colleagues in the shared struggle for the rights of our workers and the educational resources and supports all of our students need.”

“This is an inspiring and meaningful victory for the ChiArts educators—and for their students,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Unions help make possible what would be impossible for individuals acting alone: By joining together, educators have won a say over the crucial decisions that help their kids thrive. The AFT will support educators as they begin to bargain for a stable, supportive and strengthened school that serves as a global beacon for public arts education. Across the country, educators at charter schools are voting to be represented by unions to improve teaching and learning, and the AFT is proud to stand with them in their fight.”

40 ChiArts teachers will join Chicago ACTS (ChiACTS) Local 4343, a local of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers that recently merged with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Move by mayor's school board to close Black schools is assault on democracy

February 28, 2018

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in response to the decision by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked school board to close five Black schools over sweeping community opposition. 

Today we saw the naked hand of political repression reach out from the mayor’s office, when Rahm Emanuel’s hand-picked board ignored the passionate pleas of students and parents and voted over sweeping community opposition to close another five Black schools. To add insult to injury -- and drive home the racist character of these closures -- the board voted this travesty on the last day of Black History Month.

It was truly gut-wrenching to listen to elementary and high school students beg this board, sometimes through tears, to protect rather than annihilate their school communities. Other students were full of anger, saying repeatedly that the board would never do to a white school community what was being done to them today. Students who were barred from the board meeting occupied the lobby of school headquarters, then took their protest – and their anger – to city hall, where they held another impromptu rally to oppose this mayor’s racist school policies.

Yet this school board ignored them – just as the school bureaucrats and the mayor who dictates their actions ignored parents, students and community residents four years ago, when Emanuel instigated the largest wave of mass school closings in U.S. history. Four years ago, the burden of those school closures fall overwhelmingly on the shoulders of Black and Brown students. Today was no different.

The reality is that this mayor and the school bosses he appoints don’t give a damn about the well-being, education or future of this city’s working class Black and Latinx students. Quite the opposite. This mayor, like the mayor before him, has ratcheted up school privatization, disinvestment and nakedly racist funding policies that undercut working class students of color. Emanuel’s proxies today rubber stamped a longstanding racist cycle of disinvestment in Black neighborhoods. The mayor controls the school board -- and mayoral control continues to drive these policies, while shielding the board from repercussions for their actions.

Twice, now, the Illinois House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to end the mayor’s choke-hold on the school district and provide for an elected, representative school board in Chicago. Yet the legislation remains stalled in the Illinois Senate. It’s time for Senate leadership to take the path of democracy and justice, and join the House in granting the largest school district in the state the same democratic rights enjoyed by the rest of the state.

The vote to close these schools – to acquiesce once again to the mayor’s pitiless and failed school policies – has reignited a fire for democracy that will leave Emanuel’s reputations in tatters and the seats of his current board members empty. We’re asking every Illinois resident to contact their state senator and demand for Chicagoans what every other school district in the state has: an elected, representative school board that provides residents with the democratic control and accountability we deserve. And we will continue to fight school privatization, school closings and so-called phase-outs on the ground with our members, our parents, our students and this city’s growing grassroots movement for educational equity, in what is evolving into one of the great civil rights battles of our time.

Solidarity with U of I Graduate Employees Organization

by Ctu communications  |  February 28, 2018

The Chicago Teachers Union is proud to stand in solidarity with striking University of Illinois graduate school employees in the University of Illinois Graduate Employees Organization. We sincerely hope that their efforts will demonstrate to the school’s administration that it must cease unfair labor practices, bargain in good faith and stop its insistence on removing tuition waivers. These employees are striking for many of the same reasons that motivated past CTU strikes, and they have the full support of our leadership and our union. Solidarity to our sisters and brothers at U of I!


Solidarity with West Virginia educators

by ctu communications  |  February 27, 2018

The Chicago Teachers Union stands in solidarity with educators in West Virginia who are on strike for fair wages and adequate health care. Enough is enough. Even without collective bargaining, these teachers are steadfast in the face of attacks on their classrooms and the students they serve.   

We stand with our sisters and brothers in West Virginia who are being forced by Gov. Jim Justice to pay for that state’s budget shortfalls. They have not caused this crisis, yet they are expected to shoulder the burden, and that is unacceptable.

Solidarity is the foundation of unionism, and the struggles of our sisters and brothers belong to all of us. We urge our family in West Virginia to stand strong, for they have thousands of CTU members standing behind them.


Striking a blow against excessive paperwork!

by ctu communications  |  February 23, 2018

stack of paperAfter months of failed promises from CPS, including in strategic bargaining, the CTU has filed a fast-tracked grievance charging CPS network chiefs with directly violating our contract by attempting to force a massive amount of excessive paperwork and grading requirements on teachers. CPS has until the end of this month to respond, so look for an email with updates in the near future.

This problem plagues teachers across CPS, and our grievance is written to provide relief for ALL of our members.  Our grievance charges CPS and network chiefs with:

  • Requiring schools to use pacing guides;
  • Implementing grading mandates that violate the CTU/CPS guidelines;
  • Insisting on rigid grouping and instructional techniques;
  • Demanding five week assessments that correspond to vendor provided templates;
  • Strong-arming teachers to place redundant and absurd common core state standards language into their gradebook assignments.
  • In Networks 3 and 9, using gradebook monitoring tools that require at least three standards-based grades per week, even though CPS' head of labor relations assured us that the network had no frequency mandate.

We’re demanding that all networks end these violations of our contract, under the terms of the following contract articles:

  • 3.8: including 3.8.1, targeting provisions for grievances not under the jurisdiction of a principle or administrator – this allows us to fast-track the grievance.
  • 44-21: contract-mandated limitations on paperwork.
  • 44-30: lesson planning, which says teachers do not have to file separate unit and lesson plans, gives teachers wide discretion in crafting lesson plans – and mandates that teachers get adequate time to submit lesson plans or supplements.
  • 44-32: required assessments, which requires CPS to clearly stipulate and publish by June 30 a schedule of mandated assessments for REACH, state or federal laws and regulations, and programs like IB that require a test for student credit or program accreditation.
  • 44-33: grading practices, which mandates that teachers ‘shall exercise their independent professional judgment in developing their grading practices’ – a requirement that CPS is flagrantly violating.
  • We're also demanding that all network chiefs end their use of monitoring tools that require three grades per week, work within the contract-mandated limitations on their authority – and cease and desist from continuing to insist on grading quotas, scripted curriculum, pacing guides, periodic network assessments, format and style of lesson planning, and any additional paperwork mandates.

Our contract is only as strong as the demand that it be enforced, so we extend our gratitude to every member who’s reported excessive paperwork issues and provided the evidence we need to fast-track this grievance. You can read the full grievance at this link. For more information, contact your field rep (look them up here: or contact the CTU Grievance Department at

Trump proposal to arm teachers with guns is appalling

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  February 22, 2018

Trump's proposal to arm teachers with guns is appalling. We should instead arm teachers and students with trauma support, wrap-around services and well-resourced classrooms for youth already struggling with the dire consequences of gun violence and economic hardship.

Since the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, more than 200 school communities have been traumatized by gun violence, most recently in Parkland, Florida. President Donald Trump has proposed addressing this wave of tragedy by arming teachers. We could not more strongly disagree, unless President Trump intends to arm teachers and students with social workers, school counselors, trauma services, wrap-around supports and adequately funded classrooms. He should also arm Chicago’s public school teachers and students with school libraries with librarians, robust athletic programs, enrichment programs in art, music and culture—all of the components of a full and rich educational experience that are currently denied to the bulk of our students.

Putting a gun in a teacher’s hand will neither address nor ameliorate gun violence. Many of our schools are already militarized with metal detectors and armed guards, including off-duty Chicago police officers, empowered to arrest students on the spot. Yet the daily lives of our students, teachers and support staff are routinely punctured by the sounds of sirens and gunshots. As teachers, we contend almost daily with the devastating news that another student or relative has been cut down by gun violence. In a five-month span last year, seven Henderson Elementary School students were shot or wounded by gun violence. And Henderson’s experience is not unique. In 2012, 29 current or recent Harper High School students were shot. Eight died. Today, Harper is slated for closure, after more than $7 million—74 percent—in cuts since that bloody year. That kind of disinvestment, like Trump’s proposal to ask the teachers of 7-year-olds to pack pistols, moves us in the wrong direction.

Trump’s proposal will only intensify rather than de-escalate gun violence, just as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school closures will not solve—and may instead exacerbate—gun violence in Englewood and in our city. In urban cities like Chicago, where income inequality is growing, we need to end the economic violence that drives street violence. Unfortunately, we lack the leadership at the local, state and national level to take proven steps to unpack the root causes of violence, ease the trauma of survivors, and reduce the likelihood of further tragedies.

Trump’s appalling "proposal" demonstrates that he is not only out of touch, but that he—like so many corporate politicians—cares more about protecting the interests of his donors than our children.

We understand the anguish of Parkland’s students, and we support our students’ right to make common cause with the Stoneman Douglas High School community, and every community marred by violence. Our youth intimately grasp the gravity of the danger they face, and they deserve the right to take a public stand to demand safety, security and support.

Why National Teachers Academy should stay open

by Marisa Novara, Beatriz Ponce de Leon and David Stovall  |  February 20, 2018

When Chicago Public Schools announced plans last June to close the South Loop's National Teachers Academy and create a high school in its place, a group of concerned community residents, non-profit leaders, academics and students welcomed an opportunity to complete a Racial Equity Impact Assessment of the proposal.

Here's what we learned, and why we believe NTA should stay open.

At the invitation of the group Chicago United for Equity, our committee of 12 started by examining the potential impact of the proposal and how the district planned to minimize negative consequences. We heard community testimony, reviewed relevant data and ultimately determined the racial equity impact using an assessment tool from the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.

And while there are some supporters of the plan to close the elementary school in order to open a high school, the community outcry against the closing of NTA has been constant and undeniable. We've witnessed similar resistance, too, regarding the closing of all four neighborhood high schools in Englewood in order to replace them with a single Englewoood High School.

Just this week, Chicago Public Schools CEO, Janice Jackson, announced that the plan to open a new Englewood High School will go forward, but the district will keep three of the existing schools open until current students graduate, stating that she heard the community perspective and was responding to their concerns. The decision to close NTA however, has not been finalized.

Here's what we think CPS should consider.

Please click here to continue reading at

Chicago’s Amazon bid: more at stake than just tax dollars

by Pavlyn Jankov  |  February 13, 2018

Segregation at Amazon…

Amazon “fulfillment centers” are bleak compared to the biodomes that adorn their Seattle office.

The frenzied bidding for the Amazon headquarters has made a spectacle of economic winners and losers among America’s cities. Led by Rahm and Rauner, Chicago’s business and political establishment are eager to fork over billions in tax credits and other subsidies for the promise of jobs. Amazon’s warehouse and logistics footprint keeps expanding across the exurbs of cities, with the help of billions in tax dollars. Yet, scholars find their promise of job growth empty.

Though Amazon’s game pits city against city, recent research shows that inequality has risen more within metropolitan areas than between regions. Much of the increasing inequality is linked to the shift towards tech and the knowledge economy. This trend is already well established in Chicago, where the benefits of high-paying jobs are distributed inequitably, reinforcing the cycle of segregation.

…looks a lot like Chicago’s

The ample resources at downtown’s selective-enrollment Jones College Prep contrast with under-resourced neighborhood school Crispus Attucks (later closed).

Amazon and tech industry inequity

Signs of these inequities are present all throughout the tech economy. The lack of diversity in tech has drawn scrutiny from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ever-increasing rents have brought gentrification and displacement throughout the Bay Area – threatening social mobility there.

Within Amazon inequity thrives. Jobs at their warehouses, or “fulfillment centers,” are non-union, dangerous, low-paying, and require rapid, high-stress work. Innovations by Amazon will allow them to push the pace even further by tracking and surveilling their warehouse workers. Meanwhile, Amazon seeks to ensure downtown amenities and a public transit network for its headquarter workers and managers. For these better-paid employees, Amazon presumably wants access to affordable, safe, middle and upper-class suburbs along with “good” schools.

Read more at A Just Chicago.

Chicago Teachers Union