Summer Organizers join members at the Bud Billiken ParadeSummer Organizers join members at the Bud Billiken Parade.

Summer Organizing Institute returns for eighth year

Nearly 30 teachers, clinicians and PSRPs took part in this year’s Summer Organizing Institute (SOI), a rigorous four-week program aimed at cultivating leadership and developing members’ organizing skills to build power in our schools and across the city. SOI interns pounded the pavement, knocked on doors, made calls and organized actions in speaking to hundreds of CTU members. This year was also the first collaboration with the Cook County College Teachers Union (AFT Local 1600), and for the second year in a row, with the Peoria Federation of Teachers (see below) and SEIU Healthcare Illinois. Also new to this year’s program was focused outreach to our members working at charter schools in the CTU-ACTS division, and a partnership with more than 100 youth from organizations and schools across the city.

SOI interns participated in trainings and workshops on subjects such as running effective PPCs (Professional Problems Committees), race and the economy, the privatization of public education, and housing and the pushing out of Black Chicago. They attended and testified at the July Chicago Board of Education meeting and Chicago Public Schools Capital Budget Hearings, and organized protests against cuts to PSRP positions and special education. Interns also door knocked members in neighborhoods on the South, West, Southwest and North sides, and held meetings on PSRP organizing, school closings and building political power.

The Summer Organizing Institute was a success and an essential part of preparation for the upcoming contract campaign. Watch for this year’s participants as they put their skills and experience to use, helping lead the CTU into the new school year. Also, keep an eye out for your chance to apply to be part of this transformational program when next year’s SOI is announced. —Rebecca Martinez, CTU organizer

Peoria ramps up fight against TIFs and public school disinvestment

For the second year running, union members and community residents in Peoria came together for a joint summer organizing program put together by the Peoria People’s Project, a new expansion of Grassroots Collaborative. From July 9 to August 4, members from the Peoria Federation of Teachers Local 6099, SEIU HCII, and parents with children in Peoria public schools collaborated as interns for the summer with goals of listening to concerns from the community, educating community members on the importance of union support and being actively involved around issues affecting our communities.

In addition to canvassing and door knocking, interns participated in several training sessions as a part of the internship that included topics such as fair tax, state budget, tax increment financing (TIFs), visioning and the basics of organizing work. Interns also had the opportunity to help facilitate a town hall meeting to educate the public about a fair tax that included State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth as a special guest.

The last day of the program included a community canvass event where more than 30 people joined interns in canvassing the Peoria district with the lowest voter turnout, and collected petition signatures to phase out a key downtown TIF district and return the money to the schools. Together they knocked on over 2,500 doors and collected hundreds of petition signatures. —Nathan Ryan, Grassroots Collaborative

Student debt clinic

A group of rank-and-file CTU members and staff members participated in a two-day clinic on student debt provided by American Federation of Teachers staff and researchers, learning ways to mitigate student debt and train fellow members about those strategies. Clinic participants are currently working to develop a member survey and a second round of training to help disseminate this information widely among members, and include workshops during the October Delegates and School Leader Training. —Lashawn Wallace, Taft High School PSRP

This article appears in the September 2018 issue of the Chicago Union Teacher.