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Contract battle offers new tool to protect our students and their families. 

Three people with hats and coats holding a white banner, with yellow and black lettering, that reads,"It's the 1 %. RENT CONTROL IS PAST DUE!"

The Lift the Ban Coalition protests at the corporate office of predatory landlord Pangea Real Estate during its “1st Of The Month” action on Feb. 2, 2019.

Access to stable, affordable housing is critical to the success of our schools and communities.

During his eight-year reign over Chicago, Rahm Emanuel earned the nickname Mayor 1 percent for good reason. You see new luxury developments in any direction you look, and, on his way out the door, the mayor ensured passage of the largest TIF in city history to fund the Lincoln Yards development, a new luxury neighborhood for Chicago’s wealthy.

You see a different reality in our schools and neighborhoods—one of chronic disinvestment and lack of basic services. Any teacher could make a laundry list of needs for their schools and communities, but if families do not have a place to live, it is very difficult for them to stay in our neighborhoods. Without students, we cannot have schools. So, to fully support our public schools, we must address the lack of sustainable, affordable housing in our city.

Consider this: At least 18,000 Chicago Public Schools students are “Students in Temporary Living Situations,” living doubled up with other families, or in their cars, motels or shelters. This number is greatly under-reported and school-based resources to support these families are grossly insufficient. We need to fight for housing for our students and their families, and fight for school staff who share love for the communities in which we teach.

A new Chicago Teachers Union committee has formed to address the critical issue of housing insecurity for CPS families and our members. This committee will work to support several housing demands in current contract negotiations, as well as work in coalition with community partners on city, county and state housing initiatives.

Being legally binding, our contract is an innovative tool to achieve housing goals that may be elusive in other arenas. Our current contract proposals direct CPS to:

  • Advocate for a city housing policy that creates affordable housing at a rate greater than or equal to the creation of market rate housing, and support legislative efforts to enact rent control;
  • Institute a program that financially helps new teachers purchase a home;
  • Hire staff to support CPS families in danger of losing their housing, for example, by hiring full-time School Community Representatives at schools with the largest percentage of homeless students;
  • Ensure the city use TIF funds and revenue from real estate transfer taxes, a corporate head tax and a millionaire’s tax to fund affordable family housing units within the enrollment boundary of our Sustainable Community Schools;
  • Fully fund Section 8 voucher programs and expand Airbnb housing rehabilitation to properly house 15,000 homeless students by 2020.

In addition, the CTU House of Delegates passed a resolution in May in support of lifting the statewide ban on rent control. If approved, the measure could help prevent thousands of families from being displaced by gentrification. The CTU has also joined the Lift the Ban Coalition, which is working to end the statewide rent control ban.

Access to stable, affordable housing is critical to the success of our schools and communities. That is why the CTU made it a key plank in the Schools Our Children Deserve platform. We now need to work together with our families, students and community allies to make this vision a reality.

Student learning does not just depend on what happens inside classrooms, as rent drives families out of neighborhoods, or students live in fear of ICE.

We need sustainable community schools that service whole families, and safety practices that do not treat our kids like criminals. The CTU will fight for social justice for our students and their families with demands in the following areas:

  • Culturally relevant education
  • Increasing the number of teachers of color
  • Affordable housing
  • Homeless student assistance
  • Services for English Language Learners
  • True sanctuary for immigrant students
  • Building educator/parent partnerships
  • Fewer police in schools; more clinicians, counselors and restorative justice coordinators
By the numbers

36% | Percentage of students under 18 in households where no parent had a regular, full-time job in 2016.

10% | Decline in affordable rental units in Chicago since 2012.

16% | Percentage of employed Black teens in Chicago, compared to 29% across the country.

17,894 | The number of homeless CPS students by the end of the 2017-2018 school year‒4% of all students.

-$34,394 | The difference in median household income between white and Latinx families in Chicago.

-$44,982 | The difference in median household income between white and Black families in Chicago.

There are many ways to support the Union’s efforts for fair and affordable housing policies in Chicago. Email CTU education policy analyst Sarah Rothschild at SarahRothschild@ctulocal1.org to join our housing committee. Attend community meetings and rallies to share your stories about how homelessness or the lack of affordable housing impacts your school and your students. Lobby your state and city elected officials to work for rent control and affordable housing.