A very interesting, and vital, development occurred during the second week of our strike against Chicago Public Schools. Early in the week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wished she had started to negotiate sooner on key issues related to our contract, including class size and staffing.
Then, on Wednesday of that week, House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a press release stating that two bills—HB2267, the elected school board bill, and HB2275, to restore the Chicago Teachers Union’s full bargaining rights—would receive full legislative consideration in the Illinois House during the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
An hour later, three state senators, Omar Aquino, Bill Cunningham and Rob Martwick, issued a joint press statement saying almost the same thing would happen in the Illinois Senate: HB2267 and HB2275 would receive full legislative consideration in a chamber where the bills have been bottled up for years.
Our strike not only resulted in enforceable class size limits, social workers and nurses in every school, and significant raises for PSRPs, it also gave new life to two key pieces of our legislative agenda, freeing them from the mayor’s grip. That is a powerful result of collective action.
One of the most interesting things about a strike, especially one as massive as the one we undertook last fall, is how it reverberates through spheres of power in ways we don’t always anticipate. It was clear after the 2012 strike that our public stature changed. Less clear, but also important, was the way in which our stature changed in forming public policy for our state government.
CTU members staked a claim that had been dormant for too long—that actual educators are the real experts in education policy—and used that claim as a starting point to build up, very carefully and deliberately over the next several years, a powerful political and legislative force in the statehouse, City Hall, and on the Cook County Board.
That force helped us bring more than $1 billion in new revenue to CPS annually; brought an end to racist teacher testing policies; ensured that we could address the substitute teacher shortage by allowing retirees to sub more without risk to their pensions; and ended the state charter school commission, which will put a real brake on charter school expansion. None of those legislative wins happen without a coordinated organizing, political and legislative strategy.
In the most recent case, our strike removed a brick that spanned two different mayors. And that is just one immediate impact.
Another impact is turning up real heat on how CPS funds its schools. During the second week of the fall veto session, the Illinois House Education Appropriations Committee held a hearing on HB3917, which would force CPS to abandon student-based budgeting. It would also encourage the spending of Illinois education dollars according to the state’s evidence-based school funding formula—on social workers, nurses, lower class sizes, professional development, education materials and all of the other supports we know schools need.
HB2267, HB2275 and HB3917 are the core CTU’s legislative agenda in 2020. Our strike demonstrated our power and unity and the Illinois General Assembly took note. But passing those bills will require the help of every CTU member.
Contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to support these three bills. Regular communication from constituents is a powerful, persuasive force in moving our agenda. If you don’t know your elected officials, you can click here to find them.
It is also vital that we support elected officials who support us. If you do not already contribute to the CTU’s Political Action Committee (PAC), click here to sign up today.
The CTU is focused on ending attacks on our pensions, and winning an elected representative school board in Chicago, progressive revenue solutions that will fund our school district and the full restoration of our collective bargaining rights. Winning those key aims requires electing education champions at all levels throughout the state. We also know that our students deserve supports both inside and outside of the classroom. That‘s why our agenda goes beyond school communities to encompass the needs of all Chicagoans.
Candidates seeking the CTU’s endorsement participated in an extensive screening process with rank-and-file members that included the completion of a mandatory questionnaire addressing a myriad of issues that affect the lives of educators and students. Recommendations from the rank-and-file Political Action Committee (PAC) were brought to the CTU executive board and ultimately voted on by House of Delegates, a body with some 800 members representing schools throughout the city
The delegates voted in December and January to endorse the following 17 candidates on the ballot in Illinois’ March 17 primary. Our power comes from our participation in the electoral process. Keep an eye out for more information on how to support CTU-endorsed candidates and please be sure to vote on Election Day.
Kurt Hilgendorf is an education policy analyst with the CTU.