Dear Union Sibling,
You may have seen the recent online attacks against my family and our union related to the school where my eldest child recently enrolled. This story was initiated by a disgruntled former CTU employee with a history of violent incidents who has stalked members of my family and made threats against other CTU members. He has now publicly doxed my teenage son online, posting his name, photo, school, sports team and more, violating my son’s privacy and threatening his safety and the safety of his schoolmates.
Let’s be clear: this crosses a line. We have a deep culture of debate and democracy within our union, but targeting children, exposing them to harm, or collaborating with extremist, racist, or anti-worker forces is not “debate” and cannot be excused.
Regrettably, whether you are an ardent supporter of building and investing in more high-quality neighborhood public schools or believe in “school choice,” we can all agree that options for Black students, their families and entire Black communities on this city’s South and West Sides are limited. That is precisely why CTU members have struck, organized, and worked hard to change our city.
While our fights and continued advocacy have secured more school resources, the inequities remain alarming. Not only are our classrooms the victims of compounded racism and redlining from decades past, but they are also struggling to recover from waves of school closings and disinvestment under previous mayors. Public and charter high schools in our Black and Brown neighborhoods are living and breathing examples of inequality. Nearly all lack the thriving extracurricular activities, sports programs, wraparound services or other ingredients that make for a high-quality neighborhood public school.
One of the few bright spots in all of this is you, the educators who show up daily, making the best of this unjust situation by giving your all for your students while also organizing to undo the decades of systemic underinvestment in marginalized communities. You are the professionals who should be writing education policy. Yet, sadly that role has been left to millionaires, billionaires and those living outside our neighborhoods, city and state.
These violent forces want to skip over the realities of racism and discrimination in educational institutions and propose a “choice” agenda that ignores this context. They want to ban books and diversity inclusion while ignoring the disproportionate suspensions, expulsions and criminalization of Black boys.
Here is the truth: If you are a Black family living in a Black community, high-quality neighborhood schools have been the dream, not the reality. Unlike some white counterparts on the North Side or in the suburbs, we aren’t blessed with quality options blocks away from our home, neatly placed near a grocery store, doctor’s office or a safe public park. Our schools are usually stranded in food and healthcare deserts.
Our critics want you to believe that “school choice” is a black-and-white issue that lacks nuance and hard choices for people like us, Black families–especially when you are parenting a Black boy in America.
For my husband and me, it forced us to send our son, after years of attending a public school, to a private high school so he could live out his dream of being a soccer player while also having a curriculum that can meet his social and emotional needs, even as his two sisters remain in Chicago Public Schools.
In Chicago, we have repeatedly witnessed the same school-choice operators who want to call me a hypocrite take action to shortchange students, engage in fraudulent practices and provide substandard services to Black and Brown families. Sadly, when we have stood up to fight for students in our communities—at district, charter or private schools—CTU educators, parents and students from the harmed communities are the only voices you hear while the right-wing, “school-choice” movement goes silent, which is a silence that speaks volumes.
Thank you for standing up for our schools and our union as well as for your personal support at this challenging time for my family. I appreciate being able to share these thoughts with my union family as we prepare for the challenges ahead.
The CTU has always fought and will continue fighting for the equitable resources that these school communities deserve. We will continue to oppose siphoning public school resources off to private institutions through voucher programs. And we will continue to fight against destructive and racist school closings that have left a trail of devastation in Black and Brown communities. We have helped show Chicago that a brighter future is possible, and we owe it to ourselves and to our city to do nothing less.
Yours in unity,
Stacy Davis Gates