News and Notes

Setting a new standard through our contract

Video still of CTU President Stacy Davis Gates on Chicago Tonight.

For nearly a generation, we’ve united our 30,000 members to win the schools Chicago students deserve, while fighting off corporate “education reform” that privatized, reduced budgets and programs, and closed our schools.

This moment and this mayor are different. We have an opportunity for transformative change that can genuinely address the segregation, privatization, and budget cuts that have harmed Chicago students for so long.

We are at the bargaining table with a plan to transform our school district, with bold proposals that will create the schools Chicago’s children deserve. Though we have a willing partner who shares our vision and our values in City Hall, these contract negotiations won’t be easy. We still have to grapple with a stubborn bureaucracy, inadequate state funding, and wealthy corporations funding Trump and the Illinois Policy Institute in order to pay fewer taxes and defund public education.

Easy or not, we will set a new standard for public schools in Chicago. We have a historic opportunity to win the schools our students deserve and advance our key contract demands. Read our latest contract update and watch WTTW’s interview with President Stacy Davis Gates.


“Make it make sense” – CTU demands CPS reverse PSRP layoffs

CTU member and PSRP Sandra Lockhart speaks before Board of Education meeting.

CTU officers, joined by rank-and-file members who have been laid off thanks to CPS’ disastrous budget cuts, spoke out before today’s CPS Board of Education meeting. “Make it make sense,” CTU Recording Secretary Christel Williams said of CPS CEO Pedro Martinez’s layoffs of 300 paraprofessionals. “Paraprofessionals are the heart of the building. To think you can operate our schools without PSRPs is ridiculous.”

Sandra Lockhart, a 20-year veteran instructional aide, questioned how CPS would support our Black and Brown students without veteran staff like herself. Sandra works in a school that already had a limited number of Black educators. And Edward Ward, a restorative justice coordinator facing his second layoff in two years, reminded CPS that they need Black male teachers like himself. “The work we do, we are not disposable,” he said. Watch the full video from this morning’s news conference.


SOI kicks off first week by sending message to CPS BOE

Group photo of the Summer Organing Institute interns.

This year’s class of Summer Organizing Institute interns.

In its 14th year, our Summer Organizing Institute kicked off its first week organizing against CPS budget cuts. Seven interns testified at today’s CPS Board meeting against the cuts that have laid off hundreds of vital, frontline school staff. Read their testimony and watch video from the board meeting.

Interns will have next week off and return in July to hit the streets, knocking doors to build support for our transformative contract proposals. Stay tuned for more reports from this year’s SOI.


Laid off PSRPs: respond ASAP to CPS displaced workers survey

Time is running out for laid off TAs to respond to the survey CPS sent out inquiring about whether or not they would be interested in working with students with disabilities. We are encouraging all TAs to complete the survey and answer ‘yes,’ as it will expand the number of vacant positions that they can be hired into. You can reach out to your field rep with any questions. Fill out the survey today!


Tell CPS and state lawmakers NO layoffs, budget cuts, our students need more

CTU members, including Financial Secretary Maria Moreno, pose with Gov. J.B. Pritzer in the state capitol.

We have a historic opportunity to transform our schools, but we must keep the pressure on CPS and elected officials to do right by our members and our students. SAVE THE DATE: CPS will be holding two public hearings on the budget at CPS Headquarters, July 16, at 4 p.m., and July 17, at 6 p.m. We will need a strong showing of members at the hearings to say NO to these to harmful budget cuts and YES to fully funding our schools, so stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, keep contacting your state legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to push for more school funding. And join with other CTU members to knock doors and reach out to community members about our contract demands. Contact organizing@ctulocal1.org to sign up for summer opportunities.


House of Delegates endorses 11 candidates for historic Chicago’s first ever elected school board elections

Our House of Delegates met last night and endorsed a historic slate of 11 candidates for the first ever Chicago school board elections in November. All of the candidates were thoroughly vetted and recommended by educators within our union.

Our union’s endorsed candidates are: District 1, Jennifer Custer; District 2, Ebony DeBerry; District 3, Jason Dones; District 4, Karen Zaccor; District 5, Aaron “Jitu” Brown; District 6, Anusha Thotakura and Brenda Delgado; District 7, Yesenia Lopez; District 8, Felix Ponce; District 9, Lanetta Thomas; District 10, Rev. Robert Jones.

Ebony DeBerry, Brenda Delgado, and Lanetta Thomas are Black mothers with children who are former and current CPS students. Each has made significant contributions as a community organizer dedicated to advocating for educational equity in Chicago’s schools.

Jason Dones and Felix Ponce, both Latine fathers and former CPS high school teachers, bring their unique perspectives as educators and parents, aiming to address and rectify the inequities within CPS. Jitu Brown and Rev. Jones, both Black fathers, participated in the hunger strike that saved Dyett High School, which is now a nationally highlighted, exemplary institution within CPS, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to educational justice and community action.

Jennifer Custer, Karen Zaccor, Anusha Thotakura, and Yesenia Lopez are educators and organizers who have dedicated their careers to working on education policy and striving to implement transformative changes that benefit all CPS students.

Stay tuned for more information about how you can help educate your neighbors about Chicago’s first ever school board elections!


Meet your big bargaining team

More than 60 rank-and-file CTU members have joined together to forge our union’s biggest bargaining team ever. In the coming weeks, we’ll be providing short snapshots of some of the team’s members. Thanks to everyone for the experience, knowledge and dedication they’re bringing to this struggle.

Dr. Denita Armstrong-Shaffer

CTU member Dr. Denita Armstrong-Shaffer.The daughter of two CPS teachers, Dr. Denita Armstrong-Shaffer has been walking the picket line for as long as she can remember. As a 26-year veteran educator, she has taught grades pre-k through fifth grade in four CPS schools plus schools in Louisiana and Missouri. Now, as a member of the union’s bargaining team, she hopes to be able to transition the school day to be more child centered for elementary students, the little ones who bring her the most joy as a teacher.

“Young children learn through play and songs and social emotional learning is so important for them,” she says. “These need to be woven throughout the day.” Plus, she believes all kindergarten teachers should have a full-time aid and all schools should be Sustainable Community Schools.

Armstrong-Shaffer wanted to serve on the bargaining team this year because as many voices as possible need to be heard at “the table.” She is hopeful that the first public bargaining session is a step toward a more transparent, fair and open bargaining process to meet the needs of our students.

Lauren Bianchi, Washington High School teacher

Photo of CTU member Lauren Bianchi.When Lauren Bianchi accepted a position at George Washington High School six years ago, little did she know that she would become a rank-and-file leader in CTU’s climate justice work. But she quickly learned about the history of environmental racism in the school’s southeast side community and she and her colleagues designed a curriculum that spoke to their students’ specific needs.

Now, as a bargaining team member, Bianchi hopes to push CPS to adopt our union’s healthy, safe, green schools proposals to remediate her school’s crumbling facility and provide healthy, green learning spaces for all CPS students. She also wants the district to adopt a curriculum that encourages students to become climate change leaders and provide better, healthier lunches. She says that’s the number one demand from her students.

“It has been really exciting to be a part of our largest bargaining team in CTU history,” she says. “I’m proud that we in CTU are fighting for everything our students and their families need to thrive.”


Bon voyage Richard Berg and Debby Pope, two lions of labor

Photo of CTU staffer Richard Berg.You’d be hard pressed to find a movement for labor, racial and economic justice that CTU staffers Richard Berg and Debby Pope have not been involved in these past decades. Richard came to work at CTU in 2016, after waging the good fight to reform his Teamsters Local 743, where he served as president. At CTU, he served as an organizer and charter division coordinator, where he helped guide the union through several historic and successful charter strikes.

Photo of CTU staffer Debby Pope.During her 34-year education career, Debby worked for four different CTU administrations. While a teacher, she served as delegate and, at CTU, she worked in communications, organizing and, most recently, as part of the grievance department, specializing in class size issues.

Richard and Debby’s knowledge and dedication have helped build our union into the fighting force it is today. Let’s offer them our deep appreciation and gratitude as they retire from their CTU staff roles. We may not see them in the CTU office every day but we know we’ll be seeing them in the streets.


We’re hiring: Lead field rep

Working under the direction of the Field Staff Director, this position will help to coach departmental staff in addressing contract violations and helping members to organize and challenge abusive working conditions and bosses. We are looking for someone with excellent knowledge of the CTU/CPS contract, polices and procedures and who is passionate about union rights and educational issues. Read more.


This Pride Month, labor movement is proud to be part of the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights

Multi-colored graphic celebrating 2024 Pride month.

June is a month of celebration and reflection for our LGBTQIA+ community. This Pride month, we are proud to be standing with our LGBTQIA+ siblings, students and community with contract proposals that include:

  • Gender affirming and inclusive healthcare coverage that is clearly communicated to staff and included in the health insurance handbook.
  • Clearly defined gender-neutral bathroom policy codified in the CBA.
  • More queer competent, trained service providers such as nurses, social workers, counselors, clinicians, etc. to assist and support staff, students and the school community as a whole.

Happy Pride month! Let’s stand together to demand equal rights for our LGBTQIA+ siblings and communities.


Discounted pet insurance now available for CTU members

Through CPS, members can now receive a 20 % discount on Spot Pet Insurance. The insurance covers dogs and cats with no age or breed restrictions. With a Spot plan, you can go to any licensed vet, emergency clinic, or specialist in the U.S. or Canada and receive up to 90% cash back on eligible accident and illness bills. Several plan options are available. Learn more, get a quote, and enroll at spotpet.link/cps. Also check out Spot’s FAQ or call 800-905-1595 and use code EB_CPS.


Tuition discount for CTU members

Tuition discount for CTU members! Earn your reading teacher endorsement or MA in Literacy Education / Reading Specialist License at Northeastern Illinois University with 33% off tuition. Application deadline for Fall: July 15. Click to sign up or email Dr. April Nauman at A-Nauman@neiu.edu.


Notices

July 6: Save the date! South Side Pride Festival

Multicolored flyer for the South Side 2024 Pride Festival.

The Right to Pride is the theme of this year’s Pride South Side Festival, July 6, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the DuSable, 740 E. 56th Pl. CTU will have a tent at the festival, which boasts entertainment, food trucks, and activities for all ages. Learn more and let us know you’ll be there.


Members corner

Do you want to give a shout out to one of your colleagues? Send your blurb (one to four sentences) to communications@ctulocal1.org for consideration in an upcoming Members Corner.


Events


In the News

CTUF Quest Center

Creative Journaling
Building a Restorative Classroom

Games and Learning
Art of Questioning and Discussion