Dear CTU family,

For nearly 15 years, 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. Here’s a recap of contract negotiations so far, with a preview of what’s to come.

Setting the Table: Invitations to Join Us in Bargaining

CTU President Stacy Davis Gates with CTU members at Richards Career Academy, a Community School on the Southwest Side. Holding this event at Richards shows our union’s commitment to sustainable community schools that provide the staffing, programming and resources that all our schools need to be vibrant and healthy spaces.

In March, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates set the tone when she called these our most ambitious contract proposals ever during her speech at City Club. These proposals, developed by rank-and-file members, and aligned with the mayor’s transition report on education, address everything from affordable housing to fair wages, to special education services and green schools.

In April, we publicly unveiled our contract proposals by inviting faith, civic, business, and governmental stakeholders to join us in public bargaining with Chicago Public Schools.

CTU members wearing their “Ask Me About My Contract” stickers.

You also helped us set the tone for these invitations: members across the city invited parents and community members to participate in this contract by wearing ‘Ask Me About My Contract’ stickers.

Let’s Get It Started: Big Bargaining Session

CTU members assemble after our first Big Bargaining Team session.

In the first month of bargaining, our 60+ member rank-and-file Big Bargaining Team—the largest bargaining team in our union’s history—presented our proposals about:

  • A library and librarian in every school.
  • Robust arts education.
  • Healthy, safe, green schools.
  • A better school day for elementary and middle school students.
  • Investment in early childhood education.

Since then, we’ve held bargaining sessions presenting our proposals on Special Education, Class Size, Wages and Benefits, Healthcare, Clinicians, LGBTQIA Rights, and Women’s Healthcare.

Historic, First Public Bargaining Session on Safe, Healthy, Green Schools

Community partner Olga Bautista, Co-Executive Director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, presents at public bargaining.

On June 15 we held a historic first-ever Public Bargaining session on Safe, Healthy, Green Schools, where our bargaining team members shared the concrete policy proposals our union has developed over the last year. These proposals, rooted in the experiences of our educators in the classroom and in their school communities, address crucial issues such as environmental sustainability, student health and safety, and the overall quality of our school facilities.

Next Bargaining Dates

We saw the impact of public bargaining during our historic session on Healthy, Safe, Green Schools. CTU and CPS have agreed to hold four to five more public bargaining sessions over the summer and into the school year, giving our communities a front-row seat to the critical issues CTU is negotiating for our members, students, and school communities.

Negotiations about educator retention and the REACH evaluation system will continue next week, on June 26. We will continue bargaining throughout the summer. We have upcoming sessions on dual language education, Sustainable Community Schools, and a better school day for students. In addition, CTU members will continue bargaining on proposals we have already presented. It will be a busy summer for CTU Bargaining Committee members!

BARGAINING COMMITTEE MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Rolando Perez, Brighton Park Elementary School (Sustainable Community Schools )

CTU member Rolando Perez at our contract kick-off event.

Sustainable Community Schools Bargaining Team member Rolando Perez teaches at Brighton Park Elementary School. Sustainable Community Schools (SCS), a key contract demand, is a model that is designed to fortify and support the vast majority of our schools that are pillars of the community. Our schools are anchors and must be properly resourced to provide holistic support for students and their families.

Rolando Perez, a Chicago Public Schools graduate who grew up in Little Village, is a restorative justice coordinator at Brighton Park Elementary, a sustainable community school. He understands the power of schools as a community hub for students. Mr. Perez sees how the sustainable community school model, integrating restorative practices for his students and their families, has changed their lives.

“How can a student be ready to learn when they come into a school, if they are not feeling fully supported socially and emotionally?” Perez asked during our press conference inviting new stakeholders into our contract negotiations.

For Rolando, these contract negotiations are an opportunity for us to not only expand CPS sustainable community schools from 20 to 200 schools, but to model what schools as community hubs can truly look like, where schools are a resource that can support everyone in our neighborhoods to counteract years of disinvestment, especially in Chicago’s Black and Brown communities.

Funding Our Schools: Springfield Must Fulfill Their Promise

CTU members rally in Springfield to demand our lawmakers fully fund our schools!

One thing we’ve gotten CPS to say “yes” to is acknowledging that our students deserve much more. To transform our schools and implement our proposals, state and federal lawmakers must do their part to fund Chicago schools fully. Under the state’s own formula, CPS is underfunded by more than $1.1 billion.

This is why hundreds of members went to Springfield at the end of the last legislative session, calling on the governor and General Assembly to honor their commitment to fully funding CPS and schools across Illinois. Our contract will require the resources that Chicago Public Schools students are owed from the state and federal government. We will be back in Springfield to demand that this promise is fulfilled!

We Need More: CPS’ FY2025 Budget

CTU members stand with our PSRP members rallying at a Board of Education meeting.

Next year’s CPS budget must prioritize what our students and schools need. So far, their draft budgets don’t add up, and in the final week of school, hundreds of our members—the majority of whom were Black and Brown women—received layoff notices. These layoffs highlight the real-life consequences of CPS’ budget decisions on our members and, ultimately, our students. We will not let these layoffs stand, and have been hard at work to create a retention pool that will protect PSRPs affected by these layoffs.

As we prepare for CPS’ July budget hearings, CTU won’t let CPS’ lack of vision prevent us from obtaining the contract our students deserve! Stay tuned-we’ll need to show our CTU strength in numbers at the budget hearings.

What’s Next for Our Contract?

CTU members are ready for action at our public bargaining session.

We’re done with “business as usual” in our negotiations with CPS. Because of your tireless work over the last decade for the schools our students deserve, we get to set a new standard for public education, one that districts around the country will aspire to. Getting this contract right is our responsibility to our students and our city.

CPS negotiations will be challenging, but they’re different because we have changed the ecosystem. CPS may not yet have the vision to transform our schools, but CTU does. We will make our vision for Chicago’s school communities a reality.

Stay united and ready for what’s to come.

The Chicago Teachers Union Leadership Team