With union contract expiring in four days, equity for public schools remains a pipe dream, as CPS seeks to jam through racist revised school assessment policy and preserve status quo.
CHICAGO—Parents, students, teachers and school support staff rallied today and packed the first meeting of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointed board of education, to demand fair contracts for workers and real equity in Chicago’s public schools. But CPS continues to stall the CTU at the bargaining table. And they continue to bargain with the same obstructive CPS team that served the former mayor.
Teachers and their allies argue that a new board is no cause to celebrate until there is truly authentic change in CPS—built on real equity and educational justice for school communities.
That includes an end to Rahm Emanuel’s toxic student-based budgeting scheme; the replacement of the district’s racist, classist school performance metric, SQRP; smaller class sizes in a district plagued with over a thousand overcrowded classrooms; an end to the school district’s dire shortages of social workers, school nurses, librarians, school psychologists, special education teachers, bilingual education teachers and other critical frontline staff; and living wages and benefits for workers, including paraprofessionals—who can earn as little as barely $30,000 a year in a city gripped by escalating rents and a critical shortage of affordable housing.
The new board remains appointed rather than elected, even though Lightfoot campaigned on a pledge to support an elected, representative school board—then worked to undercut that legislation in Springfield.
The CTU rallied with allies before the board meeting today to call out persistent inequities in CPS and lay out their demands for educational justice—including improvements they seek to embed in a new labor contract.
“For the last two decades, the appointed board of education has rubber-stamped every bad idea pushed by CPS’ CEO and Chicago’s corporate elites,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “This mayor has announced she’ll pump even more dollars into a new west side police academy that thousands of residents don’t want, and handed over billions of public dollars for upscale Lincoln Yards and ’78’ developments. But she’s been silent on more resources for our students and their schools. Enough is enough. It’s time to instead say yes to adequate staffing, smaller class sizes, and the supports our students need. This new appointed board can start today—by scrapping a school ratings policy that is discriminatory and racist, and by ending CPS’ profoundly unfair student-based budgeting scheme, which does real harm to Black and Brown schools on the South and West Sides.
The CTU has embedded those equity proposals in its contract demands—but CPS continues to be represented by the same bargaining team that sought to undercut equity and claw back progressive gains on behalf of the previous mayor. With the contract between CPS and the CTU set to expire in four short days, there has been zero progress at the bargaining table on substantive issues.
“We’re bargaining an incredibly critical document—a contract that governs the terms and conditions of every worker who makes our schools run,” said Sharkey. “We will not work for a year without a contract—and if it takes a strike to force real progressive change in our schools, we’ll strike.”
The CTU is also calling on the new appointed board to commit to a timeline for elected representation and real democracy for the district. The legislature’s veto session begins on October 28, when the union and its allies expect to push again for a vote on that legislation in the State Senate. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the House—but stalled when Lightfoot asked Senate President John Cullerton to put a brick on the bill.
Watch the full livestream of today’s rally at this link.