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Dear fellow CTU members:

You’ve supported our graduatesand all our studentsthrough a lifechanging and historic year. The end of the school year brings joy, excitement, relief and reflection. In that, this year is like others. In every other way, this year has been unique. Through it all, you’ve supported your students under tough circumstances and managed to change the world, in ways both great and small. And each of us can take pride that we’ve graduated another group of kindergarteners now on their way to elementary school, another cohort of 8th graders onto high school—and another class of graduating high school seniors onto the next phase of their young lives.

Our advocacy doesn’t end with the school year! We’re negotiating with CPS on guarantees that our schools will have what they need to open safely this fall—including adequate cleaning for every school; adequate soap, water and disinfectant for students and workers; PPE for all every day; temperature checks and adequate staffing of health professionals in our school buildings; and social distancing strategies—including smaller class sizes—that protect students, their families and workers.

Your voice in these negotiations is critical! Please take a moment to fill out our members’ survey on what conditions you want us to fight for in District and charter schools in order to safely return to school this fall.

Striking for what our students deserve: We started last fall with a mayor who won election on big education promises—but refused to guarantee those promises in writing. We’d already won a string of historic charter strikes—clear evidence that we’re stronger together. You shored up your school organizations, developed and promoted our contract demands, and built solidarity colleague by colleague. And for 11 days, you showed your power across the city. You inspired a nation, drawing support from high profile presidential candidates and grassroots residents alike. You won Chicagoans to our side and won major contract victories, from historic caps on class sizes to a nurse in every school. Passages Charter School CTU members also staged an enormously successful “strike within a strike”, winning sanctuary language for students and staff; grievable special education services; collaboration, prep time and raises for paras; and teacher salary parity with CPS. Together, we are seizing power from private charter contractors and centering that power in our rank and file where it belongs.

Educating during a global pandemic: You shifted brilliantly when the entire planet was threatened with the deadly impacts of COVID-19, caring for our students, hammering out details of remote learning, and coping with your own life challenges. Together, we’ve forced CPS to bargain with us on working and learning conditions during this pandemic, despite the obstacles that management has tried to force on us.

Black Lives Matter: Black and Brown youth and adults hit the streets with anger and purpose in May in the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd. Your students, both past and present, are at the forefront of this movement to demand the right to live in a nation that at last values and respects Black and Brown lives. This growing struggle is built on demands that the CTU has advocated for years: funding for restorative justice, physical and emotional health supports and fairly resourced public school communities instead of punitive policing and government-sanctioned repression.

Your life-changing impact as educators has helped our students develop the agency to lead this movement. In too many ways, our society is ruled by the short-term interests of corporate shareholders and the politicians who serve those elites. Educators are a different breed. We slowly, patiently invest in our children’s futures—when we teach pre-schoolers their letters, when we help third graders master division, when we introduce middle schoolers to the complexities of history and society, when we familiarize high schoolers with the essentials of biology, when we support students of all ages as they grow in the arts, in sports, in myriad self-directed pursuits, and in so many other ways. Most importantly, in every interaction, we help our students internalize and embrace their intrinsic humanity and dignity. By nurturing our students’ dignity and agency, we’ve helped them step up to demand real equality, small-d democracy, an end to racial terror and a truly sustainable and just world.

Your commitment to our students has won you the love of the people of this city. The people know that, as educators, we’re united in our commitment to our students’ humanity and fundamental rights.

We’ll take our demands for true equity to CPS and the Board of Education on June 24, as part of a national day of action to fully fund public education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, and provide the equal justice and true equity our students and families deserve. Join us in telling our employer that it’s time do do right by our students and their educators.

Watch your email for updates throughout the summer on next steps and developments as we bargain for safe, decent working and learning conditions this fall, and school communities that serve the needs and aspirations of every student. May your summer be restorative, restful, and full of the love and solidarity you’ve so generously shown to the children we educate and support.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
CTU President