Photo of CTU President Stacy Davis Gates.(Worth the read!)

I hope your first full week of summer break was incredible–You’ve earned this!

Are you ignoring the alarm clock and sleeping in? Or, eating ice cream mid-day, watching trashy reality TV, maybe you even got to spend time outside enjoying the beautiful weather last week? I hope so, but I assume you’re actually shuttling your kids to summer workouts or playdates, running errands and finally getting to that dentist or mammogram appointment, and even some of you, I know, signed up for PD classes last week. I saw many of you at our CTU-CPS first-ever public bargaining session (our side came to play!).

However you are spending these first couple of weeks of “leisure” time, please make room for some self-care, good food, and relaxing time with your family, friends, and for yourself.

Because next week, CTU needs YOU!

Sisters, Brothers, and Siblings: we have our work cut out for us. As I’ve said before, this year is different for CTU members because we changed the playing field. But that change is not without its challenges:

  • We must continue educating our elected officials in Springfield as we fight for Chicago’s fair share of education funding to build the sustainable school district our schools and communities need and deserve.
  • For the first time, Chicago voters will be electing 10 school board members in November. CTU members will be busy educating voters, campaigning, and electing a school board that is accountable to the people the schools serve.
  • We have to expand our work with allies and forge non-traditional partnerships to develop new creative ways to fully fund Chicago’s school communities.

CPS’ threats and layoff notifications

I am surprised — and not surprised — by how CEO Pedro Martinez has chosen to work with CTU. Our members helped to create this new era to transform our schools. We finally have a vital, willing partner, a middle school teacher, as mayor who is saying ‘Yes’ where previous mayors said ‘No.’  We have a mayor whose transition plan calls for creating the schools our children and city deserve, mirroring the vision of our movement’s struggle for more than a decade.

But the news is not all good. Despite CPS replacing student-based budgeting, which was long overdue, with a new, supposedly more equitable funding formula, CPS has failed to prioritize what our students and schools need. Instead, we received “draft budgets” that don’t add up and in the final week of school, hundreds of our members — a majority of whom are Black and Brown women — received layoff notices.

Pedro Martinez has options, and his first and second choice picks were wrong. In his first draft, he balanced the budget on the backs of Black and Brown women, the very workers who are the backbone of our school communities. Despite their dedication to our students, teacher assistants and paraprofessionals have had inadequate job security which only creates stress and uncertainty. CTU is making progress here as we pushed CPS to establish the layoff prevention pool for PSRPs. This guarantees that impacted CTU PSRP members will suffer no salary losses next year and will receive their full pay and benefits as they await placement and reassignments. This is similar to how the Reassigned Teachers Pool works for laid-off tenured teachers under our contract.

At a time when our students are making great gains in reading and math, outpacing pre-pandemic rankings, CPS eliminates teacher’s assistant positions. At a time when homelessness triples in the city, housing case workers get told there’s no place for them in our schools. At a time when our students are entering the most diverse, multilingual workforce and the rising prominence of newcomers in our school district, CPS lays off bilingual paraprofessionals.

Make no mistake. Despite our new mayor’s transformative vision for our schools, and in spite of the enormous classroom needs CTU educators have shined a spotlight on, Pedro Martinez is resorting to business as usual. I’m sorry, but the days of Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel, and Lori Lightfoot are long over.

Make it make sense. Is it a lack of vision, or is there something we’re not seeing?

As I said, things ARE different now because WE have changed the ecosystem. CPS may not yet have the vision to transform our schools, but CTU does. Together, we will make our vision for Chicago’s school communities a reality.

Enjoy this summer, especially with Juneteenth coming up on Wednesday, let us celebrate our resilience and commitment to our community.

But after this Wednesday, I need you to be ready for what’s ahead. And, remember — we decide what’s ahead.

Have a wonderful summer and together, let’s stay strong.