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The Chicago Teachers Union is proud to release this updated and expanded version of our groundbreaking report first issued in 2012. The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve 2.0 (SCSD 2.0) looks at progress the CTU, parent, student, and community groups have made since 2012 and analyzes what remains to be won.

The different sections of the report are accessible using the red menus on this page.


Chief Author and Editor

Carol Caref, PhD

Editing, Research, and Proposals

Ronnie Reese, Pavlyn Jankov, Sarah Rothschild, Kurt Hilgendorf, Lillian Osborne, Jen Johnson and Chris Geovanis

Graphics and web design

Eric Ruder and Nathan Goldbaum

Special thanks to

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, who was instrumental in the report’s conception and promotion.

Executive Summary

In 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) issued the groundbreaking report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. The report provided a counter-narrative to ideas popular among corporate education reformers (or de-formers, as some like to say). The problem, as shown by decades of educational research, was not the teachers. The problems in education were the result of too-large class sizes, limited curricula, inadequate facilities, not enough support personnel, and lack of adequate funding. As further explained in the CTU’s A Just Chicago report (2015), issues in education are deeply connected to housing, health care, justice, and jobs.

The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve played a major role in the CTU strike of 2012. Yes, teachers, clinicians, and paraprofessionals needed to be paid fairly and have decent working conditions. Schools also needed to change in ways that better served our students. For example, the CTU forced Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to hire 512 additional art, music, and physical education teachers, giving more students access to a well-rounded curriculum. The CTU also won class size limits for special education classes.

The 2015 contract included more gains for both school workers and students. Because of the CTU’s fight, and the threat to strike again, 20 schools will have the opportunity to use the research-based practices described in The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. These 20 Sustainable Community Schools are just a start, but the CTU will continue to fight for more schools to have the additional resources they need to properly serve students.

The CTU’s political work resulted in a budgetary win for Chicago schools. In addition to giving CPS more money, the Illinois General Assembly passed a new funding formula (called Evidence-Based Funding, or EBF). The formula details the way state funding should be allocated to schools, based on numerous variables that demonstrate student need, and looks remarkably similar to the proposals made in The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve. CPS stubbornly clings to its student-based budgeting formula, which has resulted in draconian cuts to schools that need funding the most.

The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve 2.0 (SCSD 2.0) looks at progress the CTU, parent, student, and community groups have made since 2012 and analyzes what remains to be won. For example, the number of Black teachers continues to fall, but the CTU continues to fight for our students’ need to be taught by an integrated staff. Regular class sizes have not budged, although kindergarten–2nd grade (K-2) classes with more than 31 students now have a teacher assistant assigned to them. Many schools are still filthy, due to the disastrous outsourcing of custodial management to Aramark and Sodexo, but the CTU and parents forced CPS to conduct unannounced inspections and as a result, some of the worst messes were cleaned up.

School closings in Black neighborhoods and the subsequent displacement of both teachers and students are directly related to city policies that drive out working class Black families. From 2011 to 2017, CPS lost 30,525 Black students, accounting for much of the decrease in the CPS student population as a whole. The lack of good paying jobs, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing have led to an exodus of Black families from the city, which has decreased the number of school staff as well as the number of students. Affordable housing reached a crisis level when housing projects were torn down, subsidized housing was not replaced, and the housing market bubble of 2008 caused dramatic increases in foreclosures, particularly in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. Affordable housing is strongly connected to the CTU’s fight for the schools our students deserve.

CPS attacks on special education services from 2015 to 2017 were among the most egregious of CPS’ anti-student policies. Then-CPS CEO Forrest Claypool (the third CEO since 2012) transferred millions of dollars into the hands of his cronies at the expense of Chicago’s most highly vulnerable students. In response, the CTU’s educators waged a protracted struggle against the many CPS abuses, and as a result rolled back some of Claypool’s worst policies. The struggle forced CPS to add positions for 65 new teachers, 94 case managers, and 160 social workers to serve the needs of special education students. Union action also prompted the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to impose a monitor for three years to ensure that CPS is complying with special education laws. This is not enough, but it is a start. The CTU will remain vigilant in its efforts to fight for our students, especially those most in need and most vulnerable to the whims of greedy profiteers.

The CTU remains committed to doing whatever is necessary to organize and fight for the schools our students deserve. Among our priorities are improved pay and health benefits—especially for severely underpaid Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs)—lower staffing ratios, more Sustainable Community Schools, and advocacy for affordable housing. Unlike CPS, the CTU advocates for research-based policies that are known to positively impact our students’ education. SCSD 2.0 provides scaffolding for our Union’s fight.


Social Justice

CPS School Closings

From 2012 to 2018, the CTU increased its emphasis on social and racial justice as attacks on students and teachers of color escalated. School closings, declining numbers of Black teachers, increased gentrification, disproportionately high Black unemployment rates, racist police killings, and attacks on immigrants, all impacted CPS students.

CPS exposed its total disregard for the needs and wishes of parents, students, and teachers by closing 50 schools in 2013. Of the nearly 12,000 students displaced by these closings, 88 percent were Black. The school closures had a negative academic and social impact on the vast majority of students attending either closed or welcoming schools.

During the anti-closings fight, the CTU played a leading role in organizing community groups, parents, students, teachers, clinicians, and PSRPs to protest at hearings, publicize CPS’ faulty reasons for school closings, and march for three days from one school to the next, ending with a vociferous rally in the Loop. Although these efforts did not stop the 50 closings that year, they impacted future closings. CPS agreed to a school closing moratorium during the 2015 contract negotiations, and from 2013-2018, CPS closed fewer than 10 neighborhood schools.

Declining Numbers of Black Teachers

As a Black male educator, I serve as a mentor to students both in and out of my classroom. Often, they come to me for advice on how to navigate relationships with peers, teachers, and administrators. The bonds that I establish with students help them navigate their social environments in ways they can’t always achieve with other teachers.

—Jeremy Rowland, Crane Medical Prep H.S. teacher

The number of Black teachers has continued to shrink, going from 40 percent of CPS teachers in 2001 to 30 percent in 2010 and down to 21 percent in 2018. Since 2001, CPS has lost over 5,000 Black teachers, including 1,000 since the 2013 school closings. Turnarounds, layoffs, budget cuts to struggling schools, standardized-test-based accountability, and teacher evaluation have all contributed to the decline. The dual failures of the district to hire teachers of color and the state to support a development pipeline for teachers of color exacerbate the problem.

In 2001, there were just nine schools with no Black teachers, but in 2018, there were 60 schools without one Black teacher. No longer under a federal desegregation consent decree, CPS is free to ignore the needs of both Black and non-Black students to be taught by Black teachers. As one CPS teacher stated in an interview:

We are producing citizens comfortable being segregated, and that should be enough of a reason to do something about it. I would really like to walk into a public school in Lincoln Park or Lakeview and not be stared at or second-guessed because you’re not accustomed to dealing with people who look like me.

—CPS elementary school teacher

The CTU has publicized these disparities and lobbied CPS to hire additional Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American teachers. Also, the CTU took legal action against CPS, filing a class-action lawsuit in federal court claiming that CPS’ turnaround, school closings, and layoff policies caused disproportionate numbers of Black teachers and paraprofessionals to lose their jobs. The CPS teacher evaluation policy, REACH, has negatively impacted Black teachers and teachers at high-poverty schools. Due to pressure from the CTU, CPS has agreed to a joint study investigating ways to remove these disparities.

Chicago’s Schools: Triply Segregated

Chicago’s schools remain some of the most segregated in the country. Schools are often triply segregated—racially, economically, and by academic engagement. As the CTU reported in 2012, CPS student segregation is intense, particularly for Black students. In the 2017-18 school year, 65 percent of Black students attended schools where more than 90 percent of students were also Black. This is a slight decrease from 2012, but not because CPS has improved its integration policies. The decrease is because the 50 schools closed in 2013 were predominately poor and Black. The school closings, along with lack of affordable neighborhoods, and high unemployment, led Black families to leave Chicago in droves. As shown in the table below, from October, 2011 to October, 2017, CPS lost 30,525 Black students during a time when the CPS population as a whole decreased by 32,769 students.

CPS Student Population October 2011 October 2017 Change
White 35,528 37,933 + 2,405
Black 168,020 137,495 30,525
Latinx 178,284 173,790 4,494
Asian 13,270 15,113 + 1,843
Other 9,049 7051 1,998*
Total 404,151 371,382 32,769

*Mostly driven by a decrease of 1,532 students in the not available category.

As shown in the table below, racial disparities are also evident at selective enrollment schools, with white and Asian students over represented at these schools and Black and Latinx students underrepresented. Statistics are even more starkly racist if you look at the five top-rated high schools: Jones College Prep, Lane Tech, Northside College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep, and Whitney Young.

  Percent CPS Student Population 2017-18 Percent of selective enrollment school population 2017-18* Percent of enrollment at Jones, Lane, Northside, Payton, and Young
White 10.2% 27.5% 34.2%
Asian 4.1% 12.2% 13.7%
Black 37.0% 27.3% 11.9%
Latinx 46.8% 27.3% 33.3%
Other 1.9% 05.7% 06.9%

*Schools included in this analysis are: Jones, Lane, Northside, Payton, Young, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lindblom, and King College Prep high schools, and Decatur, McDade, Poe, Skinner North, Edison, Keller, and Lenart elementary schools. Other schools have selective enrollment policies for programs within their schools, but the demographics of these individual programs are not broken out in the CPS school data, so they were not included in this comparison.

In general, white students are becoming more segregated. In addition to their disproportionate attendance at selective enrollment schools, 31 percent attend schools that are at least 50 percent white. This is an increase since 2012, when 27 percent of white students attended majority white schools. The percentage of white students attending schools where fewer than half of the students are free/reduced lunch eligible has grown from 36 percent to 52 percent since 2012. CPS schools are becoming more segregated, by race, economics, and academic engagement.

Isolating students who are poor, Black or Latinx, or struggling academically sets them up as targets for market forces looking to profit at the expense of their education. For example, CPS targeted the four Englewood schools it now plans to close by flooding the area with 11 new charter or alternative high schools between 2009 and 2015, even though the population of 15- to 19-year-olds was declining.

Triply segregated schools are particularly vulnerable to disinvestment, resource deprivation, and closure. The CTU’s members, along with parents, students, and their communities fought mightily against the Englewood closures, and two of the schools are now phasing out, instead of closing—a minor victory, but one that puts the community in a better position to demand that the new Englewood high school be open to its students. CPS has a past practice of opening new high schools in poor neighborhoods but limiting enrollment of neighborhood students. This was the case with both Westinghouse and South Shore International College Preparatory High Schools.

River North parents and teachers at Jenner (predominantly low-income and Black) and Ogden (disproportionately white and middle-class) elementary schools fought CPS and won the right to integrate their two schools. It was a different story, however, on the Near West Side. Instead of taking advantage of the close proximity of Skinner West (overcrowded), Brown (under-utilized) and Dett (under-utilized) elementary schools to promote school integration, CPS is building a new $20 million annex for Skinner. Decisions like this are being made on the basis of what’s good for the real-estate and development sectors, and not what’s good for students.

Benefits to Integrated Schools

The CTU continues to advocate for school integration and also recognizes that segregation can exist within integrated schools. Still, research has identified benefits (below) for all students who attend racially and economically diverse schools.

  • Attending racially diverse schools is beneficial to all students and is associated with smaller gaps in test scores among students of different racial backgrounds, specifically due to increases in Black and/or Latinx student achievement.
  • Students of all races who attend racially integrated schools also have higher SAT scores and are less likely to drop out than students in segregated, high-poverty schools.
  • Racially diverse educational institutions help young people challenge stereotypes and their implicit biases toward people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. The research finds that such biases can be harmful to both those who hold the biases and the targets of these biases, causing both groups to be distracted from learning.
  • Students’ satisfaction and intellectual self-confidence increase when educators tap into the educational benefits of diverse classrooms by helping students challenge their assumptions and learn from more than one perspective.
  • Learning in integrated settings can also enhance students’ leadership skills.
  • Integrating schools leads to more equitable access to important resources.

Disproportionate Capital Spending in Gentrifying Neighborhoods

CTU members, parents and community residents testified at the 2018 CPS capital plan hearings about ongoing needs and neglect in their schools. As in previous years, this CPS budget shortchanges schools on the South and West sides with predominately poor Black or Latinx students. Schools with predominately white students received twice the capital funding of other schools.

(Source: WBEZ, Sarah Karp, 7-11-18)

As seen in the above graph, predominately white schools will see close to $2,800 per pupil in capital investment. While 10 percent of CPS students are white, 37 percent are Black, and 47 percent are Latinx, predominantly Black schools will receive less than $1,400 per pupil and Latinx schools will receive even less.

CPS has prioritized new construction over building upkeep and repair. From 2013 to 2017, CPS spent over $318 million on new buildings and additions. Most of the funding for facilities comes from issuing bonds, and the interest alone for new construction bonds could cost the district another $750 million. Its newest capital budget shows that CPS is committed to piling on hundreds of millions of dollars more in debt for new schools.This is debt that CPS will be using taxpayer money to pay off for decades, and money that won’t be used for needed repairs at other schools. In the meantime, hundreds of schools collectively need more than $3 billion in repairs, which include leaky roofs, unreliable boilers, and decaying windows that are made worse year after year, as critical needs are deferred. And yet, school staff, parents, and students have no way of knowing when, or if, their buildings will ever receive attention from CPS.

Lip Service to Restorative Practices

Restorative justice practices in my school are unevenly employed, which resulted in an unfair increase in the number of girls suspended.

CPS employee

Due to advocacy by students and others, CPS has made some progress in reducing school suspensions and expulsions. Even the CPS Student Code of Conduct now says: “Chicago Public Schools is committed to an instructive, corrective, and restorative approach to behavior.” However, CPS has not required restorative practices in its schools. Some teachers have adopted these practices, but others are left with no school-wide alternatives. Fewer suspensions are a good thing, but without an active, supported, restorative practices policy, problematic behaviors usually continue.

Restorative justice (RJ) addresses conflict and misconduct through a process of healing rather than punishment. A basic tenet of RJ is that misconduct and conflict injure those directly involved, as well as their broader community. Rather than relying on punishment, RJ expects those who cause injuries to make things right with those they have harmed and with their community. Its foundational principles are respect, accountability, healing, and empathy. RJ is not just a more humane way to address misconduct—it is also more effective at changing negative behaviors long term than traditional systems based on punishment.

The CTU Foundation conducts regular RJ trainings through its Quest Center. However, the whole-school impact of this training is necessarily limited because CPS does not staff RJ trainers or leaders in the schools. All of the RJ work CPS does is under the auspices of the Office of Social and Emotional Learning, which also has many other responsibilities. The entire 2019 budget for the Office of Social and Emotional Learning is $11.8 million. On the other hand, the Office of Safety and Security has a $94.2 million budget, including funding for 1,041 school security positions. CPS fully staffs police and security guards in schools, but funds only one RJ coordinator in the whole city.

Black Students Suspended and Expelled Disproportionately

While suspensions and expulsions have decreased overall, Black students are still disciplined disproportionately. At the CPS District (non-charter) level, there were 75 expulsions in the 2016-17 school year. At that time, about 37 percent of all students in the district were Black. However, 76 percent of students expelled were Black. This disproportionality is also evident in suspensions and police notifications, as shown in the table below. Black students are 1½ to two times as likely as other students to have an in-school suspension, an out of school suspension, or a police notification.

2016-17 suspension and expulsion statistics:

  All Black Latinx White Other
# of District expulsions 75 57 16 1 1
# of Charter expulsions 151 121 29 1 0


  All Black Latinx White Other
% unique In-school suspensions (ISS) 4.4% 7.3% 3.2% 1.8%
% unique out-of-school suspensions (OSS) 3.8% 7.6% 3.1% 1%
% police notifications 0.8% 1.5% 0.4% 0.3%

Another way to look at this is the disproportionately high rates of punishment in predominately Black schools. As shown below, students at schools with a Black student population of 90 percent or more are far more likely to be suspended or to have police notified than students in schools with less than a 10 percent Black population.

(Source: CPS 2017 Misconduct Report)

Police in CPS Schools

CPS has one restorative justice coordinator, but virtually every high school and some elementary schools have police stationed in the school. Police in the schools are unwarranted, and play a role in the criminalization of our students because even minor incidents get blown out of proportion, leading to unnecessary arrests. One study analyzed school arrests in 2011, and found that 86 percent were for misdemeanors. Further, there is no oversight of these adults in CPS schools. There is no effective disciplinary or review procedure when they step out of line, nor do school police have any youth-specific training or guidelines.

The City’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed the management of school resource officers (SROs) in CPS schools and issued a report in 2018. The OIG concluded that recruitment, selection, placement, training, specification of roles and responsibilities, and evaluations of SROs are insufficient. There is no legal agreement between CPS and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) regarding their use, and neither agency was able to provide the OIG with an up-to-date list of SROs. School employees and volunteers have to endure fingerprinting and background checks before they are allowed into a CPS school, but CPS barely tracks which police officers are in their buildings.

Eliminate Gang Database: Sanctuary and Safe Schools

An additional concern related to police in the schools is the CPD gang database. This system contains detailed information about individuals who are suspected or confirmed members of street gangs. Anyone—regardless of actual criminal conduct or active participation in gang activities—can be entered onto the list permanently at an officer’s discretion, without notification and without the ability to ever expunge their record. Entry into the database can cause devastating, lifelong consequences. Those in the database may be targeted for deportation, face increased police scrutiny, or they may be barred from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), visas, housing, and jobs. The designation can follow students for decades. The CTU has been active in campaigns to end to the gang database. Additionally, the CTU is fighting for schools to have the option of a restorative justice coordinator instead of police in their school.

An important CTU initiative promotes sanctuary and safe schools for all students. In April 2017, the Union joined several other organizations in drafting a resolution that called on the Chicago Board of Education to guarantee the “education, safety, emotional well-being, and family relationships” of students at risk due to their “immigration status, race, sexual orientation, or religion.”

The resolution pointed out that teachers and other adults working in schools are often the individuals students turn to for support, resources, and information. CPS students and school workers alike need to feel safe in their schools. The resolution also called for:

  • schools as a safe haven from immigration enforcement, discrimination, and stop/frisk policies
  • non-compliance with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • no access to schools’ databases, personnel, or other resources by Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • schools as a first point of safety for families under threat of deportation
  • additional funding to serve students and families experiencing violence or immigration-related trauma
  • training of school personnel about undocumented students’ rights, sanctuary schools, and related issues; and
  • emergency plans to protect students from deportation, shootings, or other forms of violence

Sustainable Community Schools

An important win in the CTU’s 2015-19 contract is a commitment to Sustainable Community Schools (SCS). The term sustainable indicates that providing needed services to students is not a one-shot, temporary arrangement, but a sustainable, multi-year change to educating the whole child, with family and community partner involvement at the core. The SCS model builds transformational schools where students, parents, and their communities play key roles in their children’s education, in partnership with educators. The model supports racial and social justice. A core objective of SCS is to provide equity to CPS students of color.

The first cohort of 20 schools began in 2018-2019. The ultimate goal is for all schools to have the robust staff, programming, and parent and community engagement that are key components of Sustainable Community Schools. Health services, needs of Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS), after-school programs, social-emotional supports, parent mentor programs, and restorative justice coordinators are all components of SCS. The expansion of this model to more schools is a priority of the CTU.

Trauma and Sexual Predators

Life stressors and traumatic experiences such as gun violence, abuse, neglect, family dysfunction, experiences of poverty, housing instability, extreme discrimination and community violence all affect how young people learn and cope with school. These factors can be offset, however, by the presence of stable, caring adults. School social workers and other clinical staff are therefore essential, particularly in the many CPS schools where traumatic experiences are common. School social workers not only provide direct services but also support children by educating family members, school staff, and community members. With the CPS ratio of one social worker for 1,238 students—close to five times what is recommended by the National Association of Social Workers—most students will not receive the trauma-informed care they need.

Two Chicago Tribune exposés about sexual predators in schools highlight the urgent need for CPS to address understaffing of school clinicians. CPS schools need trained experts who can identify signs of trauma and abuse—including sexual abuse—and provide support to victims. Yet, CPS has ignored the CTU’s call for an independent task force to tackle staffing needs, develop best practices in the schools, and identify strategies to undercut reporting roadblocks. The 108 nurses, 175 school psychologists, and 250 social workers, employed to serve more than 360,000 students, are consumed by the burdensome paperwork requirements for providing services to special education students, leaving no time for much-needed trauma support and therapy for all students.

For more information on non-school issues that impact students and their education, see Non-School Issues Impacting Education.

Social Justice Demands

  • No more school closings.
  • Double the number of Black and Latinx teachers.
  • End school segregation.
  • Require selective enrollment schools to admit proportionate numbers of students of color.
  • Invest capital spending equitably across the district.
  • Fully implement restorative practices in every school.
  • End disproportionate expulsions and suspensions of Black students.
  • Take police out of the schools.
  • Eliminate the gang database.
  • Provide sanctuary for students and their families.
  • Make CPS a Sustainable Community Schools district.
  • Staff at least one social worker in every school to address trauma among students.


Professional Teachers


In 2012, the U.S. was still recovering from the 2008 recession. That is, the wealthy were recovering, banks were bailed out, but working class people were still struggling. The auto industry received multi-million-dollar government subsidies. Teachers, however, were told there was no money available to fairly pay them. Contrary to right-wing propaganda, educator pay and job security are directly related to needs of students. In West Virginia, for example, low pay for teachers led to a teacher shortage crisis, leaving thousands of students with no teachers. Teachers in that state recently won a 5 percent pay increase after striking for nine days.

There are also shortages in Chicago. Every year CPS announces exceptions to its Chicago residency requirement for teachers. These exceptions are for positions that have been hard to fill, and there are 16 positions listed, including counselors, many categories of clinicians, and teachers of special education, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), ESL (English as a Second Language), CTE (Career and Technical Education), and world language.

Educator pay relative to pay for other professionals is low. Because of this, workers with college degrees often choose higher paying jobs, leading to shortages in teaching staffs. A 2016 Economic Policy Institute study revealed some interesting facts. From 1996 to 2015, teachers’ average weekly wages decreased $30 a week; wages of other college graduates rose $124 a week in the same time period. Unionized teachers have a smaller gap, but even unionized teachers make less money than other college graduates.

The CTU has nevertheless been able to fight for modest salary increases during this time and will continue to fight in the future. During bargaining for the 2015 contract, CPS demanded a 7 percent pay cut, in the form of having teachers (instead of CPS) pay 7 percent of pension costs. CPS was able to impose this pay cut on non-union employees, but the CTU’s strike preparation forced the district to take this demand off of the table for unionized employees. The 2015 contract preserved a compensation system that values teacher, clinician, and PSRP education and experience.

CPS employees are required to live in Chicago, which means the city’s rising housing prices are an issue for employees as well as students’ families. From 2017 to 2018, housing prices increased by 6 percent and mortgage rates increased as well. CPS needs to pay teachers, clinicians and PSRPs salaries that enable them to afford Chicago’s high housing costs. Chicago’s developers and tech-billionaires, who are growing richer by the minute, benefit from the educated work force that Chicago’s teachers create. Instead of tax breaks, they need to have tax obligations that require them to contribute to Chicago’s public institutions. (See Fully Funded Education.)

Public educators and paraprofessionals who work at charter schools are, on the average, vastly underpaid. Their salaries are 20 percent to 30 percent lower than district school salaries. Charter management organizations (CMO’s) treat their staff like second class educators. The CTU took an important step in eliminating these disparities when it changed its structure to allow charter school educators and paraprofessionals to join the CTU. As a united, federated union, district and charter school members can now fight together for fair compensation and the education our students deserve, as shown by the wins of the 2018 Acero strike.


The problem of the disappearing Black teacher, identified in 2012, has gotten worse. CPS claims to be committed to a more diverse teaching staff, but statistics indicate otherwise. When CPS closed 50 schools in 2013, the number of Black teachers dropped precipitously. Both the REACH teacher evaluation system and student-based budgeting (see Fully Funded Education) contributed to decreased numbers of Black teachers. In 2012, the percentage of Black teachers reached a low of 30 percent. By 2018, CPS teachers were only 21 percent Black and 16 percent Latinx. (See Social Justice.)

The CTU won provisions in the 2015 contract that expanded the rights of laid-off tenured teachers. The Union also fought and won additional school revenue; as a result, fewer teachers, PSRPs, and clinicians are being laid off. On the other hand, CPS implemented student-based budgeting, which has wreaked havoc in many South and West Side schools, including displacement of teachers. In Englewood, as the numbers of students in the area started to decline, CPS approved more charter and alternative schools in the area, continuing a reckless practice that has been in place since Arne Duncan was district CEO. This expansion, in combination with disinvestment from neighborhood schools, had the predictable effect of fewer students attending traditional CPS schools. Now Robeson and TEAM Englewood have closed, while Hope and Harper are being phased out.

School closings in Black neighborhoods and the resulting displacement of both teachers and students are directly related to city policies that drive out working class Black families. The lack of good paying jobs, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing (related to tearing down but not replacing public housing, as well as the 2008 foreclosures), pushed 250,000 Black Chicagoans out of the city in the last 20 years.

The immigration of Latinx families has slowed as well. The students CPS has lost are only partially replaced by the families of predominately white professionals moving into the city. Many of those new families segregate themselves into areas with concentrated wealth and expensive private schools.

Teacher diversity is necessary. Students of color need educators of color and all students need to experience a racially diverse set of teachers. Students of color who have teachers of color have fewer discipline issues and better academic outcomes. White students need to see Black and Latinx adults in their schools teaching, and not just pushing brooms or serving lunch. There are 60 schools in Chicago with no Black teachers; just as harmful are the 106 schools with only one or two Black teachers and the 145 schools with only one or two Latinx teachers.

Teacher diversity, however, is only the beginning. If teachers experience racism at their schools, then diversity is just a statistic. Diversity cannot mean that Black teachers are de facto disciplinarians for Black students or Black teachers are not seen as equal contributors to the intellectual life of the school. Diversity is insufficient if teachers are discouraged from or not allowed to teach material that promotes racial understanding or racial justice, or are mandated to teach from material that downplays or ignores racism.

Substitute Teachers

Regularly assigned teachers are often treated disrespectfully, but substitute teachers are usually treated worse. Substitutes are vital, yet often unappreciated, members of the school community. When their services are needed, they are often called the same day, and must be prepared to fill in for a teacher of any subject matter or grade level. Many substitute teachers buy materials with their own money. These teachers often encounter rudeness from students and staff alike, and some principals try to take advantage of them by assigning extra work. This has gotten worse since 2012, when CPS took away teachers’ right to bank sick days. Many administrators coerced teachers into covering classes for their absent colleagues because there were insufficient numbers of substitutes. Due to pressure from the CTU, CPS made changes for 2018-19 school year that may lead to a larger substitute teacher pool. The changes include monetary incentives to work at schools with historically insufficient numbers of substitutes.


A significant change for teachers, which has taken place since 2012, is the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system, which CPS named Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago Students (REACH). The underlying law requiring the new system was rapidly pushed through the Illinois legislature in 2010, in anticipation of federal Race to the Top funds. Teacher evaluation mandates were developed and promoted by corporate funders like the Gates Foundation and TNTP (formerly, The New Teacher Project), who claimed that the main problem in education was that most teachers had inflated evaluation scores. This claim was wrong on both counts; teachers’ evaluations were not inflated, and poor educational outcomes are mostly due to poverty and racism. Millions of dollars and countless hours of principal and teacher time later, the REACH evaluation system found that 89 percent of teachers achieved one of the top two ratings during the 2016-17 school year.

On the other hand, teachers who have received lower ratings are disproportionately those who teach in economically-disadvantaged schools or are Black or male, according to a 2016, University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR) report. These lower ratings, the CCSR found, are driven by evaluators’ observation scores, not test scores. Schools serving high-poverty students are schools that lack much-needed resources, including sufficient numbers of nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors. Their class sizes are too large and their schools are often disorganized. Teachers in those schools have, on the average, lower evaluation scores because of school climate issues, not because the teachers are less able.

The lower evaluation scores given to Black teachers in particular, are driving many to leave the system, voluntarily or otherwise. Further, CPS does not appear to value their importance in the classroom. In many schools, Black teachers, especially those at the top of the pay scale, are targeted for dismissal. Latino teachers and other teachers of color have also received lower evaluation scores. A win in the 2015 contract requires CPS to participate in a joint study investigating ways to remove these disparities.

The CTU has fought hard for changes to REACH, starting with the 2012 strike, which won an appeals process, a decreased weight for the testing component, and a rigorous Joint Teacher Evaluation Committee. The CTU won additional needed changes to REACH in the 2015 contract, including the incorporation of best practices that principals now must follow. The fight continues. As the results of both the old evaluation system and the new one indicate, the vast majority of teachers do not need to be continuously evaluated. Some teachers need intensive supports, and they should receive those. For most teachers, however, having time to work with their colleagues in collaborative professional learning groups is considerably more helpful than REACH evaluations. Yet, most teachers have few opportunities to use their preparation periods in this way. Students deserve teachers who are treated as professionals.

Treating Teachers Like Professionals

While students in well-funded private and suburban high schools are engaged with dynamic, meaningful questions, concepts, and ideas, their public school counterparts are being fed quick-fix “test prep” that fails to nourish them emotionally, intellectually, culturally, and even morally.

—CPS high school teacher

An important part of every teacher’s job is student assessment. Traditionally, teachers have used a wide variety of assessments, tailored to the class and subject. Standardized tests have been a feature of schools for decades, but their numbers have increased dramatically in this century. In 2005, Chicago’s students took two standardized tests, and CPS eliminated one of them, saying “they were spending too much time on standardized tests”.

By 2018, CPS testing was out of control. In addition to tests required by the state, tests used for teacher evaluation, and tests for special programs, CPS network chiefs regularly required progress monitoring every five weeks or made other testing demands. Because a school’s rating is heavily dependent on student test scores (65 percent of elementary and 40 percent of high schools’ rating is tied to testing), principals feel obliged to mandate several practice tests as well. The CTU won in the 2015 contract the right to vote on whether to give certain tests at their schools. Teachers and students have since received some much-needed relief from relentless testing, but the struggle continues to return testing autonomy to the teacher.

Similarly, CPS has attempted to micro-manage teachers’ grading. This is another responsibility that teachers have always had, and one that is dependent on the objectives of the class and the particularities of the students in the classroom. The CTU won contract language on this issue as well, and some of the more odious impositions of grading policies have ended.

CPS initiatives that take classroom decision-making away from teachers are similar to teacher-proof curricula. These materials aim is to minimize teachers’ control through scripted curricula and other resources that give educators little room to deviate, even when student needs indicate they should. With the new emphasis on computerized personalized learning, many people imagine that CPS may start to decrease the role of teachers and increase the role of computers in student learning. This would be great for tech companies, horrible for Chicago students, and something that would never be suggested for wealthy or private school students. The CTU will continue to fight for the teachers our students deserve.

Professional Teacher Demands

  • Pay all teachers fairly.
  • Diversify the teaching staff.
  • Treat substitute teachers respectfully.
  • Eliminate REACH.
  • Give teachers grading and assessment autonomy.


Fully Staffed Schools

In 2012, staffing of nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors was way out of whack with recommendations from professional organizations. In the years since, the situation has worsened. Because the CTU has organized around this issue, CPS opened 160 social work and 94 special education case manager positions for the 2018-19 school year. These positions, however, have largely remained unfilled. At the start of the year, there were only 38 more social workers than last year.

Since 2012, staffing cuts across the board to nurses, social workers, school counselors, psychologists, librarians, and teacher aides have jeopardized the health and well-being of the district’s overwhelmingly low-income students.

The CTU has made adequate staffing of school social workers, nurses, psychologists, librarians, and teacher aides a part of every major campaign. However, CPS stubbornly insists on ignoring both the recommendations of every major professional organization and the evidence from school workers and parents that CPS staffing policies are inadequate. The skyrocketing number of vacant positions for vital services has worsened the squeeze on schools’ already bare-bones staff.

Note: Staffing numbers reported in this section are calculated from CPS Position Files.


Our school has a number of teacher assistant (TA) positions that provide support to all classrooms. These TAs allow for more enrichment and interventions as they can run small groups and collaborate with teachers to help with instructions. These positions are dependent on parent fundraising and support. The fact that some schools can afford this support while others cannot, represents one of the many disparities within CPS.

—CPS elementary school teacher

PSRPs (paraprofessionals and school-related personnel) serve vital functions in the schools. They are the many unsung heroes, whose work makes children’s education possible. Many work quietly on the sidelines and some work on the front lines to make sure records are kept, students have their needs met, and overcrowded classes have an additional educator. PSRPs are clerks in the office, teacher’s aides of all varieties, library assistants, and other adults in schools who provide valuable services to students. Teachers and clinicians know that their jobs would be impossible if not for the hard work of their fellow educators.

From 2012 to 2018, 754 PSRPs lost their jobs, a reduction of 20 percent. More than a quarter of all teacher assistants[1] were laid off or reclassified between 2012 and 2017. School clerk positions were cut by 22 percent between 2012 and 2017.

To add insult to injury, PSRPs are not paid enough. The federal government standard in 2017 for a family of four who earn so little their children are eligible for free lunch, is $31,980 a year. Close to a quarter of PSRPs earned less than this in 2017-18. About 2/3 of PSRPs earned less than $45,510 a year, the amount that makes a family of four eligible for reduced lunch. These hard-working staff members, so crucial to students’ education, who have to live in Chicago and pay the city’s high housing prices, need to be paid appropriately.


I had a student who took a medicine every day at 11:30 a.m.; it became my responsibility to leave my classroom to administer this medication to the student on the many days a nurse wasn’t present.

—Rula Mansour, Skinner West teacher

The school nurse, tending to the health of all students, no longer exists in CPS. In 2017-18, the average school had the services of a certified school nurse (CSN) one day a week, and the average CSN had to visit five different schools every week. What’s worse, there were 20 nurses assigned to six or more schools a week, and two had as many as 12 schools to visit every week. (data from Freedom of Information Act request to CPS in the spring of 2018).

Nurses are assigned to students receiving special education services, which is required by law, and are seldom able to attend to other students’ health needs. In 2017-18, CPS employed only 108 CSNs, down from the already low 201 CSNs employed in 2012. One school nurse for every 2,859 students is a far cry from the ratio of one nurse for 750 students recommended by the National Association of School Nurses.

Psychologists and Social Workers

At my school, we had a student that showed increasingly more disturbed and violent behavior. Each year, his classroom teacher requested support through the proper medium. Finally, the student began to act out, even cutting a girl in class. He still did not receive services because we did not have the personnel to do so.

—CPS employee

Like nurses, school social workers and psychologists are assigned to serve special education students only. The need for schools to attend to all students’ social-emotional needs is particularly acute in Chicago, where 78 percent of students’ families are low income and 89 percent are students of color. Poverty and racism are known stressors. Students with multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are more likely to fail a grade, drop out of high school, or in other ways disengage from school. When CPS cuts vital services like school social workers, school psychologists and school nurses, students, parents and teachers all suffer. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends one school psychologist for, at most, 700 students. In CPS, the ratio in 2017-18 was one psychologist per 1,760 students, and one social worker per 1,238 students, close to five times what is recommended by the National Association of Social Workers. Further, from 2012 to 2018, the number of school social workers declined by 12 percent.


The Learn. Plan. Succeed graduation requirement puts further pressure on understaffed high school counselors and college/career coaches, yet schools lost over 152 counselors from 2011 to 2018. CPS changed its budgeting formula, thus decreasing the number of school counselors available at many large elementary and high schools. The American School Counselors Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students. In 2017-18, each school counselor was responsible for 444 students.


Our school lost the librarian even after the students organized and demonstrated with a sit in. The library was the heart of the school. Now that is gone, and there is no one to run the computer lab. Students can’t check out books to read, and the history fair had to be suspended. Kids have no place to go to just read and relax.

—Nhora Gomez, Williams Prep School of Medicine teacher

In 2012, there were about 160 schools without librarians. As shown in the graph below, the number of librarians has steadily decreased, and by 2019, there were only 128 CPS librarians[2]. Most schools on the South and West sides have no librarians at all, and the majority of schools with librarians are concentrated on the North Side. Librarians are a necessary part of the school community, and checking out books is not their primary purpose. For example, they teach students to distinguish between fake news and quality sources. Librarians also collaborate with teachers to supplement lesson plans with advanced research tools and databases, and help students find books of interest that are within their skill range. CPS does a great disservice to students by denying them the services of librarians.

Data compiled from CPS Budget documents and WBEZ report.

Fully Staffed Schools Demands

  • Fully staff clinicians according to the recommendations of their professional organizations.
  • Pay PSRPs at least $45,000 a year.
  • Employ a nurse in every school.
  • Employ a counselor for every 250 students.
  • Return librarians to every school.

[1] Including teacher assistants, instructor assistants, school assistants, bilingual school assistants, and bilingual teacher assistants

[2] Every year, the number of librarians is over-reported, because in many schools, librarians are assigned to classroom teaching positions, full time or part time, instead of being assigned to work in school libraries.


Class Size

I notice that when I do have a class size of 20 or fewer students, more is accomplished in that class and students tend to perform at a much higher level than when there are 28-32 students.—CPS high school teacher

My students come into my classroom as very low performing students, but they grow. One year I had 38 5th grade students in one class. I didn’t have the support for a classroom of that size and not enough resources. They needed more support.—CPS elementary school teacher

The number of students in my class has increased over the past few years. With 32 students in the room, it limits the amount of space I have to incorporate play, kinesthetic movement, simulations, dramatization, and the use of flexible seating. Knowing that all of these strategies speak to brain-based learning, I feel my students are missing out on opportunities to make learning more authentic and meaningful. —CPS early childhood National Board Certified Teacher

As the CTU has pointed out since 2012, the results of Tennessee’s Project STAR and other studies left no doubt about the advantages to students of small class sizes. Even if the smaller classes are only in grades K-3, students receive long-lasting advantages, including a greater likelihood of attending and graduating college. CPS has conducted its own experiments on Chicago’s students to see if students would benefit from large class sizes, combined with a continuous parade of untested educational products promoted by cronies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel or any of his handpicked CEOs. The result: corporate pocketbooks have benefited, but not CPS students.

I have had class sizes of 40 and 42 consistently in high school music class. This large class size does not allow for sequential curriculum or for students to have fair opportunities for learning.—CPS high school teacher

TAs in Oversized K-2 Classrooms

In 1995, CPS urged Illinois legislators to pass school reform law, which, among other things, prohibited collective bargaining with the CTU over class size—unless CPS agrees to do so. As a result, class sizes in Chicago have remained large, with 28-32 students in most classes and up to 34 in high school music and 40 in high school physical education classes. The CTU was able to win in the 2015 contract a provision wherein CPS agreed to spend up to $6 million dollars a year for teacher assistants (TAs) in K-2 classrooms with more than 31 students.

In 2018, in response to pressure from the CTU, CPS agreed to place 70 TAs into overcrowded classrooms as soon as they were identified on the 10th day of school. Because of this win, many students in overcrowded classrooms now will have the services of TAs for the majority of the school year. In the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, more than $7 million that was supposed to help relieve overcrowding went elsewhere, leaving students in large classrooms with one teacher and no assistant. In too many cases, CPS waited until the second semester of school to attempt to hire and assign TAs to overcrowded classrooms. By then, principals reported, it was difficult to find qualified candidates. As a result, in the 2017-18 school year, only 110 of 144 eligible classrooms were assigned a TA. Therefore, most of the six million dollars allocated for TAs in 2016-17 and 2017-18 was not spent for that purpose, and CPS chose not to roll over the money for use in future years.

In 2012, the CTU calculated that it would cost CPS approximately $170 million to lower class sizes in all K-3 classrooms from 28 to 20. CPS’ 2019 operating budget is close to $6 billion; the $170 million calculated in 2012 would be less than 3 percent of this budget. At a minimum, CPS should lower K-2 classes in struggling schools to 20 students.

For example, it would cost CPS about $30 million to lower all K-3 classes in level 3, 2, and 2+ schools to 20 students. A city that can find $55 million for a private university’s basketball stadium can find $30 million to give Chicago’s students in struggling schools a better shot at their education. CPS could partially fund smaller classes with the more than $7 million that was budgeted, but not spent, for TAs in overcrowded classrooms.

High CPS Class Sizes

Lowering class size, even in a subset of schools or classes, would be a step in the right direction. It would counter the trend in CPS to have larger, not smaller, classes. In the 2017-18 school year, for example, 19 percent of elementary school classrooms had more than the already large, CPS-imposed limit of 29 in K-3 (and 32 in grades 4-8). This is 1,434 classrooms. Also, 13 percent of high school classes were over the already large high school class size limit.

CPS has the highest class sizes across grades 1-4 of any school district in the entire Chicago metropolitan area. Also, average class sizes in CPS across the early grades were higher than those in 90 percent of Illinois school districts in 2016[1].

Limitations of the 1995 school reform law prohibit language in the CTU-CPS contract making stated class size limits subject to the grievance procedure. Instead, there is a joint Board of Ed-Union panel to monitor class sizes. This panel receives notice of class size violations from schools and investigates them, and then determines remedies such as hiring a TA, opening an additional classroom, or paying the teacher more for the extra students. This process is slow and cumbersome, and the panel is only able to assist in about 30 schools each year. In school year 2017-18, 24 staff were hired to relieve overcrowding, but many schools reported they were unable to open additional positions because they didn’t have the money.

The least CPS can do is streamline the process for identifying and providing relief to overcrowded classes. They need to quickly fill TA positions in K-2 classes with more than 31 students. The CTU will continue to fight for the smaller class sizes our students deserve, especially for students attending under-resourced schools.

Class Size Demands

  • Lower class size to 20 students in a class.
  • Employ teacher assistants in every primary classroom.

[1] 2017 ISBE data are erroneous




My pre-school classroom has a bathroom, and at one point during last school year, our bathroom was only being cleaned once per week. There would be urine on the toilet, paint from students’ hands in the sink, etc. The custodian showed us his “cleaning schedule” from Aramark that indicated Thursdays were the day he was to clean our bathroom.

—CPS elementary school teacher

This year with the new company taking over, I felt the strain of keeping my classroom clean. There are many days where I have not had trash taken out, floors cleaned or mopped, or bathrooms kept clean. I spent my personal money on cleaning tools and supplies and spent time after school to clean for my students. I couldn’t fault the janitorial staff because they were not given the resources to do their jobs.

—CPS teacher

Since 2012, schools have gotten filthier. Parents at Mollison School, for example, had to keep their children home for a time in 2017 because the rat infestation there was so bad. The problem stems from CPS’ 2014 decision to outsource the management of custodians to Aramark and Sodexo. As soon as the ink was dry on their contracts, these companies began cutting custodial positions. Previously, custodians were assigned to one school and worked under the direction of the principal or the building engineer. No longer can a principal point out a cleaning issue to the custodian and have it addressed. Now, assignments are made by a person who is not on site and who is more interested in corporate profits than making sure schools are clean.

CPS claimed that they outsourced custodial management to save money. Yet there has been no accounting of what money has actually been saved. In the meantime, the hard-working custodians working for Aramark and Sodexo are making less money than they previously were, worsening Chicago’s poverty statistics. Poverty and education are closely related (See Poverty and Racism Impact Education in Non-School Issues Impacting Education.)

In December 2017, three years after the Aramark and Sodexo contracts were first signed, only 91 of 125 schools passed cleaning inspections during an unannounced inspection blitz by CPS. Previous to this surprise cleaning inspection, CPS alerted Aramark and Sodexo about inspections, so the companies could send extra staff to schools; not surprisingly, most of the schools passed these inspections. Subsequent surprise inspections, conducted in the first part of 2018, revealed that 102 out of 408 schools failed their inspections.

CPS capital repair needs have changed little since 2012, when the CTU first identified schools with leaking brown liquid, asbestos exposure, falling plaster, and water damage. Because there is no public accountability system to ensure our students learn in safe buildings, similar issues were exposed in 2018. For example, a Local School Council member from Nixon School said this at the July 25, 2018, Board of Education meeting:

We have a gym that doesn’t have air conditioning in it. The building is from the 1800s; you still have fitness equipment from the 1800s when it was a high school not meant for what it is today, which is a K- 5 school. You can see the linoleum floor on there is chipped and warped and broken; kids often get hurt on that and trip.

One of the most egregious things is the 3-5 grade bathroom on the second floor where 400 students use those. The underlayment and waterproofing have degraded. Once the school year starts, fecal matter and pee gets in there, and it’s overwhelmingly pungent. When the toilets back up, the second-grade class on the first floor has to evacuate, because it immediately floods.

In spite of the obvious need, Nixon School repairs were not among the planned expenditures listed in the CPS 2019 Capital Budget.

As the teachers, parents, neighbors, and students of Kenwood High School learned, telling CPS about issues needing immediate attention is not enough. Their Clean Kenwood Coalition did win some improvements for the school, but only after nearly a year of struggle. At Kenwood, leaky boilers created corroded brown liquid that dripped down walls into offices and classrooms. Teachers reported that students in their classes suffered chronic sinus and allergy-induced asthma issues, exacerbated by building conditions.

The Coalition made these demands: replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); deep clean all the ducts and vents; fully abate asbestos; and fully staff schools with engineers and custodians. They took their case to the alderman in the school’s ward, to the Board of Education, and to the public. CTU members not at Kenwood joined their brothers and sisters there in an action in the spring of 2018, where supporters rallied in front of the school to create public awareness of Kenwood’s facility issues.

The CPS 2019 Capital Budget lists $12.9 million “to provide targeted mechanical system renovations” for Kenwood. It takes a village to force CPS to make repairs that are obviously needed.

2019 Capital Budget Plan

The 2019 budget is close to a billion dollars, and includes money for both new construction and repairs. The document reports what repairs CPS plans to make, but does not have a list of school repairs that need to be made. The last time CPS conducted the legally required [1] district-wide facilities needs assessment was in 2013[2]. No needs that have developed since 2013 were assessed by CPS. In 2016, CPS went as far as budgeting and signing a contract to conduct the required needs assessment, but the work was never carried out.

CPS needs to conduct regular assessments, so the district can plan for necessary repairs, but it does not. CPS has repeatedly violated state law—first passed in 2010—requiring the district to release a detailed Facilities Master Plan and consult community members. In 2018, the Illinois General Assembly added language to strengthen the law, in an effort to make CPS more accountable.

An analysis by the Voorhees Center, a research and technical assistance center in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, exposes disparities by city ward, in the allocation of budget appropriations to meet facility needs[3]. The results, shown in both table and map form below, indicate wide differences from ward to ward in the percentages of needs that the budget meets. There is no way for the public to know how these decisions are made or to hold CPS accountable for the equitable distribution of facilities dollars.

Excessive mold spores growing out of an air duct that has not been cleaned in years. (Photo by Clean Kenwood Coalition)

Excessive mold spores growing out of an air duct that has not been cleaned in years. (Photo by Clean Kenwood Coalition)

Chicago Academy High School. Severe water damage to interior wall, likely due to numerous cracks in the foundation and masonry or the leaky roof as noted in the 2014-2015 facility assessment. (Photo by Jim Cavallero)

Chicago Academy High School. Severe water damage to interior wall, likely due to numerous cracks in the foundation and masonry or the leaky roof as noted in the 2014-2015 facility assessment. (Photo by Jim Cavallero)

Kenwood High School. Asbestos ceiling tiles in physical education office that has become severely damaged and friable due to a boiler leak a few floors above. This led to dust covering the desks of some Kenwood teachers, including one who was pregnant at the time. (Photo by Sarah Rothschild)

Kenwood High School. Asbestos ceiling tiles in physical education office that has become severely damaged and friable due to a boiler leak a few floors above. This led to dust covering the desks of some Kenwood teachers, including one who was pregnant at the time. (Photo by Sarah Rothschild)



Ward Total Cost to Maintain & Upgrade based on 2013 CPS Needs Assessment Total appropriations from 2013-18 Budget Percentage of Needs Met 2013-18 Total Appropriations from 2019 Budget Percentage of Needs Met 2019
35 $122,990,000 $1,090,000 1% $1,090,000 1%
49 $72,767,000 $1,500,000 2% $1,500,000 2%
2 $28,102,000 $510,000 2% $510,000 2%
33 $85,355,000 $1,550,000 2% $2,250,000 3%
32 $102,818,000 $3,407,000 3% $3,407,000 3%
10 $139,898,000 $6,899,000 5% $7,299,000 5%
25 $160,204,000 $8,545,800 5% $9,545,800 6%
6 $168,938,000 $11,143,000 7% $11,143,000 7%
31 $89,332,000 $5,940,000 7% $6,440,000 7%
17 $113,153,000 $8,716,000 8% $8,716,000 8%
8 $260,683,000 $4,976,000 2% $22,226,000 9%
28 $206,953,000 $23,462,000 11% $23,462,000 11%
37 $91,121,000 $2,336,500 3% $11,186,500 12%
12 $167,164,000 $21,974,000 13% $21,974,000 13%
3 $226,136,000 $19,137,000 8% $32,337,000 14%
20 $198,145,000 $27,026,000 14% $27,026,000 14%
11 $135,085,000 $12,608,000 9% $19,833,000 15%
18 $74,335,000 $8,126,000 11% $11,226,000 15%
21 $180,828,000 $22,602,000 12% $28,402,000 16%
24 $226,794,000 $34,631,000 15% $36,181,000 16%
15 $140,243,000 $23,101,000 16% $23,101,000 16%
44 $52,370,000 $1,720,000 3% $9,070,000 17%
16 $104,658,000 $16,964,000 16% $20,914,000 20%
45 $102,156,000 $18,460,000 18% $20,010,000 20%
34 $143,878,000 $28,451,000 20% $28,451,000 20%
26 $137,296,000 $5,647,000 4% $29,397,000 21%
9 $189,600,000 $23,554,000 12% $43,554,000 23%
7 $138,335,000 $13,573,000 10% $35,223,000 25%
1 $184,208,000 $46,398,850 25% $46,398,850 25%
36 $163,765,000 $7,145,000 4% $43,120,000 26%
30 $42,414,000 $11,187,000 26% $11,187,000 26%
19 $94,267,000 $19,738,100 21% $25,338,100 27%
46 $43,391,000 $4,390,000 10% $14,390,000 33%
27 $210,311,000 $61,249,000 29% $70,949,000 34%
5 $121,162,000 $24,206,700 20% $44,206,700 36%
38 $63,195,000 $26,499,000 42% $26,499,000 42%
48 $93,406,000 $9,930,000 11% $40,380,000 43%
43 $87,224,000 $37,309,600 43% $37,309,600 43%
22 $148,901,000 $57,218,700 38% $65,943,700 44%
23 $60,010,000 $27,734,000 46% $27,734,000 46%
40 $81,645,000 $22,837,000 28% $39,837,000 49%
4 $190,827,000 $80,602,000 42% $93,402,000 49%
29 $93,055,000 $14,819,000 16% $50,219,000 54%
50 $36,374,000 $1,610,000 4% $22,110,000 61%
39 $77,804,000 $10,250,000 13% $47,250,000 61%
14 $108,815,000 $68,419,000 63% $68,419,000 63%
47 $194,702,000 $115,861,000 60% $140,811,000 72%
41 $80,758,000 $71,628,300 89% $109,128,300 135%
13 $62,405,000 $52,357,200 84% $129,857,200 208%
42 $561,000 $ – 0 $0 0%

New Construction Prioritized at the Expense of Needed Repairs

Too many neighborhood schools crumble while they wait in years-long lines for desperately needed repairs, because CPS prioritizes new buildings over the repair of existing ones. From 2013 to 2017, the district spent $318,834,314[4] on new construction, mainly annexes and additions. As WBEZ pointed out, “This new construction is disproportionately going to schools that serve the white, middle class, sometimes ignoring opportunities to create more diverse schools.”

For example, CPS is planning to spend $20 million on an Annex for Skinner School, when students could instead attend nearby schools of Dett and Brown. (See Social Justice.) The district plans to spend $70 million on a new West Side high school, when the Wells High School building has room for 1,000 more students. Another $70 million is planned for either a new high school or a freshman academy for Taft. Meanwhile, nearby Schurz and Steinmetz schools both have room for more students.

In 2017, CPS was in the process of transferring management of all building engineers to private companies, including Sodexo and Aramark, evidently learning nothing from the filthy buildings that resulted when custodial services were turned over to those companies. Many of the problems resulted from the practice of assigning custodians to multiple buildings, and sub-contracting the work to multiple smaller custodial companies. As engineers become privatized, fewer buildings will have a full-time engineer on staff. This will lead to even more facilities issues, as private companies want to make profits for themselves, and preventative maintenance is not a priority. When minor repairs are ignored, they often turn into major, more expensive ones, and this will be exacerbated as management of engineers is privatized.

CPS also spends more on charter than neighborhood schools, in the form of capital improvements, renovation costs, and rent assistance. Between 2011 and 2017, CPS budgeted, per square foot, almost double for charters what it did for neighborhood schools. This disparate investment in charter schools often happens in proximity to district schools, in neighborhoods with declining student populations. The result of this disparate investment is a cycle of school closures due to the “underutilizationthat CPS creates and then blames on the school communities.

Lead and Asbestos

Now that lead is no longer an ingredient in paint, one of the leading causes of lead poisoning comes from drinking water that runs through lead pipes.When schools full of children are exposed to lead through the drinking water, it is a serious problem, as exposure can permanently damage their brains. In 2016, when the Flint. Michigan, water tragedy was publicized, CPS conducted tests for lead at schools more than 30 years old, initially finding lead levels greater than 15 parts-per-billion in 113 schools. It is problematic that CPS only considered lead levels above this threshold,[5] as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no “safe” level of exposure to lead. CPS did not replace any of the pipes, and instead irresponsibly cordoned off water fountains and sinks that tested positive for lead.

The CPS policy on asbestos is to leave it alone. This policy is not without merit; asbestos fibers stay put and are not dangerous as long as the tiles, or whatever is containing them, are not damaged or disturbed. When the policy is combined with haphazard repairs or damaging conditions such as water leaks left unfixed, however, it poses a danger to children and adults.

In 2015, the Environmental Working Group issued a report on asbestos in CPS schools. It found 184 schools with asbestos-laden materials that needed to be repaired or removed. These repairs happened in only 11 of the identified schools. Children are more susceptible to the dangers of asbestos than adults and, according to the report, “elementary school teachers are more than twice as likely to die from [asbestos-induced] diseases than Americans as a whole”.

Facilities Demands

  • Discontinue outsourcing of custodial staff and engineers.
  • Hire sufficient numbers of custodial staff and engineers at each school.
  • Conduct regular assessments and complete needed building repairs.
  • Prioritize repairs over new buildings.
  • Change attendance boundaries instead of building new schools.
  • Replace lead pipes connected to school water supplies.
  • Remove or repair all exposed asbestos and lead paint.

[1] According to state law, CPS is required to conduct “a comprehensive bi-annual assessment of the capital needs at each facility owned, leased, or operated by the district.” (IL School Code, Sec. 34-215. Capital improvement plans.)

[2] CPS conducted additional assessments in 2014-15, but these are available on a school by school basis only, making general comparisons difficult.

[3] Information about needs was from the latest assessment, in 2013, and budgeting information came from 2013-2018 CPS capital budgets and the 2019 budget proposal, which include planned facility investments by regions.

[4] Total spent between 2013 and 2017 using project typecodes ADD, ANX, DEM, TUS.

[5] Set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency


Fully Funded Education

Budgets have been cut, stripping students of valuable experiences such as field trips and elaborate science and math experiences. Teachers and TAs are covering each other’s lunches and supervising groups of pre-K students by themselves.

—CPS parent

I was an effective preschool teacher, but the principal switched me with the kindergarten teacher, due to school-based budgeting. The Office of Early Childhood pays for preschool positions, but the school pays for kindergarten; I was a younger teacher and cheaper, so she switched us.

—CPS elementary school teacher

In 2012, the CTU published proposals for funding the schools Chicago’s students deserve. Fair school funding, a return of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) surpluses, an end to corporate subsidies and loopholes, and progressive taxation were among the suggestions. Since that time, revenue for CPS schools has been a major focus of the Union’s work. On February 4, 2016, thousands of the CTU’s members and supporters protested layoffs and a threatened pay cut. Bank of America was a target, as it has taken $500 million from CPS in the form of toxic swaps. Sixteen teachers were arrested during a sit-in at the bank. On April 1, 2016, the CTU went on a one-day strike, shutting down schools and spending the day protesting at various sites around the city before culminating in a huge downtown rally. The one-day strike played a major role in the increased funding CPS schools subsequently received from the state.

The CTU’s activism, on the streets and in Springfield, led to significant increases in state funding for Chicago’s schools. In school years 2016-17 and 2017-18, CPS revenue increased by close to $900 million, and in the 2018-19 school year, the state gave CPS $112 million in additional funds.

Another win came in 2017, when Illinois developed an education funding model rooted in funding equity. It considers the importance of educationally-sound class sizes, adequate numbers of clinicians and technology supports, and additional funding for low-income, English learner, and special education students. The state’s evidence-based funding (EBF) model requires that money go to the neediest schools first, echoing many of the recommendations in 2012’s Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.

The news at the state level is not all good, however. The state also approved tax credit scholarships that take money away from public schools. The law allows donors to receive a 75-cent state tax credit for every dollar they contribute, with a yearly program cap of $1 million. If the full amount allowed is donated each year, the state could lose $375 million by 2023.

Another issue is that the state’s EBF model is nowhere near to being fully funded. The Illinois State Board of Education said it would need $15.7 billion for 2019 to help districts across Illinois fund education equitably. That amount is close to double ISBE’s 2018 budget. Closing corporate loopholes, which the CTU had advocated for years, would go a long way towards meeting the educational needs of Illinois students.

Evidence-Based Funding Model Details

ISBE guidelines (its terminology is adequacy targets) include a teacher student ratio of 1:15 in primary grades; a guidance counselor for every 250 middle and high school students; a librarian for every 450 elementary students; a $125-per student investment in professional development; and a host of other necessary funding. Additional investments for low-income, English learner, and special education students are part of the guidelines. Some examples from the model are shown below, and the full document is here:

Page 5 of “An Overview of the Evidence‐ Based Funding Formula,” Illinois State Board of Education, Fall 2017

Page 7 of “An Overview of the Evidence‐ Based Funding Formula,” Illinois State Board of Education, Fall 2017

Since 2014, CPS has used a budgeting formula quite different from the state’s EBF. The CPS student based budgeting (SBB) formula allots per student dollars to each school. Unlike previous CPS budgets, schools pay out of their limited funds for all staff positions except the principal, one clerk and one counselor. SBB forces schools to make lose-lose decisions like whether to hire a librarian or a music teacher, when students need both. In 2018-19, each student was allotted $4,397. There are some additional funds available for diverse Learners, bilingual education, early childhood, and supplemental aid (students eligible for free or reduced lunch). Certain programs such as magnet, JROTC, IB, STEM, selective enrollment, and Montessori are funded by the Board of Ed instead of taken from SBB funds. Neighborhood schools with declining enrollment have felt the negative impacts of SBB most acutely.

While EBF includes, for example, a librarian for every 450 elementary students and a nurse for every 750 students, SBB forces many schools to do without a librarian, nurse, or the small class sizes students need. Wealthier CPS schools are able to supplement a school’s budget with funds raised by parents, which are often used to hire additional staff. The $910 per student provided by CPS for free/reduced lunch-eligible students doesn’t come close to funding lower class sizes, additional supports, or sufficient professional development. The SBB supplemental amount is a far cry from the cost of providing the supports recommended by EBF—intervention teacher, pupil support, extended day teacher, and summer school teacher. The result of SBB is that inequities abound and schools with inadequate resources are punished with closures, additional paper work, or the loss of much-needed staff. In short, CPS needs to fund schools according to the EBF model, instead of SBB.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability calculated the difference between the budgets CPS schools had at the end of 2016-17 and what they would have had if the state’s Adequacy Targets (measure of a school’s needs, based on numbers of students in various categories) had been funded. It found that schools were underfunded by $2.435 billion and that in general, CPS schools reached 57.6 percent of their Adequacy Target. The $2 billion in tax breaks that Chicago promised Amazon to build its new headquarters would allow CPS to meet Adequacy Targets for the whole school system.

Funding CPS schools at the level required by the state’s formula would go a long way towards diminishing educational disparities among schools. Schools need more than barebones budgets that force choices from a range of bad options and must be fully funded to meet their particular students’ needs.


Tax increment financing (TIF) is a scheme the city uses to funnel money to developers and businesses from schools and other public institutions. When an area becomes a TIF district, property tax collections in that district are frozen at the current level, and the additional tax funds generated by new development and rising property values go into the mayor’s TIF slush fund. TIF funds don’t have to be used this way, though. Instead, they can go to support schools. For years, City Hall resisted using TIF money to fund school operations. The city had used TIF money to fund new buildings and annexes, but in an inequitable manner. The CTU advocated for and won the fight for TIF surpluses to be returned to schools, libraries, and public services. In July 2015, the City froze downtown TIF districts, some of the richest in the city, for a five-year period. This move boosted TIF revenue to CPS. The CTU won further gains for the schools in October 2016, when, under the threat of an impending strike, City Hall declared further surpluses and routed $80 million more to the schools.

Charter School Funding

Charter operators try to have it both ways when it comes to funding demands. Charters are public schools when they want public funding, but private institutions when it comes to financial or management transparency. When Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) want more funds to line their pockets, they emphasize that they serve the same public school students as schools down the street. When it comes to pay and benefits for staff, however, those schools down the street are no longer relevant. Teachers at charter schools are among the lowest paid in the city.

Now, charter schools are receiving even more money per student than district schools, due to a change in state funding. They received an additional $37 million in revenue for the 2018-19 school year, an 8 percent increase over what district schools get per student. Charter educators and staff haven’t seen a penny of this funding increase. Instead, it has gone to consultants, additional administrators, private real estate owners, or unnamed budget lines. One charter operator spends as much on management staff with the word “chief” in the job title as it does on all special education staff in its network.

Now unified as part of the CTU, unionized charter school teachers and paraprofessionals are exposing the truth behind their operators’ management practices. All 12 CTU charter schools are working together to bargain for a unified contract in 2018. They want an end to the chaos of reckless charter expansion and harmful school closures. They are demanding full staffing, resources to meet the needs of special education students, commensurate pay, and fair contracts. In December 2018, teachers and paraprofessionals working in the Acero charter network went on strike and won pay equal to CPS district teachers, sanctuary school protections for students, a shorter year and day, and smaller class sizes.

A lack of accountability has defined the governance of charter operators in Chicago. CPS approves new charter schools and renews their charters, but does not sufficiently scrutinize instructional spending, question high management fees, or probe the business structure of the operators. Without LSCs to monitor what goes on in the schools, charter operators and their connected corporate boards have free reign over their schools.

Charter operators preach flexibility and innovation as their secret sauce, but their real secret sauce is the inadequate wages paid to their staff. Low wages benefit the operators’ pockets, but not the teachers and paraprofessionals struggling to meet student needs with few resources, nor the students who suffer high staff turnover yearly. These operators have much to fear from the unity of charter and district school teachers and paraprofessionals, and the expansion of organizing efforts in non-union charters. These strategies will go a long way towards addressing the inadequate classroom resources, unfair pay, and oppressive working conditions imposed on charter school workers.

Fully Funded Education Demands

  • Replace student-based budgeting with the evidence-based formula.
  • Make billionaires pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Use charter school funding for the classroom—not the boardroom.


Non-School Issues Impacting Education

Poverty and Racism Impact Education

The important issues of poverty and racism are too often left out of conversations about school improvement. This is a mistake. What happens outside of schools is actually more influential than what happens inside school buildings, according to educational research, including Richard Rothstein’s Class and Schools.

Students living in segregated neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, unemployment, and low wages do not leave the issues associated with these conditions at the schoolhouse door. Additionally, social policies like mass incarceration, lack of affordable neighborhoods, and poor health care directly impact students’ school experience. To make matters worse, students from low-income communities of color are more likely to attend a poorly resourced school or to have had their neighborhood school closed. (See Social Justice.)

In Chicago, all schools have the same too-large class size limits and all are underfunded. These policies may appear to be equally applied, but they are not. In wealthier neighborhoods, parents raise money to compensate for inadequate school funding. Most students from lower income backgrounds do not benefit from this additional funding, even though they are more likely to need additional supports.

In 2016, 36 percent of children under 18 years old in Chicago lived with families where no parent had a regular, full-time job. The vast majority of CPS students, 78 percent, come from low-income households, but CPS and the City of Chicago refuse to address poverty as an educational issue. Chicago needs to enact increased wages and permanent, full-time jobs with health insurance for parents instead of investing in useless programs that enrich education profiteers and do nothing for students.

In 1994-1998, the New Hope Project was implemented in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Parents were randomly assigned to two groups. One group received jobs, money to supplement below-poverty wages, health insurance, and child care subsidies. The other group received none of these supports. The results were clear: children whose parents were supported had better academic performance, were more engaged in school, received better grades, and were less likely to repeat a grade.

Some people think racial discrimination in employment is a thing of the past. Recent studies show that is not the case. In one study, researchers sent nearly identical resumes in response to 1,300 advertised job openings. The resumes differed only by the use of stereotypically Black or white names. The result was that resumes with white names were 50 percent more likely than those with Black names to receive employer callbacks. Another study, also using nearly identical job applications, showed that employers called back whites with criminal records at a rate greater than or equal to Black or Latinx applicants with no criminal record.

Chicago’s workers of color have higher unemployment rates than whites, with 18.8 percent of Black, 9.3 percent of Latinx, and 4.1 percent of whites unemployed in the city. Black unemployment is more than four times the white unemployment rate. Chicago’s median household income also varies by race, with $81,702 annually for white, $47,308 for Latinx, and $36,720 for Black families. This wage gap is larger than it has been since 1960 (when Chicago had more union and public-sector jobs that employed people of color), as shown in the figures below from A Tale of Three Cities.

CPS fully supports whole-school tracking, a system long used to give students at selective enrollment and magnet schools advantages over others. In Chicago, systemic tracking of whole schools has a definite racial and economic bias. Selective enrollment school students are 56 percent free or reduced-lunch eligible, whereas 78 percent of students in the system as a whole have this eligibility. These schools are also disproportionately white; 27 percent of selective enrollment students are white, in a system with 10 percent white students. (See Social Justice.)

Violence, trauma, and stress

For too many CPS students, violence and life-threatening risks are realities increasingly concentrated in poor neighborhoods of color. Students are stressed and traumatized due to family financial pressures and exposure to violence, yet community-based mental health services in Chicago have been all but eliminated; in 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed six mental health clinics across the city, and few effective remedies have taken their place. Stress, trauma, and violence all impact student learning, and city policies have made the situation worse. Students and families therefore must rely on schools to provide these services, even though school clinicians, social workers and mental health resources are in short supply.The addition of at least one social worker and one psychologist in every school would be a good start.

Additionally, jobs are a known solution to youth violence. One study found that students in a Chicago summer work program had 43 percent fewer arrests than similar students without jobs. Other studies have also shown that higher employment rates and lower crime rates go together. The unemployment rate for youth of color under the age of 25 in Chicago is estimated to be 60.2%, three times as high as the nationwide average of 20%. Only 16% of Chicago’s Black teens are employed, compared to 29% across the country. In 2018, Chicago’s summer jobs program had space for 32,000 teens and young adults, aged 14-23. This is less than 10 percent of the number of 15-24 year-olds in the city[1].

The city has an obligation to provide jobs for young people in this crucial age group, including paid apprenticeship opportunities.

Housing Instability and School Instability

All of Chicago’s students deserve to have a home that is affordable, safe, warm, secure, and free of lead and pests. Many students are a long way from having the housing they deserve, and the City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) are to blame.

When the CHA started to tear down public housing complexes in the 2000s, they promised to replace demolished buildings with scattered site housing, mixed-income developments, and vouchers. With 119,000 households on the waiting list, instead of issuing housing vouchers, the CHA held onto hundreds of millions of dollars in cash reserves. The majority of those who do have vouchers live in low-income neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago, continuing the city’s pattern of economic and racial segregation. Meanwhile, rents are rising, with families in some communities paying 60 percent of their income in rent, and wealthier home-buyers are converting two-flats to single-family homes. Since 2012, the number of affordable rental units in Chicago has declined by more than 10 percent, far outpacing demand.

There is a long history of racism in the housing market. From 1934 to 1968, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) refused to provide loans to Black people. Most who bought houses had to do so on contract, a scheme that allowed their home to be taken away because of one missed payment. Recently, contract buying has made a resurgence in Chicago’s Austin community. In the 1990s, Black people were targeted for sub-prime mortgages, which ended when the market crashed in 2008 and tens of thousands of people’s homes were foreclosed, hitting Black homeowners the hardest.

The glaring gaps in Chicago’s social safety net for housing have a profound impact on public schools. In 2006, the residential mobility rate was 20% for Black students, which was twice as high as that of white students. When families have to move, this has a dramatic impact on students’ education, including classmates of mobile students. One reason for the disparate mobility rate is that Black students are disproportionately impacted by Chicago’s lack of affordable housing. Also, because Chicago’s housing costs are so high, 250,000 Black Chicagoans have moved out of the city in the last 20 years.

Homeless Students

Many of the Chicagoans unable to find stable, affordable housing are families with children. Among those in dire straits are students in CPS who do not have stable homes because they live doubled-up with relatives, in shelters, or otherwise without residence. Homeless students, also referred to as Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS) do not know for sure where they will be sleeping each night or how long a temporary situation will last. Doing homework may be impossible and is certainly of lower importance than their physical and emotional needs. Having school supplies or getting to school may be complicated or impossible. Unsurprisingly, STLS attendance rates are considerably lower than those of students with permanent living situations. CPS is supposed to provide transportation assistance to STLS students, so they can remain in their home school. However, this happens inconsistently, because schools are inadequately resourced, and some do not make transportation assistance a priority.

By the end of the 2017-18 school year, 17,894—nearly 4 percent of all CPS students—were homeless. This number is likely to be significantly under-reported. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports this racial breakdown:

Homeless Students by Race
Black 14,532
Latinx 2,802
White 303
Multiracial 122
Asian 98
Race Not Available 10
Native American 18

Services for these students are declining. Even though STLS populations have increased, STLS resource allocations have not changed. Students are entitled to fee waivers, tutoring, free uniforms and school supplies, in addition to transportation assistance. These policies are applied unevenly. For example, some students receive only one uniform, which they are required to wear every day, even though washing the uniform daily may be impossible.

Each CPS school is required to have only one staff member serving as the STLS coordinator, regardless of the number of homeless students enrolled in the school. That person has a full-time position, such as social worker, school clerk, or guidance counselor, and has STLS services added to her or his work. Consequently, STLS coordinators have little time to work with students and families to address and attempt to mitigate the significant challenges they face. This is another reason that CPS should staff all schools with at least one social worker.


Healthcare is another issue that impacts students’ education. Like jobs and housing, health care is less available and health outcomes are worse in low income neighborhoods of color. From 1990 to 2010, the average life expectancy increased in Chicago from 70.5 to 77.8, but not in Black communities like Englewood, Washington Park, or West Garfield Park. In those communities, life expectancy had still not caught up to the city average from two decades prior. In 2010, there was a roughly 15-year difference between the communities at the highest and lowest average of life expectancy.

Asthma is the most common cause of chronic school absenteeism. Chicago has one of the highest asthma mortality rates in the United States, and the city’s asthma hospitalization rates are twice as high as suburban Chicago or overall U.S. rates. Even when asthmatic children attend school, they may have been up the previous night because of breathing difficulties and are therefore less able to focus. Children from poor families of color are more likely to contract asthma, and less likely to get preventative treatment. Chicago should increase the number of affordable neighborhood health facilities to make preventative measures more available to asthmatic children, and CPS should prioritize school-based clinics and a nurse in every school.

To add insult to injury, the old, poorly maintained residences on the South and West sides that may be the only affordable housing available, have high levels of lead toxicity. Eight predominately Black neighborhoods have percentages of elevated blood levels that are at least twice the city average. In contrast, predominantly white neighborhoods have lead exposure levels of near zero.

School nurses are the health experts in the schools. They provide chronic disease management as well as direct care for medically fragile children, yet CPS schools have only one nurse for every 2,859 students. Virtually no schools have full-time school nurses to address the everyday, sometimes urgent, health concerns of students. (See Fully Staffed Schools.)


Memorial to 16 year-old Antonio Fenner, shot on Chicago’s west side, 2013 (DNAinfo/QuinnFord)

Memorial to 16 year-old Antonio Fenner, shot on Chicago’s west side, 2013 (DNAinfo/QuinnFord)


Non-school Issues Demands

  • Full employment.
  • Summer jobs for all youth.
  • End structural racism.
  • Stop mass incarceration.
  • Make housing affordable.
  • Pay living wages.
  • Make affordable health care available to all.
  • Provide permanent housing for homeless families.
  • Provide free transportation to and from schools and jobs.
  • Eliminate lead in older housing.

[1]Census data for 14-23 year-olds not available.


Parents as Partners

Elected Representative School Board

The idea that parents should have a say in their children’s education should not be controversial. In Chicago, however, parent participation is very limited. Unlike virtually every other school district in Illinois, Chicago does not have an elected, representative school board (ERSB). The school board, which is appointed by the mayor, meets monthly and 100 percent of the time approves agenda items (typically crafted by CPS officials). Public participation is a requirement of the Open Meetings Act, and parents frequently attend meetings and make their views known. Parents are also, however, routinely ignored by Board members, unless the parent is there to agree with a measure the Board is planning to pass.

May 22, 2013: Erica Clark was removed from the CPS board meeting during “public participation” after she read the names of the 50 schools CPS had decided to close and sat on the floor in protest. (Photo by Jessica Koscielniak for The Chicago Sun-Times)

Chicago has never had an elected school board, although there have been previous configurations that were not as directly under mayoral control. In 2015, the issue of an elected, representative school board was voted on in a referendum held in 37 of the city’s 50 wards. The result was overwhelmingly in favor at 90 percent, yet, again, the will of the people was ignored. The CTU played a key role in advocating for support of the referendum. Influenced by the referendum’s success, the Illinois House twice-passed a bill for an elected school board in Chicago with more than 100 votes.The Illinois Senate also passed a version of the bill by an overwhelming majority. However, the bill was not sent to the governor, due to conflicting Senate amendments. The CTU will continue public, political, and legislative campaigns to make an elected school board a reality.

Local School Councils

LSCs, created by law in 1988, are supposed to give parents, staff, and community members a voice in their children’s schools. CPS, however, has slowly whittled away at their power. Schools with low ratings have LSCs that are advisory only. In 2007, the Board of Education approved a policy to appoint, rather than elect, LSC members at alternative or small schools; 28 schools have appointed LSCs.

To counter the power of LSCs, CPS has created various “parent involvement” initiatives, such as parent engagement centers, parent support centers, parent university, parent board of governors, community action councils, as well as many faith-based initiatives. These programs involve parents in CPS-driven activities and undermine LSCs. Parents in lower-income communities are less likely to participate in LSC elections. Many active parents in these communities already have work and family responsibilities. In 2018, 78 percent of schools were missing at least one LSC candidate position.

Communities with high concentrations of charter and private alternative schools have the smallest number of LSCs, thereby preventing those communities from having an authentic voice in school governance (see map below).

The CTU has played a role in lifting up the importance of LSCs. While LSC members are required to complete nine training modules, or be removed from their position, there are few training options. The CTU is the only organization providing all nine modules; they are offered twice monthly and in both English and Spanish. Attendees at the CTU trainings have reported that their LSCs are not given the data, information and tools they need; the principal controls this information. Schools with LSCs are required to have a seven-member Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC) to “develop and formally present recommendations to the principal and the local school council on all matters of educational program, including but not limited to curriculum, school improvement plan development and implementation, and school budgeting.” Many schools do not have PPLCs—another way that CPS is undermining the power of LSCs.

Charter Schools Have Few Parents on Their Boards

In 2003, the Civic Committee of the powerful Commercial Club of Chicago proposed Renaissance 2010, a plan to authorize 100 new privately managed schools in Chicago. This is what the Civic Committee Report, Left Behind, said at the time:

Chicago should have at least 100 charter schools located predominantly in inner-city neighborhoods that are today served mostly by failing public schools. Charter schools are not perfect, and they are not a panacea. Some fail and are closed. Over time, however, such schools will give more parents real choice. They will also put more pressure on the public schools to perform. They will create a competitive spur to improvement much like Federal Express has caused the postal service to improve.

Looking at the results, eight years after the report, the Civic Committee’s plan has failed the children of Chicago, although it did contribute to making the wealthy even wealthier.

In 2018, CPS had 121 charter schools, paid for with public dollars but managed privately. These schools are not required to have LSCs, and rarely have parents on their managing boards. Instead, these boards are made up of people like the LEARN board member who lives in a 7,200 square-foot Winnetka mansion, or the son of a former chair of the Civic Committee. Noble’s “community leader” lives in Wilmette, and there are two parents on Noble’s board, out of 20 total.

Pathways in Education, a contract operation with several alternative schools, is run by a family of education profiteers from California. The founder, Jamie Donahue, runs the organization; her co-founder parents are vice presidents of its board, and her brother is the treasurer. Together they own a nation-wide web of similar alternative schools along with various non-profit education service organizations that are hired to manage the schools, and for-profit vendors that sell services to the schools.

1995 Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act

The 1995 Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act further tightened mayoral control over schools, limiting the issues that the CTU can legally bargain over in its contract with CPS. After 1995, the CTU could no longer make class size demands, which remains an important issue to parents as well as teachers. As a result, Chicago class sizes are some of the largest in the state (See Class Size.)

The 1995 law also forbids negotiations on outsourcing. As a result, custodial workers’ pay dropped dramatically, janitorial services have been outsourced to Aramark and Sodexo, and the schools are filthy. (See Facilities.) Technology companies are rewarded millions of dollars in contracts as CPS looks for ways to replace teachers with computers. Staffing of clinicians and PSRPs has also dropped since the passage of this law (See Fully Staffed Schools.) School closures, turnarounds, and charter proliferation were all made possible because of the 1995 law.

Parents as Partners Demands

  • Elected Representative School Board.
  • Local School Councils with power in every school.
  • Eliminate the 1995 School Reform Law.


Equitable Education in all Instructional Settings


In 2016, CPS introduced a new online pre-K enrollment system. Parents previously went to a school and enrolled their child—often with help from the pre-K teacher. The teacher then had initial contact with the parent and often was able to arrange for parents and students to be introduced to the classroom before school even started.

The online enrollment system changed that. Now, parents have no access to clerks, principals or teachers to clarify the process or share questions or concerns about leaving their young child at the school. Parents without home computers have to wait in long lines to enroll their children on the public library’s computers. Further, the process is more complicated because after filling out the online application, parents have to visit a resource center and, additionally, take paperwork to the school. There were both empty seats and long waiting lists at the start of the 2017-18 school year. Teachers did not have an enrollment list until after school started, preventing proper classroom preparation and introductory contact with parents. To make matters worse, the system was full of glitches, as schools had under-enrolled classes, despite lengthy waiting lists; over-enrolled classes where children were enrolled and then un-enrolled; and rosters that were for a different school. (Information is from results of the CTU’s survey sent to pre-K teachers September 2017 and the WBEZ report.)

At the end of the 2017-18 school year, then-CPS CEO Claypool abruptly terminated 34 Head Start Program Resource Assistants (PRAs). These PRAs were overwhelmingly women of color, and had served and supported parents and students throughout the city for years. Without these community workers, children facing homelessness, hunger, and poverty no longer had access to the many resources PRAs were able to develop over time. In their place, CPS used “principal-designated staff” to perform the necessary paperwork and supposedly connect families with much-needed services. Unlike the PRAs, however, principal-designated staff did not have resources built over time and also had other responsibilities in the school. Virtually all of the PRAs received other CPS jobs, but pre-K children and their families suffered from their loss.

PRAs and other PSRP supporters in the fight to restore the 34 laid off PRAs.

CPS also found a way to further enrich Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust by instituting its Pay For Success program. CPS pays these investors if students enrolled in Child Parent Centers, which are already a proven academic booster,end up making more academic gains, or need special education services, at a lower rate than students not enrolled in these centers. Investors are projected to double their investment over the life of the program, off the backs of the city’s neediest pre-school students.

Special Education

As a special education teacher, I understand how crucial class size is in order to meet all of my students’ needs. One particular school year, I …[had] 18 students with exceptional needs, unmet paraprofessional minutes, [and] unmet inclusion minutes, leading to a decrease in student access to opportunities in the general education setting… As a result of the language in the CTU contract, … I was able to resolve the situation with my principal, case manager, and other special education teachers …. My class size was reduced to 13.

—CPS employee

In 2012, the CTU identified special education issues of large class size, too much paperwork, and insufficient numbers of one-on-one assistants. Since then, the CTU won class size restrictions, dedicated case managers, work space for clinicians, and $500,000 to fund workload reductions. Some progress had been made, but then CPS decided that special education students and the adults working with them were expendable.

From 2015 to 2017, then-CPS CEO Forrest Claypool transferred millions of dollars into the hands of his cronies—money that should have been used to provide services for special education students. The result was that students needing services were denied them, special educators were inundated with unnecessary paperwork, and schools had insufficient funding for their most vulnerable students. The CTU educators fought these CPS abuses for two years by compiling and sharing information, speaking at Board of Ed meetings, organizing parents, and testified at ISBE hearings. As a result, CPS was forced to roll back some of its worst policies.

In the summer of 2015, CPS cut $42 million from special education funding, claiming that special education was overstaffed, and that “improving their staffing model” would lead to better achievement gains for special education students. Teachers, parents, and special education advocates pushed back, and made it clear that cuts to staffing were leading to the illegal denial of services. Just a month into the school year, CPS was forced to restore the funding.

In the fall of 2016, the district stole $14 million from special education students, paying outside firms with no special education expertise—but run by friends of CEO Claypool—to overhaul special education. This overhaul was designed to allow CPS to take even more from special education students. The new policies were couched in language designed to hide their true objectives. For example, a CPS white paper stated: “We must find a better way to effectively and efficiently diagnose and support students with disabilities and to ensure that they achieve.” In practice, this led to students having to go through months of waiting before they received the services they needed.

The overhaul of special education processes also meant students were denied the services of paraprofessionals (a new, exceedingly lengthy form was required), transportation, and enrollment in the summer Extended School Year (ESY) program. A new procedure, Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS), complicated student access to special education services. To make matters worse, CPS administrators illegally intervened in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, budgeted $29 million less for special education, cut 350 teacher positions and 76 aides, and commingled special education funding into schools’ per pupil dollar amounts. By March, there were 100 clinician vacancies, and over the 2016-17 school year, children received 12 to 30 percent fewer hours with psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, and physical therapists.

One student’s story illustrates the harm done by CPS cuts and changes to special education. Robert (a pseudonym) needed a full-time aide to help him calm down and focus, but to get him an aide, his teacher had to document his every move for weeks. During that time, Robert was unable to function as a student. Eventually, CPS did approve an aide, but not a full-time aide; too little, too late.

The CTU’s teachers, clinicians, and PSRPs united with parents and disability rights advocates to fight these draconian cuts. The Special Education Task Force they formed conducted multiple teacher and parent Know Your Rights trainings, advocated at Board of Education meetings, leafleted at report-card pickups, and protested at banks, City Hall, and network offices. They worked with local school councils, surveyed members of the CTU, spoke to elected representatives, and spoke at budget hearings.

This protracted struggle earned results. In January 2018, CPS announced, shortly before a scheduled Chicago City Council hearing on special education policies, that it would create 65 new special education positions. On April 18, 2018, the Illinois State Board of Education announced its ruling that CPS had denied special education services to thousands of students. ISBE demanded that CPS correct its practices, and imposed a state board-appointed monitor for three years to ensure that CPS complies with special education laws. The monitor also has oversight of the CPS special education budget.

The CTU and other advocates pushed for more, calling for compensatory services for affected students, and restoration of all prior funding. In July 2018, CPS announced it would hire 94 case managers and 160 social workers to serve the needs of special education students, although as of the start of the 2018-19 school year, there were only 38 more social workers than last year. The CPS proposed budget for 2019 restores $30 million for special education, and provides special education positions directly to schools instead of commingling them with per pupil budgeting.

This is not enough, but it is a start. The CTU will remain vigilant in its efforts to fight for the needs of our students, especially those most in need and most vulnerable to the whims of greedy profiteers.

English Learners

The fact that we have so many kids at my school, and I’m imagining at many schools on the Southwest Side, who have been in the program so long and have low literacy levels, it’s just super obvious evidence this [bilingual] program is a failure. It really angers me to see that our system is not truly invested in valuing our students, who are increasingly becoming the majority of our student population.

—Nancy Serrano, Hernandez Middle School teacher

Our ELL students speak over 20 different languages. We have a small program, but CPS only pays for a .5 position. These students are not getting the services they deserve and are entitled to because of a lack of funding.

—CPS elementary school teacher

Our school has over 54 languages spoken at home. These students are frequently pulled out of class to be tested, but rarely given individualized support from an ESL specialist.

—Rosie Crow, Ogden International Middle School teacher

In 2017-18, 67,000 CPS students—18% of the district—were classified as bilingual. These are mostly low-income children, and their native language is not English. CPS fails to serve many of these students. For example, at the end of the 2017-18 school year, there were 58 vacant full time and 32 vacant half time bilingual teacher positions. The shortage of bilingual teachers can be related to the difficulties of earning these credentials. For all teacher candidates, the state’s Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) is an unnecessary roadblock. The test is unrelated to teaching or subject matter, and in 2011 the bar for passing was arbitrarily raised. In 2017, the TAP had a pass rate of 26 percent overall and 14 percent for Latinx teachers, many of whom planned to be bilingual teachers.

In a review of bilingual programs for the 2015-16 school year, Chicago Reporter investigative reporter Kalyn Belsha found many examples where CPS did not support English Language Learners (ELLs). She found that 71 percent of the schools audited that year were not in compliance with state law regarding ELLs, and that dozens of schools lacked materials in students’ native languages. Many teachers had to translate entire books for children. Another finding was that CPS does not track how ELLs perform once they transition out of bilingual programs. Therefore, there is no way to evaluate the efficacy of the bilingual programs.

Nancy Serrano, a bilingual teacher at Hernández Middle School, was an English learner at CPS herself and is acutely aware of the challenges her students face.

Nancy Serrano, a bilingual teacher at Hernández Middle School, was an English learner at CPS herself and is acutely aware of the challenges her students face. (Photo by Yingxu Jane Hao)

Thousands of Chicago students are in bilingual classes for years without developing strong literacy skills, according to Belsha. Hundreds of children have been in these classes from kindergarten to senior year of high school, and 20 percent stay for six or more years. Many in the field are critical of the CPS “subtractive” approach, where students are taught to learn English, but not develop skills in their native language. Dual language programs, on the other hand, which are a small minority of CPS programs, teach students to read, write, and speak two languages with equal proficiency. These successful programs should be expanded across the district.

Teachers and Students at Charter Schools

In 2018, an unprecedented merger brought the CTU and the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chi-ACTS), the union representing charter teachers, together into one federated union. This was an important blow to charter management organizations and others who want to expand the number of charter schools for their own benefit, and at the expense of students. Now, it will be more difficult for CMOs of unionized schools to pay low salaries for long hours of work and little job security. These practices have led to high turnover of teachers and staff, which is detrimental to students.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools is a network of non-union charter schools that is known for vast pay discrepancies between staff and management. In 2017, 43 people in the Noble network made over $100,000 in salaries. Nurses, psychologists, and social workers, on the other hand, made 20 percent less than their counter-parts in CPS. Well-paid managers and poorly-paid staff are the norm in many charter schools.

Noble is also known for discriminatory practices, as an NPR report summarized:

Discipline varies widely among Noble’s 17 schools, but data provided by the network shows students at five predominantly black Noble campuses (Hansberry, Johnson, Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy, Baker College Prep and DRW Trading College Prep) last year [2016-2017] got about twice the number of demerits as students at Noble’s 10 predominantly Hispanic schools.

One of those schools, Johnson, with 95.5 percent Black students, invested twice as much money in disciplinarians as it did in social workers in 2017-18. This, even though 144 of 802 students[1] are Students in Temporary Living situations, also known as homeless.

Well-rounded curriculum

I teach in an elementary school that does not have a school library. It has been three years now that the school library in our building has been closed. Elementary school students who are learning to read and are learning to love books and learning to love reading do not have the opportunity to visit their school library and check out books. Most of the students do not have access to a variety of reading materials and at this crucial developmental stage in their reading career, they lack the critical resources—BOOKS—needed to help them become successful, well-rounded readers.

—CPS elementary school teacher

Our school struggles with a well-rounded curriculum. For example, my students do not have an option of a band class. My students have expressed a desire to join a marching band, but it has been unsuccessful to have one. It is a shame, as many of my students use music as a way to escape their struggles and band could be a non-academic class that they could use to express themselves.

—CPS high school teacher

In 2012, only 58 percent of neighborhood[2] elementary schools in Chicago were funded for a full-time art or music teacher. That number increased to 82 percent by 2017-18. In 2012, parents, teachers, and community members were outraged at the lack of recess in most elementary schools. In 2018, virtually all schools are required to have recess and physical education. The CTU was instrumental in winning these important changes, but inequities still exist. For example, only 23 percent of neighborhood elementary schools have libraries and only 14 percent of all elementary schools offer classes in World Language. At the high school level, 55 percent of selective enrollment schools–which are disproportionately white and Asian–and 50 percent of career academy schools have librarians; only 16 percent of neighborhood high schools have librarians.

School Year 2017-2018

School Year 2017-2018

Career to Education

At my high school, we have seen the loss of our culinary program, which was highly successful a few years ago. Students with interests in the culinary field and hospitality now must deal with this loss and take classes they aren’t interested in and don’t have a choice in those courses.

—CPS high school teacher

CPS has had a rocky history with Career to Education (CTE) programs. As Robert Halpern, who studied the program, reported in 2013:

The central finding of the current study is of a marginalized CTE system in continuing flux, due to lack of vision, to policy and budgetary neglect, and to shifting priorities, strategies, mandates and personnel.[3]

Halpern witnessed the same disorganization that CTU members report and that CPS documents demonstrate: programs are opened, closed and moved to other schools without clear rationale and there is high turnover in the CTE department at Central Office.

Tilden Career Academy, for example, a school that once offered auto body, drafting, machine shop, and woodworking, now is left with only culinary arts. CTE labs across the South and West sides of the city have been closed.The CPS inspector general discovered that equipment bought with federal Perkins Loan funds was given away to charter schools or sold on eBay. CPS has eliminated the co-op teaching positions that were vital for establishing workplace experiences such as job shadowing and internships. After decades of neglect and mismanagement, CPS is talking about restoring these programs. If these programs are going to be successful, CPS needs to put a solid plan in place and guarantee that programs will be well-supported, with strong student recruitment and sufficient job placements.

Equitable Education in all Instructional Settings Demands:

  • Return the Pre-K enrollment process to the schools the students will attend.
  • Bring back Head Start Program Resource Assistants.
  • Stop paying Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust for Pay for Success.
  • Set up more child-parent centers.
  • Fund special education appropriately.
  • Employ increased numbers of special education assistants.
  • Eliminate unnecessary special education paper work.
  • Hire sufficient numbers of bilingual teachers.
  • Increase the number of dual-language programs.
  • Get rid of the TAP for pre-service teachers.
  • End discriminatory practices at all schools.
  • Give every student access to a well-rounded curriculum.
  • Develop a solid Career to Education program.

[1]Number of STLS students came from CCH 6-28-18 Report; enrollment from 20th day from CPS; social worker staffing figure from Noble budget released to CPS.

[2]Neighborhood schools have attendance boundaries and are open to anyone within those boundaries.

[3]Halpern, Robert. “A Study of Career and Technical Education Reform in the Chicago Public Schools.” Erikson Institute: May 2013.



The CTU’s determination to fight for the schools Chicago’s students deserve generated unprecedented support from CPS parents for the Union’s 2012 strike. Parent and community support has remained strong since then, and has bolstered the CTU’s ability to win at the bargaining table and in Springfield.

The CPS student population decreased by 32,768 from 2011 to 2017, largely due to city policies that drive Black families out of Chicago. This loss of students, along with charter school expansion and student-based budgeting, have devastated many school communities. The CTU remains strong in the fight for school-centered demands, and, in addition, fights for affordable neighborhoods, living-wage jobs, and full employment in Chicago. Without these changes to city policies, CPS will continue to lose students. The schools Chicago’s students deserve are directly linked to the city Chicago’s students deserve.

SCSD 2.0 highlights the many racist inequities that have continued, or in some cases worsened, since 2012. Selective enrollment schools serve disproportionate numbers of white and Asian students, Black schools are more likely to be closed and less likely to receive capital repairs, and services for immigrant children learning English are usually insufficient. These inequities are consistent with a school system built on segregation. Adherence to school segregation leads CPS to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on new school buildings. Lack of commitment to diversity leads principals in too many CPS schools to hire few Black or Latinx teachers. Students then miss out on the proven benefits of integration for both students and teachers during their school years. The schools Chicago’s students deserve need to be integrated.

Chicago’s leading politicians, bolstered by the business community, lavishly spend city money on luxuries like the DePaul basketball stadium, Navy Pier, or a $2 billion offer to Amazon. Instead of reforming police practices, Chicago pays out hundreds of millions of dollars, year after year, in settlements for police-involved deaths. Jason Van Dyke was found guilty, but that was after the city had already paid $5 million to Laquan McDonald’s family. The money for these settlements comes primarily out of the pockets of the working class. The wealthy seldom pay their fair share, even though they dictate most of the spending policies. The schools Chicago’s students deserve need taxing and spending policies that make schools and students priorities.

Private schools and schools in wealthy suburbs guarantee that their students get what they need. School basics like class sizes of 20; librarians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists in every school; well-paid teachers and support staff; special education and bilingual services; and needed building repairs are standard practices for the schools attended by wealthy children. In addition to having similar school resources, Chicago’s teenaged students need summer jobs. Their families need living wages, affordable housing, full employment, and reliable health care. Budgets, taxes, and subsidies are questions of priorities, and clearly City Hall does not prioritize the education of Black and Brown children as highly as profits for wealthy downtowners.

The CTU fights for and demands change. Throughout this report, the CTU has advocated for the changes Chicago’s students deserve.

Social Justice Demands

  • No more school closings.
  • Double the number of Black and Latinx teachers.
  • End school segregation.
  • Require selective enrollment schools to admit proportionate numbers of students of color.
  • Invest capital spending equitably across the district.
  • Fully implement restorative practices in every school.
  • End disproportionate expulsions and suspensions of Black students.
  • Take police out of the schools.
  • Eliminate the gang database.
  • Provide sanctuary for students and their families.
  • Make CPS a Sustainable Community Schools district.
  • Staff at least one social worker in every school to address trauma among students.

Professional Teacher Demands

  • Pay all teachers fairly.
  • Diversify the teaching staff.
  • Treat substitute teachers respectfully.
  • Eliminate REACH.
  • Give teachers grading and assessment autonomy.

Fully Staffed School Demands

  • Fully staff clinicians according to the recommendations of their professional organizations.
  • Pay PSRPs at least $45,000 a year.
  • Employ a nurse in every school.
  • Employ a counselor for every 250 students.
  • Return librarians to every school.

Class Size Demands

  • Lower class size to 20 students in a class.
  • Employ teacher assistants in every primary classroom.

Facilities Demands

  • Discontinue outsourcing of custodial staff and engineers.
  • Hire sufficient numbers of custodial staff and engineers at each school.
  • Conduct regular assessments and complete needed building repairs.
  • Prioritize repairs over new buildings.
  • Change attendance boundaries instead of building new schools.
  • Replace lead pipes connected to school water supplies.
  • Remove or repair all exposed asbestos and lead paint.

Fully Funded Education Demands

  • Replace student-based budgeting with the evidence-based formula.
  • Make billionaires pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Use charter school funding for the classroom—not the board room.

Non-school Issues Demands

  • Full employment.
  • Summer jobs for all youth.
  • End structural racism.
  • Stop mass incarceration.
  • Make housing affordable.
  • Pay living wages.
  • Make affordable health care available to all.
  • Provide permanent housing for homeless families.
  • Provide free transportation to and from schools and jobs.
  • Eliminate lead in older housing.

Parents as Partners Demands

  • Elected Representative School Board.
  • Local School Councils with power in every school.
  • Eliminate the 1995 School Reform Law.

Equitable Education in all Instructional Settings Demands

  • Return the Pre-K enrollment process to the schools the students will attend.
  • Bring back Head Start Program Resource Assistants.
  • Stop paying Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust for Pay for Success.
  • Set up more child-parent centers.
  • Fund special education appropriately.
  • Employ increased numbers of special education assistants.
  • Eliminate unnecessary special education paperwork.
  • Hire sufficient numbers of bilingual teachers.
  • Increase the number of dual-language programs.
  • Get rid of the TAP for pre-service teachers.
  • End discriminatory practices at all schools.
  • Give every student access to a well-rounded curriculum.
  • Develop a solid Career to Education program.


Additional Reading

Alexander, M. (2012). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

Bryk, A., Sebring, P., Allensworth, E., Luppescu, S., & Easton, J. (2010). Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Carter, P.L., & Welner, K.G., (2013). Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance. US: Oxford University Press.

Ewing, E. (2018).Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lipman, P. (2011). The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. New York: Routledge.

Oakes, J. (2005). Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality, 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Orfield, G., Frankenberg, E., & Associates. (2013). Educational Delusions?: Why Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press.

Ravitch, D. (2013). Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (First edition.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Rothstein, R. (2004). Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black–White Achievement Gap. Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C.

Rothstein, R. (2017). The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. New York: Liveright.

Saltman, K.J. (2012). The Failure of Corporate School Reform. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press.

Shipps, D. (2006). School Reform, Corporate Style: Chicago 1880-2000. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.



The Chicago Teachers Union is proud to release this updated and expanded version of our groundbreaking report first issued in 2012. The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve 2.0 (SCSD 2.0) looks at progress the CTU, parent, student, and community groups have made since 2012 and analyzes what remains to be won.

The different sections of the report are accessible using the red menus on this page.


Chief Author and Editor

Carol Caref, PhD

Editing, Research, and Proposals

Ronnie Reese, Pavlyn Jankov, Sarah Rothschild, Kurt Hilgendorf, Lillian Osborne, Jen Johnson and Chris Geovanis

Graphics and web design

Eric Ruder and Nathan Goldbaum

Special thanks to

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, who was instrumental in the report’s conception and promotion.