Chicago Teachers' Union Negotiates New Contract

Negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the city’s public schools system for a new contract have been making headlines as the union is reportedly seeking an unprecedented amount of $50 billion to cover wage increases and various other demands. The union’s demands, which have not been made public but were leaked to the media, include wage hikes, fully paid abortions for members, new migrant services and facilities, and a host of LGBT-related requirements and training in schools.

The staggering figure of $50 billion has attracted attention, as it represents the total base tax receipts for the state of Illinois in the past year. This figure has sparked concerns and raised questions about the financial feasibility of the union’s demands.

To put it into context, the average salary of a teacher in Chicago Public Schools is currently $93,182, and the union’s plan would see this increase to $144,620 in the 2027-2028 school year, more than double the median household income in Chicago.

According to a leaked document, the union’s President, Stacy Davis Gates, is pushing for members to receive a 9% wage increase each year through fiscal year 2028, along with other benefits such as a stipend for teachers and counselors with a high number of students and a retirement bonus for employees with more than 30 years of service. Additionally, the union’s plan addresses "disparities" in healthcare by calling for 100% coverage for abortion care and fertility treatments, among other demands.

The union’s demands have raised questions about the effectiveness of its members in delivering results for students, with only 21 percent of eighth-graders in the city proficient in reading, according to the last Nation’s Report Card. Despite this underwhelming performance, the district’s budget has increased by nearly 30% in the past five years, with a significant portion going toward teacher salaries, which are already among the highest for big-city teachers in the country. Last year, the district spent over $21,000 per student, well above the national average of $14,347.

The union’s influence in city politics is also a point of concern, with strong ties to Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former CTU legislative coordinator who was supported by the union in his mayoral campaign. As of June 2023, the union had contributed over $2.6 million to Johnson’s campaign, and he received more than $6 million from teachers' unions altogether, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Davis herself has faced criticism for sending her son to a private school after denouncing school choice as racist.

The leaked demands also include various other social justice provisions, including a call for more taxpayer funding for migrants. The union is seeking $2,000 for each migrant to assist with academics, transportation, and mental health counseling, as well as the conversion of unused school facilities into housing for migrants. The union is also pushing for LGBTQ+ training for teachers and staff and the adoption of policies that would prohibit disclosing a student’s gender identity to parents if the student chooses to reject it.

The CTU’s demands have been met with backlash from some who see them as more of a political agenda than a serious attempt to negotiate a contract that benefits teachers and students. Mailee Smith, senior director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, has stated that these demands go beyond the scope of traditional bargaining and could potentially result in higher taxes for residents. Critics have called for Mayor Johnson to recuse himself from negotiations, citing his close ties to the union.

As of now, the district and the union have yet to reach an agreement, and the exact cost of the union's demands is still being calculated. This has sparked concerns about the potential financial implications of fulfilling the union’s wishes. Residents of Chicago deserve to be represented by a neutral party who has their best interests at heart and is mindful of the city’s financial situation. The ongoing negotiations and the eventual outcome will have a significant impact on the future of Chicago’s public schools and the city as a whole.

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