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‘$50 Billion’ Chicago Teachers Union Contract Demands Higher Pay And Lower Expectations

The contract veers into many social issues and away from academics: LGBT issue training, sex-neutral bathrooms, immigrant housing, police-free schools, restorative justice, and more.

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The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has kicked off a season of contract negotiations by issuing a $50 billion list of demands that will enrich the union at taxpayers’ expense and provide little, if any, benefit to the city’s students.

Right now, Chicago Public Schools delivers terrible results at a very high cost. Last school year, the district spent more than $21,000 per student, well above the national average of $14,347. And on the last Nation’s Report Card, only 21 percent of the city’s eighth graders were proficient readers.

But that is of no concern to the CTU, based on its list of demands. The union intends to require every school to have at least one sex-neutral restroom and for every counselor and social worker to undergo training on “LGBTQ+ issues” each year. It also specifies that no union member may be compelled to tell a student’s parents when the student rejects his or her sex. Since when does a labor union get to decide what parents are allowed to know about their own children?

This isn’t the only way the contract veers into social issues and away from academics. CTU wants taxpayers to pay for unused school facilities to be turned into migrant housing and to pay $2,000 in “support” to each unaccompanied minor. Ever-hungry for more members, the union also insists each school must have a “newcomer liaison.”

The union is also pushing for policies that will make its youth violence problem worse. The contract put forward by CTU calls for “police-free schools,” security guards (presumably members of the union), and the creation of school safety committees at each school chaired by — who else? — the union delegate or the delegate’s appointee.

The contract also calls for mandatory annual restorative practices training for all school-based employees. There’s one glaring problem: Restorative practices don’t work. A randomized controlled study conducted by Rand in Pittsburgh found that schools that used restorative practices saw no benefit to either arrest rates or academic achievement (in fact, academic performance decreased in grades six through eight). Restorative practices do, however, give the union pretext for forcing the district to hire “restorative justice coordinators.” The union wants one in every school and another 50 hired each year through 2028.  

Another Excuse Not to Work

The union’s policies will not prevent school violence, but they will leverage unsafe schools as a reason to close schools and lower teacher performance standards. After any “traumatic event” at a school, the superintendent will be required to meet with the head of the CTU to discuss closing the school for some time. The union learned from its success in keeping schools closed during Covid, and it is baking into the contract a new excuse to pay teachers for not working while students suffer. “No school will reopen until all necessary supports, both physical and emotional, are in place,” the contract says, yet it does not define a “traumatic event” or “necessary supports.”

In the eyes of the union bosses, “trauma” is also a reason to stop evaluating teachers. “In the case of a traumatic event at a particular school or subset of schools, the evaluation process shall be suspended for an entire year (365 days) for all staff,” according to the contract. But the union isn’t going to wait around for a reason to lower teachers’ job performance standards. It is pushing to decrease the score a teacher needs to be rated “proficient” and to reduce the frequency of evaluations for some tenured teachers from annually to once every three years. Plus, it is expanding opportunities for teachers to have poor performance ratings overturned.

More Pay, More Teacher Aides

Bad teachers will get to stick around, and when they do, they’ll be compensated handsomely. The union wants 9 percent annual cost-of-living raises that would bring the average teacher’s salary to nearly $145,000 over the next four years, per the Illinois Policy Institute, which published the contract online. That’s a tough pill to swallow in Chicago, where the Census Bureau reports a median household income of less than half that sum. The union also wants to force the district to hire 2,500 new teacher aides, despite stagnant district enrollment.

The union wants a policy that prioritizes saving the jobs of minority teachers in the event of layoffs. Its proposal includes nothing about teacher performance.

Mayor’s Support

Those unfamiliar with Chicago politics could be forgiven for thinking city officials are likely to laugh the union bosses out of the room. Instead, the union has an ally in the mayor’s office because the union decided who would hold the mayor’s office. Mayor Brandon Johnson is a former paid CTU organizer, and the union spent millions to get him elected. And if Johnson balks at any of the 700 demands? Well, the CTU is prepared to strike.

Union boss Stacy Davis Gates, who sends her own son to a private Catholic school, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We’re a labor union that understands the power of solidarity and the power of work stoppage.” This leaves Chicago Public Schools families in a bind. Their options are to let the public schools do an even worse job for students or resign to the public schools not doing their job at all. This is what teacher union power does to schools and the families they’re supposed to serve. Every city in America would be wise to learn this painful lesson before it happens to them.


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