Apr 18, 2024 - Education

Chicago Teachers Union goes big with new contract demands

Stacy Davis Gates smiling next to Mayor Brandon Johnson with people in the background.

CTU president Stacy Davis Gates, left, with Mayor Brandon Johnson as he arrives at the Legler Regional Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Feb. 7. Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union released a list of "transformative" demands this week as they begin the arduous process of negotiating a new contract.

Why it matters: Chicago Public Schools and the CTU — one of the most progressive teachers unions in the country — are looking to disrupt the pattern of contentious standoffs that have led to multiple work stoppages since 2012.

What they're saying: "Our collective bargaining agreement is a tool, a vehicle for transformative change and we are going to up the ante," CTU president Stacy Davis-Gates said at a recent press conference.

State of play: The union has put forth over 700 new items in what they're calling the most "ambitious" contract proposal ever.

  • The CTU wants higher pay for teachers and staff. They're also pushing the city to pay for affordable housing for unhoused families and for all CPS students to learn an additional language.
  • Plus, fully funded special education classes, year-round sports for all schools and smaller class sizes.

The intrigue: Negotiations are expected to look different this time around. In recent years, the mayor and the union were not politically aligned. But all that has changed.

  • Mayor Brandon Johnson had previously worked for the CTU and was backed by the union in the 2023 election.
  • Johnson pushed back on any perceived conflict this week, saying he comes to the talks as a CPS parent: "What I want for my children, I want for everyone: a fully funded system."

The big picture: Federal COVID relief dollars have run out, and CPS faces a $391 million deficit.

  • The district has already sent next year's budget proposals to schools, which don't include raises or other CTU proposed investments.
  • The union and the mayor want the state to kick in more money for CPS, but Illinois officials haven't signaled that increasing Chicago's school funding is a legislative priority.

What we're watching: In previous years, negotiations happened behind closed doors. This year, the CTU wants the negotiations to be held in public.

  • "We will be inviting Chicagoans who believe that this is the greatest city on earth to participate in building the greatest school district on earth," Gates said at a recent press conference.

What's next: The current contract expires June 30.


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