Chicago Teachers Union Weighs in on Race for Mayor

Last month, the powerful Chicago Teachers Union endorsed mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle. But some CTU members are calling for the union to rescind that endorsement because Preckwinkle has ties to Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, who’s facing a federal corruption charge.

Below, an edited Q&A with Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union about the mayoral race and upcoming contract talks.

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Is the CTU still standing behind its endorsement of Toni Preckwinkle despite her ties to Ald. Ed Burke, who’s been charged with attempted extortion?

Yes, why wouldn’t we? We’ve been clear about the schools Chicago kids deserve. Toni’s the only competitive candidate who’s committed to elected school boards, as well as freezing school closings and charter expansions.

How does the CTU decide who to endorse? What’s the process?

 CTU knows how to put a mayor in place. Our endorsement process has three layers of democracy. I won’t talk about details, but we have three layers. We have an elected group that represents their colleagues. Endorsements don’t come easy.

Thoughts on education proposals from mayoral candidate Bill Daley? Let’s start with his proposal to consolidate local school councils into neighborhood councils that would represent 8-12 schools, instead of just one.

It is 2019. Someone needs to tell him that 1990s-style school reform isn’t needed here. We are not giving up the process of local school councils. Voters told elected officials they wanted more democracy, not less, let’s not go backwards.

And what about Daley’s idea of merging CPS with City Colleges?

What he needs to do with City Colleges is provide a more broad-based curriculum on all campuses. Remove the burden of students having to go across town to study what they want. They shouldn’t have to travel an hour to another college if they’re interested in a medical career. The very people who need City Colleges most are often inconvenienced the most.

What about Illinois’ new governor? How big of an ally do you think J. B. Pritzker will be to CTU?

He’s committed to an elected school board, a freeze on charter schools, and he knows it’s time for rich people to pay their fair share. Under Governor Pritzker we anticipate schools will be fully funded the way they should always be.

Chicago teachers’ contract expires in June. How are you preparing for bargaining? What topics are most important to members?

Our members want smaller class sizes. Our students and teachers deserve a class size that’s manageable. Adequate special education opportunities are also at the top of the list. Health care is also a priority.

Last year the Supreme Court in Janus vs. AFSCME dealt a big blow to unions, saying they cannot demand workers pay union dues. The court essentially made union membership optional. Concerns this could weaken your union and bargaining power?  

We’re not seeing any indication that Chicago teachers are opting out of the union or not paying their dues. Quite the opposite. Teachers saw the court ruling as a rallying cry about the importance of union membership. We realize it’s more important now than ever to remain unionized.   

Follow Andrea Guthmann on Twitter @AndreaGuthmann

Related stories:

Preckwinkle, FBI at Odds Over Campaign Contribution

Chicago Mayoral Candidates Differ on Elected School Board

New CTU Leader Jesse Sharkey Talks CPS Issues, Teacher Contract

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