Outrageous: Chicago Teachers Union Demands $50 Billion in Pay Hikes Among Other Perks

Published May 8, 2024

In 2019, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) agreed to a five-year contract extension that included a 16 percent raise for teachers, a 40 percent raise for teaching assistants and other staff, a freeze on health care premiums, increased per pupil spending, and a moratorium on new charter schools.

Make no mistake, those were very generous contractual terms, especially considering that the vast majority of private sector workers could only dream of guaranteed annual salary increases coupled with a freeze on health care premiums.

However, those terms pale in comparison to the latest demands pushed by CTU as the 25,000-member union enters into the opening phases of contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

According to internal documents obtained by local news sources, CTU has upped the ante considerably by requesting 9 percent annual raises for all teachers; $2,500 retirement bonuses; fully paid abortions for all members; a bevy of mandated positions at all schools, such as “Climate Champion,” “restorative justice coordinator,” and “gender support coordinator;” housing subsidies for CTU staff and CPS families; creation of 180 new “sustainable community schools;” total teacher autonomy over the curriculum; the implementation of a 100 percent electric bus fleet; a district-wide carbon neutral mandate by 2035; environmental, social, and governance (ESG) pension investments; weight-loss drug coverage for all members; and $2,000 for each undocumented student.

To be clear, this is not an exhaustive list of all of the radical demands CTU is pursuing as it seeks to extend its contract with CPS; rather, it is a small sample of some of the most outrageous CTU demands. For a complete list, see here.

Based on these demands, one would assume that CTU is doing a phenomenal job educating Chicago’s 340,000 public school students. Moreover, one would also assume that Chicago has plenty of money to spare on public education.

Unfortunately, both of those assumptions are dead wrong.

Over the past few years, CPS test scores have plummeted. According to U.S. News & World Report, “In Chicago Public Schools, 16% of elementary students tested at or above the proficient level for reading, and 12% tested at or above that level for math. Also, 16% of middle school students tested at or above the proficient level for reading, and 12% tested at or above that level for math. And 14% of high school students tested at or above the proficient level for reading, and 14% tested at or above that level for math.”

What’s more, as Mayor Brandon Johnson recently stated, “We face a projected $538 million budget gap for the 2024 fiscal year that must be addressed in order to invest in the betterment of Chicago and the lives of our residents.”

So, let’s get this straight. Despite a decline in student academic performance across the CPS system and the fact that Chicago is broke, CTU has the audacity to demand $50 billion in pay raises and silly pet projects that will almost assuredly have no impact on student performance but will have a large impact on nebulous social justice causes supported by CTU.

If I were a CPS parent, I would be livid.

Fortunately, I am not a CPS parent. However, as a former public high school teacher, I spent many weeks observing CPS classrooms as part of my teaching degree and certification program several years ago.

In a nutshell, I was shocked almost every time I walked in to a CPS classroom. Even years ago, well before the pandemic, the amount of learning taking place in CPS classrooms was minimal at best.

The apathy on display by CTU staff was alarming. I hate to say it, but the general tone among CTU staff, who were supposed to be inspiring us future teachers, was incredibly dispiriting.

Now, I am not saying that all CTU staff are lazy or indifferent. But, as I saw throughout my five-year teaching career, the ratio of committed teachers to those who were simply mailing it in favored the latter by a lot.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that there are zero incentives in place for those teachers who go above and beyond, who actually educate their students. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that Illinois, like far too many blue states, has declared war on school choice, which reinforces the power of teacher unions and disempowers parents and students. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that Chicago’s political leadership have been in bed with CTU for decades.

Regardless of why this is happening, the solution could not be clearer: CTU and CPS need competition in the form of a robust school choice program. After all, more than 60 percent of Chicago parents want school choice.

Photo by Charles Edward Miller. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.