Chicago Teachers Union demands $1.7B for ‘climate champions and gender support coordinators’ as deficit looms

Already facing a $400 million budget deficit, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is demanding 4,650 new staff positions at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) at a cost of $1.7 billion.

The union wants…

Already facing a $400 million budget deficit, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is demanding 4,650 new staff positions at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) at a cost of $1.7 billion.

The union wants many of those positions to go to school librarians, and what they call ‘climate champions’, ‘restorative justice coordinators’ and gender support coordinators, said Hannah Schmid, labor policy analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Other spending demands, such as raises, subsidized housing, and support for infertility, abortion care and weight-loss surgery, push the total cost for the union proposals to over $10 billion, said Schmid. 

Given that CTU helped elect current Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, don’t be surprised if the CTU gets its way, say Chicago political insiders.  

The budget for CPS last year was $9.4 billion. That’s up from $5.1 billion in 2012.  

Stacy Gates, the new CTU president, has said publicly that all the demands of the union this year “will cost $50 billion and 3 cents.” 

“And so, what? That’s audacity. That’s Chicago,” she added.  

Baseline raises under the leaked 142-page union proposal obtained by Illinois Policy would be locked in at 9% annually, not including length of service and qualification increases.    

That’s far above the historical rate of inflation, just barely touching the highest inflation rate clocked in June 2022 under President Joe Biden. 

When asked from where the money will come for all the extra spending, Gates told an audience at the City Club of Chicago, “Stop asking that question,” reported the Chicago Tribune.  

Under the proposal, even smaller, over-staffed schools would grow significantly. 

Schmid points to CPS’s Douglass Academy High School as an example, where 21 full-time employees and 31 staffers educate just 35 students. 

Under the CTU proposal, the high school’s payroll would grow by “at least eight staff members.” 

Statistics from the Illinois Report Card show that the school already spends $68,000 per pupil annually, versus a district average of $18,000.

Schmid said that while spending has soared 97% in the district, test scores are still plunging.  

She previously reported that just 1 in 4 CPS students can read at grade level, while less than 1 in 5 can do math proficiently.   

Still, the Chicago Tribune says the CPS teacher salaries are already “among the highest of any big-city teachers in the country.” 

Meanwhile, CPS and CTU are blaming the looming budget deficit on the stoppage of federal COVID-19 relief funds that are scheduled to terminate.  

In the five fiscal years since 2020, CPS has received $2.8 billion in federal funds in the form of COVID-19 relief. 

The district also gets additional revenue through automatic property tax increases each year, capped at 5%. Combined with higher property values, CPS brought in 13% in increased local funding last year, not including state funds.  

A budget crisis, however, still has been stalking the district for nearly ten years, fueled in part by high salary and pension demands by the union.  

“CPS lost its investment grade ratings between 2015 and 2016 as it drained reserves and relied on one-time maneuvers like…debt restructuring to balance its budget,” said  

In 2017, CPS had to borrow $500 billion at high, junk-bond rates, just to fund its pension obligations. 

One expert called the interest rate “at least twice what a typical government” would pay to borrow money, said the Chicago Sun Times.  

Still, CPS budget problems caused by the union didn’t stop CTU from using its political capital to try and help Chicago’s progressive mayor, Brandon Johnson, a former CTU official, pass a big property tax increase to house the homeless in Chicago.  

Johnson’s mayoral campaign was fueled in large part by CTU support.  

“Unlike negotiations in the past that resulted in strikes, the teachers union and the mayor CTU helped put in office are on the exact same page when it comes to union demands,” noted Chicago’s local ABC News 7.