As the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is set to strike next week, it should serve as a further reminder of why families deserve more choice when it comes to their child’s education.

As a result of the strike, 360,000 children will be out of school forcing families into a bind to find childcare and lose out on classroom instruction time. 

After the vote to strike, CTU laid out their reasons on “why we’ll strike to win what we need for our students,” including:  

  • A 15% pay hike across the board during the next three years
  • Reduced health insurance payments
  • Hiring over 4,000 new support staff
  • 55 additional community schools

If the end goal is to provide a quality education for students, then why can’t CTU officials and members negotiate in good faith to find a solution that doesn’t require taking kids out of the classroom for an indefinite period of time?

CTU members have a higher base salary than 99% of school districts across Illinois and the highest average salary among school districts in 10 of the nation’s top 13 largest cities. 

The compensation of Chicago teachers is at odds with the academic achievements of the students. In 2018, less than one-third of CPS students were reading and doing math at grade level.

According to the Illinois Report Card, CPS teachers have a higher salary than the state average, CPS spends more money per student than the average Illinois student, but the dollar signs don’t match up with academic achievements or graduation rates. 

CPS has a lower graduation rate compared to the rest of the state and a higher amount of students at Illinois community colleges taking remedial courses.

So who are the real losers in this situation? The 76% of low income CPS families that are trapped in a school system that puts a politically motivated group of adults over the children and families they are supposed to serve. 

The Progressive Agenda’s Fight Against School Choice

No one is as fired up to strike as Chicago City Council Member and CTU member, Sue Sadlowski Garza who exclaimed, “That’s right, motherf***er! … Sweet mother of god, I see people ready to strike!” before introducing socialist presidential candidate at a CTU rally.

It’s no surprise that CTU finds an ally in Senator Bernie Sanders who has called for a ban on charter schools and stated that he’s, “proud to support the Chicago Teachers Union teachers in their fight.”

But if Sanders and the CTU folks were actually concerned with the quality of education, they would expand school choice options such as charter schools. A Stanford study found that “when enrolled in charters, students in poverty, African-American students, Hispanic students, special-education students, and English language learners all outperform their counterparts in conventional public schools.”

Not to be outdone, the Illinois General Assembly is also doing their part to restrict competition amongst schools and voted this past session to abolish the state Charter School Commission that served as a broker between charter schools and union allied school boards. 

Perhaps, Sanders and other politicians should talk to single mothers like Josie Lopez from Chicago who cried with joy when she received the letter in the mail that her son was going to receive a tax credit scholarship and wouldn’t have to go to his neighbor-sanctioned public school. After Gov. Pritzker proposed getting rid of the program, Josie spoke to WBEZ and said, “I didn’t think anything like this would happen to us. It was such a blessing to receive the help.”

Despite the 18,000 applications submitted to Empower IL for tax credit scholarships by Cook County families and the 97% of Big Shoulder scholarships recipients that said the program has had a high impact on their lives, Chicago parents still face an uphill battle when it comes to having the power of choosing which school best fits their child’s needs. 

With leaders like former CTU President Karen Lewis who call school choice a “joke,” and CTU Legislative Director Stacy Davis-Gates who calls the tax credit scholarship program “extremist” and claims, “This will not help the vast majority of families in Chicago. This will not help students get a better education,” Chicago children will continue to be dealt an unfair hand in seeking a quality education. 

If leaders are serious about reform and providing an adequate education for every student no matter their family’s income or zip code, then they must put their own political agendas aside and support programs like the tax credit scholarships and charter school expansions. 

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