The Smoke Screen of CTU Politics: Unchecked Gentrification and the Loss of Students

Workers have a right and duty to improve working conditions but need to watch behind the scenes.

The sharp decline in public school enrollment and unchecked gentrification should warn Chicago Teachers Union members that this all happened when the current leadership was in power.

Official enrollment is now 330,411 students. This decrease, which accelerated during the pandemic, continues a decade of declines in which the school district lost nearly 74,000 students.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said he is surprised to see how much the school district has shrunk since he left a job as a top CPS official in 2009.

The Pilsen-Little Village neighborhood saw the largest enrollment decline this year. That area is experiencing gentrification, as well as the effects of fewer Latino families coming to the city. The Lincoln Park area also had a significant drop in students enrolled. The constant conflict and political posturing of union leadership is not what working parents want for their children.

Latino students still make up the largest population of CPS students at 46.6%, but that racial group also saw the biggest decline in students, year-over-year, with more than 5,000 students lost. Black students now make up a slightly larger portion of the district (36%), while white students account for 10.8% of enrollment.

Parents seek stable schools that provide the services they expect for their children, whatever those expectations may be.

However, there is a population increase in some regions of the city.

In terms of raw numbers, The Loop, saw an increase from 29,000 residents in the 2010 census to 42,300 residents in 2020 — its highest population yet. This is roughly a 45% gain, the report details, meaning that Chicago's Loop remains the fastest growing community within the city.

The decline in enrollment in the public schools combined with population increases in the central part of the city shows there will be demographic and cultural changes coming to Chicago in the years to come.

One of the challenges for union educators is finding a balance between self-interest and the common good without getting lost in the smokescreen of politics.


“The Chicago Loop’s Changing Demography.” (October 2021) Loop Chicago,

“CPS Student Enrollment Drops by 10,000 Students.” (October 27, 2022) WTTW News

Park & Burgess (1925) The city. The University of Chicago Press.

Payne, Ruby (1995) A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, TX.: Aha! Process, 2005.

“Smokescreen.” The Future Shapers (October 7, 2020)

Stacy Davis Gates (December 2, 2021) Chicago-Kent Continuing Legal Education. IPS21 Plenary Panel - As We Move Forward: Major Recent Events and Their Impact on Public Sector Labor

“Thousands of Students Left Chicago Public Schools This Year, New Data Shows.” (October 27, 2022) WBEZ Chicago


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