UNION NEWS: How many secret agendas and CPS financial talking points will the current leadership put out to the House of Delegates before someone asks more questions...

The four elected officers of the Chicago Teachers Union held a press conference following the House of Delegates meeting that voted to authorize the April 1, 2016 one-day "strike." Above, left to right, Michael Brunson, Kristine Mayle, Karen Lewis, and Jesse Sharkey. For the second month in a row, the most important information that was to be brought before the 800 elected members of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates (HOD) was not on the agenda prepared and agreed upon by the union's 45-member Executive Board. Instead, there were two packets distributed to the delegates. The first, which contained the "agenda" and the usual stuff, was distributed before the meeting. The second, also in a white envelope was distributed separately, some time after most of the delegates had entered the meeting.

Also, instead of a discussion of a recommended action (a motion to the HOD for a vote), the representatives from the schools were treated to another lecture on what some of the leadership thinks the union should be doing. No debate on whether to strike in May, June or September, despite a large contingent of media parked outside the union meeting because the meetings was ostensibly to discuss just that question.

A few months earlier, the union's leadership had agreed that the agenda of the HOD meetings would be posted on line for delegates and members two days before the meeting. But how much "democracy and transparency" (two of the buzz words utilized by the reigning CORE caucus -- of which this reporter is a member) was there if every meeting the real agenda was secret until well into the meeting? The question was raised by many: Is the union leadership working to keep this information secret from the Board of Education and the union's political adversaries -- or from the union's membership and the elected delegates from across the city?

And with the failure of the current leadership to present the delegates and members with an accounting of how the Political Action (PAC) money has been spent for more than three years, other questions arise as the HOD will consider the proposed 2016 - 2017 CTU budget at the June HOD meeting.

The second agenda at the May 4 meeting was a plan to supposedly "mobilize members" (a favorite term among some in the leadership) to visit their alderman in favor of a complex and often puzzling list of "revenue enhancements" that were supposed to increase local finances and which supposedly could be utilized at the behest of City Council. But some of them were clearly non started -- or actually regressive taxes, such as an increase in the local gas tax. Others were puzzling in their complexity. But the end result is that few of the delegates, who were again urged forward cheerleader fashion, could have explained, let alone "mobilized" anyone to go visit the alderman.

Also, the two biggest possible sources of local revenue -- the local property taxes and the long-discussed recoupment of the losses because of the "toxic swaps" -- were not on the list. Given that Chicago's taxpayers pay among the lowest local property taxes in the greater Chicago area (the six counties, including Cook), the argument about raising local property taxes effectively was still avoided by the union leadership.

Anyway, despite the fact that the push for aldermanic visits and local "revenue enhancements" was by far the most important item on the agenda for the meeting, there was not opportunity for the delegates to discuss it. It was not brought before the delegates as a proposal or motion, but simply handed out and then "motivated" by two union staff members, Jackson Potter and Stacy Davis Gates. No questions, and no discussion -- again.

And when the meeting was finally over, the delegates, besieged by reporters because the May 4 meeting was supposed to decide on when the union would strike, nobody could describe any debate -- because there was none on setting a strike date. No motion came before the HOD on that question. Instead, the delegates were treated to reporters from the President and Vice President about how complex the setting of a strike date is. And the delegates were then asked to vote on three motions -- on "Community Schools," on "Immigrant Rights," and on "Career and Technical Education" for middle school kids.

There is now a lot to discuss about how the CTU is being managed and led as the current leadership team enters its third three-year term (which begins July 1). But one discussion may begin -- a discussion about how much real democracy the CTU is going to resume, versus how long the delegates are going to sit down, shut up, and take notes on what they are being told.

The June House of Delegates meeting has always been the time when delegates have been able to ask questions about the proposed annual budget. And questions will arise. During the 2015 - 2016 school year, the CTU budgeted $150,000 for "part time consultants." But as of May 2016, the union reported that it had spent more than $300,000 in that category. And the union president seemed to say that it was nobody's business who was being paid for those jobs (disclosure: during the first three years of the current regime, this reporter served as a part-time consultant, researching mainly budget and Board of Education expenses...).

Another question, especially following the April 27, 2016 Board of Education meeting, is why the union insists that all financial discussions be held only regarding revenue needs. At the Board meeting, the CTU ignored the vast number of dollars (more than $500 million) on the agenda to be spent on privatization schemes, from charter schools to the complete privatization of the engineering and custodial work in all of the city's remaining real public schools). As some of us have noted (and we will report in future UNION NEWS columns here), the Board of Education has been lying about its "billion dollar deficit" since Ron Huberman first proclaimed that massive fiction during his final years as CEO under Mayor Richard M. Daley. Yet at least some in the CTU leadership are now repeating the same old story, as if it were true.

As the agenda for the most recent meeting of the Board of Education shows, CPS could get another billion dollars (either from local or state revenues, or a combination of both) and the Board of Education would still have no money to spent on teacher and other union member raises, thereby continuing the near freeze on salaries that was begun following the "victory" in the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. (Fact: During the past ten years, the five worst years for teacher and other bargaining unit raises have been since 2010...).


May 14, 2016 at 10:18 PM

By: Jim Vail

Political expenses

The question I have is what is this independent political organization in the CTU doing. Does it still exist after we passed a motion to create it a year or so ago? I ask because now I hear the United Working Families is getting CTU political money (how much??) and there are two CTU people sitting on the board. Who is UWF or should I dare say WTF?

May 14, 2016 at 10:26 PM

By: Jim Vail


And George could you please tell us what CTU is getting from Madigan endorsement. Is it like the mafia - if we don't pay the protection racket we get whacked?

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 3 =