Chicago Teachers Union President Jessie Sharkey couldn’t be bothered to speak with investigators about child sex abuse in Chicago Public Schools.
So says an official report for CPS prepared by former Illinois Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey. She was hired by the district following reports of what one federal official called “extraordinary and appalling” child-protection failures in the state’s largest school district.
“The Chicago Teachers Union President is the only person we contacted who failed to respond to our inquiries. We made multiple attempts to contact him by phone, by email, and through his assistant and office, during both our preliminary and follow-up evaluations,” Hickey wrote in a 134-page report.
CTU’s excuse? They say the emails went to their spam folder.
This is the organization now holding Chicago students, and taxpayers across Illinois, over a barrel.
CTU voted to approve an Oct. 17 strike if Mayor Lori Lightfoot refuses to kiss their ring. In doing so, union leadership proved it was never about the kids. It’s all about power.
Lightfoot offered the union a deal based on a neutral factfinder’s report. Among other perks, it offers guaranteed raises across a five-year deal that would bring the average teacher salary up to nearly $100,000.
CTU rejected the offer. Instead, they stuck to a list of demands that reads more like a manifesto than a contract. They’re an insult to average Chicagoans and taxpayers across Illinois who pay to educate the state’s next generation. Among them: 4,000 new staff members and 55 new schools for a district with declining enrollment, a 15% pay hike over the next three years on top of existing automatic raises, reduced health insurance payments, a corporate “head” tax that charges for every employee hired, citywide rent control, support for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive income tax and more.
If granted, these demands would put an additional $220 on the average Chicago homeowner’s property tax bill. Residents statewide should also take note, since Illinois state government will give $1.6 billion to CPS this year.
Illinois state government also gives government unions far more power than do its neighboring states. Even among the largest school districts in the nation, the Chicago Teachers Union is the only one that enjoys a right to strike enshrined in law.
This has little to do with ideology and everything to do with money. Government-worker unions bankroll politicians from both sides of the aisle. In exchange, they keep extraordinary powers at the bargaining table, which in turn drives up the dollars that flow to union coffers.
CTU tried and failed to run this play in the Chicago mayor’s race. The union and its political action committee donated over $291,000 to mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle. Then Lightfoot rolled Preckwinkle at the ballot box. Now CTU won’t deal with the winner.
So how little does CTU care about Chicago students and parents?
Sharkey’s silence on the sexual abuse of CPS students speaks volumes. Here’s another example: The CTU coordinated with the SEIU to set a simultaneous strike date for Chicago Park District employees. When CTU walked out on students for a week-long strike in 2012, park district services served as a refuge for children with nowhere else to go. Not this time.
CTU will continue to fight with the mayor over the next two weeks. Whether they actually walk out remains to be seen. But their behavior has already revealed what union power politics is all about – and who pays the price.