Chicago Teachers Union offers blueprint for better schools

CTU president Lewis hopes the report “redirects attention to what works.”

February 16, 2012

Saying everyone deserves to have the same education as the children of the wealthy, the Chicago Teachers Union Thursday issued a detailed plan - with a $713 million pricetag - for improving city schools.

The teachers union wants lower class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grades, from the current 28 students per class down to 20. That would require 1,700 more teachers.

It also wants more social workers, counselors, and nurses—saying schools are wildly understaffed.

Drawing on examples from top private schools, the union proposes kids have access to at least two enrichment classes per day - in art, music, gym, computers or a foreign language. The union calculates that currently, 42 percent of CPS neighborhood schools have no full-time art or music teacher.

Union officials blasted what they called “apartheid" schooling, saying nearly 70 percent of Chicago’s African-American students attend “intensely segregated” schools."

CTU president Karen Lewis says she wants the report, "The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve," to "redirect attention to what works.”

“Although we don’t control the policies, the curricula, or the purse strings, educators must be in the forefront of developing education policy, not politicians and venture capitalists.” Lewis characterized school closings and turnarounds as the "status quo," and said it was time for a change.

The union puts the cost of its proposals at $713 million—and suggests paying for it through various taxes on the wealthy.

Chicago Public Schools didn't respond to any of the specific education proposals in the union's blueprint. In a written statement from spokeswoman Becky Carroll, Chicago Public Schools said it shares a "deep commitment with our teachers to boosting the achievement and academic well-being of our students," and pointed to the extended school day the district has pushed for.

But Carroll said the union's proposals for generating more revenue, which include using TIF funds and putting a "financial transaction tax" on the purchase of stocks, were off the table. "What we won’t do is ask taxpayers to give more out of their pocket without first putting everything on the table and making tough decisions in our own house," Carroll's statement said.

The CTU report comes as teachers negotiate a new contract with the district, and a week before the school board votes on closing or turning around 17 schools.