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The Chicago Teachers Union, led by Stacy Davis Gates, is not publicly saying how much money it will devote to support the union’s endorsed candidates for CPS’ elected school board.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Tomes

CTU endorses slate of candidates for Chicago’s first elected school board

Just days after the candidate filing period ended, the CTU is out with 11 endorsed candidates for 10 seats, including parents, educators, faith leaders and community organizers.

The Chicago Teachers Union is announcing its endorsements for Chicago’s first elected school board — a major step for the powerful political force that helped to elect the city’s mayor.

The CTU is not publicly saying how much they will devote to support these candidates and, so far, none of the candidates have reported contributions from CTU to the Illinois Board of Elections. In addition to money, the CTU has about 30,000 members who have been key in knocking on doors and getting out the vote.

The endorsements come less than a week after the deadline to file petitions to get on the ballot. Forty-seven people are running to represent 10 geographic districts, which cover several neighborhoods. Challenges to petitions must be filed by July 1. Election day is November 5, with voters casting ballots in the district where they live.

The CTU endorsed one candidate in nine districts and two in district six where a former teacher and a leader from a parent advocacy group both got the nod. Among the group, several are former teachers, some are activists and at least one describes herself as a full-time mom.

Despite the candidate filing period just ending, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates said the union’s process for choosing who to endorse was more robust than usual. The union’s protocol is that a committee vets candidates and then brings recommendations to the union’s full House of Delegates, who are the representatives elected by members.

Gates said she is enthusiastic about the election and the candidates, many of whom are former teachers and parents.

“Here in Chicago, Black people, brown people, working class people who send their children to the Chicago public schools get an opportunity to engage in actual debate about school policy,” she said. “I, for sure, was skeptical more than once that this would ever happen and I’m just very proud of it honestly, that people get to do this.”

Gates noted the union’s Political Action Committee does not have much money on hand. At last reporting on March 31, it only had $42,000, but most members opt to give monthly to the PAC, paying a fee above their dues.

The union is criticizing the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, which is expected to play a role in the school board election. INCS had about $2 million as of March and earlier this month got $1 million from James Franks, the Winnetka-based CEO of Wheels.com.

In its press release, the CTU sharply criticizes INCS’ big bank account and the influence it might have in the election. “Despite their long history of demanding policies that increased racial inequity at CPS and denied parents a voice, these organizations now want to buy their way into influencing the election and running our schools,” according to the CTU press release.

INCS fired back. In a statement, officials said INCS’ PAC has a “very clear goal — to support candidates who embrace a student-centered vision for what education can be in Chicago.” INCS officials said parents are making informed choices where to send their children to school and “we intend to defend that right.”

INCS President Andrew Broy said the organization will only make endorsements after candidates fill out questionnaires and are interviewed. The organization is also waiting for the ballot to be finalized after petition challenges. However, INCS has already provided some in-kind support to a few candidates.

Some of CTU’s endorsements are no surprise. Political organizer Aaron “Jitu” Brown has long stood arm in arm with the CTU. He said they worked together “opposing the purging of Black teachers from CPS and racist mass closing, while pushing the scam called ‘school choice.’”

Among their most high profile collaborations — which briefly included now-Mayor Brandon Johnson — was a hunger strike in 2015 that successfully halted the closing of Dyett High School.

Brown said he was “honored and humbled” to get the endorsement, noting that other progressive groups, such as the Network for Public Education, are also backing him.

Other endorsed candidates include a dean at suburban school district who sends her children to CPS, a band director at Back of the Yards College Preparatory IB and a community organizer at One Northside, a Rogers Park-based organization.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on X @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.

Lauren FitzPatrick is an investigative reporter on the Chicago Sun-Times’ race, class and communities team.

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