A busy week for labor politics in Chicago

Striking L.A. teachers may have nabbed the spotlight, but it wasn’t a quiet week for labor politics in Chicago. The teachers union delivered a 75-item list of contract demands to the district and the mayor’s office, a sure sign they are gearing up for a fight that will be as political as it is practical. The current contract expires at the end of June, after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s successor takes office. Among the new mayor’s first responsibilities? Negotiating a new contract with the Chicago Teachers Union. Read our breakdown here.

Meanwhile, weeks after the nation’s first charter strike hit Chicago, teachers at a second charter operator announced a strike date of their own. Unless they reach a compromise with their network bosses, teachers at four Chicago International Charter Schools will strike on Feb. 5. Their demands — better pay to tackle teacher turnover, smaller class sizes — are similar to the demands of teachers at the Acero network who walked out in December. We asked then if the Acero strike would spur more labor action at other charter schools — we may get our answer soon.

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.

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The Week in Review

New year, new governor: In his first speech after taking the oath as Illinois governor, J.B. Pritzker made few concrete promises on education, focusing instead on the task of balancing the Illinois budget. Chalkbeat analyzed his speech.

$2.4 billion for pre-K: The state school board may soon have new members. That didn’t stop the current board from preparing a moonshot budget proposal, with a whopping $2.4 billion for statewide preschool. Chalkbeat looked at the rationale.

Charter loan fund: A smaller line item in the budget proposal is an ask for $1.5 million in interest-free loans for charter school facilities and classroom technology. Chalkbeat examined the line item.

Aldermanic power and schools: 50 wards. 50 aldermanic seats up for election. So what powers does City Council have when it comes to schools? Chalkbeat kicked around the question. We also compiled this handy list of questions to ask the candidates in your ward.

Fistshaking at the fee: Verizon wants to start charging a fee on a text messaging service used by millions of educators, including some in Chicago. A look at the #ReversetheFee campaign.

Shutdown impacts: Stressed-out parents, public schools offering free or discounted lunches for students whose parents are furloughed public workers. Young people are feeling the stress of the shutdown too, reports The New York Times.

Looking ahead

Chicago’s school board meets Wednesday, Jan. 23. Speaking slot sign-ups open Monday.

The Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange is hosting a Teacher Swap Circle on Jan. 25 and 26. Details here. 


When Caleb Dunson was elected junior class president at Whitney Young High School in November, one of his first ideas was to bring a mayoral candidate forum to the school. He accomplished that goal on Thursday with help from other student leaders. He’s 16, too young to vote like most pupils at Whitney Young. But he knew it was important to get students engaged.

“There are a lot of kids here who will go on to do great things,” he said. “Getting them exposed to what politics look like, what mayoral forums look like, is really important to do at a young age.”

Read Chalkbeat’s coverage of the forum here.