Chicago Teachers Union maintains legislative assault on low-income parents

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
September 25, 2023

Chicago Teachers Union maintains legislative assault on low-income parents

The Chicago Teachers Union has registered opposition to just one bill in the Illinois General Assembly’s current legislative session: one that would have created opportunities for low-income parents to send their children to private schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union is a political behemoth in the Illinois state capital, lobbying for or against bills each legislative session.

In the Illinois General Assembly’s six legislative sessions between 2011-2022, CTU logged support or opposition over 1,360 times on at least 480 bills, according to data obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute from the Illinois General Assembly.

It subsequently has registered its opinion an additional 55 times on 34 bills in the current legislative session of 103rd General Assembly session, which runs 2023-2024.

It supports 33 of those bills. The only bill for which it has registered public opposition to date: a bill creating education savings accounts so low-income parents can better afford to send their children to the schools of their choice.

The bill would create a program in which the state could deposit into an eligible student’s account some or all of the aid that would have gone to the student’s public school district. Parents could then use that money for tuition, textbooks and other education-related expenses. Students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-lunch program would receive the most money.

The bill has yet to make it out of committee.

Over four out of every five current lawmakers in Illinois has received money from teachers unions, with CTU funneling more than $1.25 million to their political committees since 2010.

CTU’s opposition to school choice is nothing new. In the six preceding sessions, the union registered its public opinion on at least 50 bills related to school choice and charter schools.

While not surprising, its assault on school choice is egregious, as it typically targets low-income families. For example, CTU currently is trying to strip low-income students of scholarships they receive through the state’s Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program.

There are at least 9,600 students currently receiving scholarships through the program. One estimate is for every child who receives a scholarship, about five children are waiting for one. But those scholarships will end if lawmakers fail to extend the program beyond 2023.

That’s exactly what CTU wants. It hopes to kill the program “for good.”

Recently Stacy Davis Gates, the president of the CTU, came under fire for choosing to put her own son in private school. She did so while advocating against Illinois’ only school choice program and earlier saying, “I can’t advocate on behalf of public education and the children of this city and educators in this city without it taking root in my own household.”

Davis Gates’ own choice to place her son in private school demonstrates the hypocrisy of the union and its leadership. Chicago teachers know the value of private schools, with 39% of them making that choice for their own children – nearly double the rate for teachers nationwide and for regular Chicagoans, a study found.

Considering CTU’s continuous warfare against school choice for low-income families, it’s no surprise the only bill the union has opposed so far this legislative session is one that would provide educational options for low-income parents.

The CTU doesn’t think low-income families should have the same choices its union leadership can afford.

The Illinois General Assembly has one more chance to save the Invest in Kids program during its veto session starting Oct. 24. Contact your state lawmaker and ask where they stand on Invest in Kids scholarships for low-income families.

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