Chicago Teachers Union oversaw academic, enrollment drops as costs rose

Chicago Teachers Union oversaw academic, enrollment drops as costs rose

Nearly 80,000 students have left Chicago Public Schools and student proficiency rates have declined nearly 80% in math and 70% in reading since the current leaders took over the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010. All that, and 55% higher costs.

The Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE, was just reelected to lead the Chicago Teachers Union on May 20, but what has the union leadership delivered since assuming power in 2010?

A loss of nearly 80,000 students from Chicago Public Schools.

An additional $2.5 billion in yearly costs to educate that dwindling student population.

A 70% drop in reading proficiency and 80% drop in math.

Now, an amendment on the ballot in November seeks to cement CTU’s power in the state constitution to ensure its attempts to control public policy and make extreme contract demands can never be curbed by elected lawmakers.

Nearly 410,000 students were enrolled in CPS at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. That number dropped to about 330,000 by fall 2021. This means the district has lost nearly 80,000 students during the past 12 years under CORE leadership – a 20% drop.

The district’s demands on taxpayers have ballooned by 55% during that time. CPS will collect more than $7 billion from state and local taxpayers in fiscal year 2023. That number was $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2010.

But dropping enrollment is not the only concern facing the district since CORE took leadership of the union in 2010.

Parent Sarah Sachen has seen her kids struggle in the wake of repeated school closures caused by the union.

“When the union calls a strike, it impacts families financially, educationally, socially,” Sachen said. “CTU wants to keep pushing and striking for demands not even related to education and I don’t want the CTU to have any more power to do that. Learning should not be impeded or stopped for the union’s political games.”

Academic proficiency among CPS students has been declining in recent years, based on achievement reports for grades 3 through 8 filed by the district with the Illinois State Board of Education.

Average reading score proficiency among CPS third through eighth graders has decreased by nearly 70% since 2010. Math proficiency has decreased by nearly 80%. In 2021, just 21% and 17% of third through eighth graders on average were proficient in reading and math. Compare that to 65% and 75% in 2010.

The highest decline in academic proficiency among this group during the past 12 years occurred in 2013, following a fall semester in which students missed seven days of instruction because of a strike. Prior to that strike, proficiency rates in both subjects were increasing.

Why are families leaving and students struggling?

The militant bargaining tactics used too often by CTU leaders to get their demands met have not been in the best interests of CPS students and families – or taxpayers.

CTU has gone on strike twice and walked out on students three times since CORE took over union leadership in 2010. Most recently, the union illegally walked out on students over COVID-19 protocols, giving parents just hours to scramble for a back-up plan after the union decided not to show up for in-person classes.

But CTU President Jesse Sharkey, set to hand the presidency to newly elected CORE leader Stacy Davis Gates in July, claims the union has the best interests of CPS students and families in mind.

“Each and every day, the rank-and-file members of this union have stepped up for students and families,” Sharkey said in a statement about CORE’s reelection to union leadership.

But rather than standing up for district students, CPS parent Toni Larocco said CTU leaders “play politics with children” and go on strike whenever they feel their demands aren’t being met.

“I feel like the unions have no consequences,” Larocco said. “It seems that whenever they feel like something isn’t going their way, they walk out and leave our kids hanging. My fear is that this is going to continue happening as time goes on.”

The union certainly acts as though it faces no consequences and has failed to show remorse for walking out on district students. CTU celebrates its use of strike power on its website and proudly claims it “spread the new gospel” of strike power and instigated strikes in public school districts across the country.

CPS parents are tired of watching teachers walk out on their children and seeing their students’ learning sacrificed for union leader demands. Taxpayers are also weary of CTU’s militancy.

The union’s most recent contract with the district came on the heels of a two-week strike during which students missed 11 days of classroom instruction. CTU leaders flexed their muscles over staffing decisions and social agendas in the district, and taxpayers were called upon to carry the cost of the expensive contract.

The contract included teachers’ raises despite district teacher salaries growing 75% faster than the salaries of everyday Chicagoans during the 10 years leading up to the 2019 strike. And those same Chicagoans were expected to pay for the more-costly contract which was projected to cost residents an average of $80 a year in higher property taxes.

Now, taxpayers will have a chance to voice their disproval for excessive government union bargaining that drives up Illinois’ tax burden by voting on a secret tax hike being pushed by government unions.

Amendment 1 is on the ballot Nov. 8, seeking to enshrine government union power in the Illinois Constitution. It would prevent elected lawmakers from ever curbing teachers union leaders’ ability to walk out on students or limit what union leaders can demand in negotiations.

Voters need to ask themselves whether public unions such as CTU need more power, especially when it is clear what they’ve done with the power they already possess.

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