Over 4 of 5 Illinois lawmakers get money from teachers unions
Since 2010, teachers unions have funneled nearly $20 million to current lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly, with the Chicago Teachers Union alone spending over $1.25 million.
Unions are major political players in Illinois, contributing $60.2 million to lawmakers and then advocating for their preferred policies at the Statehouse.
About one-third of that comes from teachers unions, which frequently take stances that run counter to what parents in the state may want for their children. Teachers unions oppose donor scholarships for low-income children to attend the schools of their choice and lobby against funding for resource officers to keep kids safe in school.
Since 2010, teachers unions have contributed nearly $20 million to current lawmakers’ political committees, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Of the Illinois General Assembly’s 177 members, 144 of them – more than 4 out of every 5 – have received money from teachers unions.
The Chicago Teachers Union alone has funneled more than $1.25 million to current lawmakers. They don’t just try to influence the Chicago lawmakers, either, donating to 38 lawmakers whose districts are outside the city and school district.
Teachers unions then lobby those lawmakers on their chosen policies and political agendas. For example, CTU logged support or opposition over 1,360 times on at least 480 bills between 2011-2022, according to data obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute from the Illinois General Assembly.
Political contributions and lobbying give teachers unions a one-two political punch that gives them a big advantage over parents and other residents in the state, who may have different ideas on what’s best for kids.
Teachers unions have contributed nearly $20 million to the campaign committees of 144 of 177 current lawmakers
Between Jan. 1, 2010, and June 6, 2023, lawmakers currently sitting in the Illinois General Assembly have received $19.6 million from teachers unions, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Of the 177 current lawmakers, 144 have received money from teachers unions.
Those lawmakers are located all over the state.
State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, was included as a sitting lawmaker because she was in office during the General Assembly’s spring 2023 session.
While some of the money was received earlier in lawmakers’ political careers and not while seated in the General Assembly, the receipt of union funds over more than a decade charts a long history of union influence.
The Chicago Teachers Union has funneled more than $1.25 million to 88 current lawmakers
The Chicago Teachers Union is a strong political player. In the six legislative sessions between 2011-2022, the union logged support or opposition over 1,360 times on at least 480 pending bills, according to data obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute from the Illinois General Assembly.
It’s no surprise the CTU also heavily funds lawmakers, establishing a financial hold on what happens in Springfield.
Since 2010, CTU has funneled more than $1.25 million to 88 current lawmakers located throughout the state – not just in legislative districts within Chicago Public Schools. Thirty-eight of those lawmakers are in districts outside Chicago city limits.
Teachers unions lobby against school choice options supported by the majority of Illinoisans
Most Illinoisans support giving kids and families access to more educational options, according to polling from Echelon Insights in partnership with the Illinois Policy Institute.
Sixty-four percent of Illinois voters polled said they support school choice.
In addition, 63% of Illinoisans also support the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program, which provides a 75% tax credit to donors who provide private school scholarships for low-income students. There are 9,600 students helped by the program, and thousands more on the waiting list.
Bose Clodfelter’s son, Jordan, was in public school for four years, but not doing very well.
“There was a lot of bullying going on and a lot of overcrowding in the classroom. Because of the larger-sized classroom, he wasn’t given a lot of attention, and he didn’t excel really well,” she said.
“So we pulled him out and decided on private school. And immediately we saw the change in my son: his grades, his personality, just everything improved.”
But teachers unions routinely lobby against school choice and have encouraged lawmakers to kill the Invest in Kids Act.
For example, the Illinois Federation of Teachers called on their followers to “keep the pressure on lawmakers to sunset” the program. CTU, the largest affiliate of IFT, also called on lawmakers to kill the program and has advocated for years against educational options for kids.
Invest in Kids annually saw about $50 million in income tax credits to donors. In a state with a budget of about $50 billion – with an additional $350 million added to the $8.3 billion in public school funding – that tiny fraction was treated by union bosses like a threat to public education’s very existence. In reality, it is a lifeline for 9,600 disadvantaged students trying to break the cycle of poverty.
IEA celebrated the seeming demise of the program – and the end of educational options for low-income families – when the legislative session ended and Invest in Kids had not been extended.
Or, as The Wall Street Journal paraphrased IEA’s stance, “to hell with the 9,000 kids already enrolled” – and with what the majority of Illinoisans want.
Despite Illinoisans’ overwhelming support for the Invest in Kids program, that’s not what the powerful teachers unions want. And the low-income students helped through the scholarships are no match for the $19.6 million the unions have poured into lawmakers’ campaign coffers.