CTU should focus on education, not making public policy
It’s absolutely crucial to prioritize classroom teaching and school resources, and resolve these issues first before tackling any other social or political problems.
Contrary to outgoing Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey’s recent op-ed, the CTU’s purpose is not to fix our city’s social problems.
Teachers and other CTU members have a valuable role in the education of Chicago’s youth, but our primary duty is not to make public policies or drive the city’s multi-faceted political agenda. While there is nothing wrong with fighting for necessary causes, it’s worth considering what those are and how much to take on to distinguish between wants and needs.
The upcoming CTU elections provide an opportunity for healthy discussion and respectful debate about what members truly require. It’s unlikely that all CTU members will have the same priorities. However, it is feasible to address the working conditions we continue to face and make suggestions based on those conditions.
Teachers and other CTU members have experienced unprecedented hardships that make our jobs astronomically more difficult. This has resulted in a workforce shortage, a rise in mental health needs, and challenges in balancing new and ongoing work duties. Educators are often criticized for not doing enough and judged under subjective performance guidelines and an unfair school rating process. We need a union that can address staff shortages, inaccurate evaluations, job security (especially during the pandemic), and unfair job practices, all of which ultimately affect our students.
SEND LETTERS TO: firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to hear from our readers. To be considered for publication, letters must include your full name, your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes. Letters should be a maximum of 350 words and may be edited for clarity and length.
Schools include vital wraparound services, sports and extracurricular activities, which are another way many of our students learn vital life lessons. It’s absolutely crucial to prioritize classroom teaching and school resources, and resolve these issues first before tackling any other social or political problems.
In addition, members certainly need to be made more aware of key decisions by our leaders, and should not be asked at the 11th hour for input or feedback. All members’ opinions should be valued and respected, even if they differ from that of CTU leaders. Participation in key CTU committees should not be completely at the discretion of leadership. More should be done to have ongoing communication with parents regarding their children’s classroom needs.
Lastly, our union needs to be more accountable for our dues and financial management.
The livelihood and future of CTU members is at stake. Is the CTU a social justice organization? Are we a third political party in Chicago? Or are we a union that acknowledges the common good but prioritizes education?
I urge CTU members to research the platforms of caucuses running to lead the union and compare what each has to offer — not necessarily to solve the city’s social or political problems, but rather to address and prioritize education first.
Froylan Jimenez, civics teacher and Chicago Teachers Union member