Asking good questions can help CTU members decide who will lead union

The May 20 elections are important for CTU members but they are also relevant for all those affected by the union’s decisions, including Chicago Public Schools students and their parents.

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Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters march and protest in Pilsen after a press conference outside Joseph Jungman Elementary School to call for “safety, equity and trust in any school reopening plan” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday morning, Jan. 18, 2021.

Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters march and protest in Pilsen after a press conference outside Joseph Jungman Elementary School to call for “safety, equity and trust in any school reopening plan” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday morning, Jan. 18, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Asking good questions can be helpful in many ways. It can mean the difference between understanding a key lesson in class, selecting the right person for a job, making the correct verdict in a trial, or in this case, making the best choice in an election.

With several weeks to go before the next Chicago Teachers Union elections, this is a perfect time for members to ask relevant and probing questions.

Certainly, the May 20 elections are important for CTU members but they are also relevant for all those affected by the union’s decisions, including Chicago Public Schools students and their parents.

Who is running? There are three caucuses that have filed petitions and are vying for control of the top officer positions: Caucus of Rank and File Educators, Members First Caucus and Respect Educate Advocate Lead Caucus.

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The next questions are what are the differences between the caucuses and what are their platforms? One way to find out is by researching the groups’ websites and social media accounts and by reading the materials they may distribute at schools. But most of this information is far from impartial.

Sadly, media coverage by the local TV networks, newspapers and education news sources won’t be as thorough as it would be for a government election. That leaves little to no objective sources to critique or report on the merit or flaws of the caucuses.

That leaves CTU members with one powerful tool to use as they decide who to vote for, the power of asking good questions.

Here are questions members should ask themselves, their colleagues, and if possible, the CTU candidates:

What would be the best way to handle major contractual disputes during the school year?

What are the plans to improve classroom working conditions for each of the member functional groups, including but not limited to elementary and high school teachers?

How can we be more proactive and collaborative to improve school health and safety?

How are union dues being spent?

Can management of union finances be improved and specifically how?

How can we best prepare and protect our pay and pensions?

How transparent and democratic are union decisions in bargaining, political endorsements and donations?

What are the plans to best adapt and collaborate with an elected school board?

What is the most efficient way to conduct school budgeting, ratings and teacher evaluations?

What mechanisms can our union establish to better seek feedback from parents that will help us better serve their children?

How can we better communicate, interact, and ask for input from CTU members across the city and in each functional group?

After much-needed discussions on these and other key questions, the next step is how to vote.

CTU members can vote for the entire caucus slate or split the ballot by choosing a combination of individuals.

If a member prefers to vote for the entire slate, that gives complete power to one group.

If a member splits his or her ballots, this ensures power is distributed among the various caucuses. This method of voting also allows for some counter-balance of power, since there are top officer and executive board positions on the ballot.

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Sample ballots will be made available for those who choose to look up individual candidates before the elections, which will be held at CPS schools. Members can also vote by mail if their job is categorized as city-wide.

All members are encouraged to exercise the right to vote and to maximize that opportunity by asking good questions that help them become more informed so they can make the best choice.

Froylan Jimenez is a Chicago Public Schools civics teacher and a member of the Chicago Teachers Union.

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