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Give alderman, also a teacher, a break on unpaid leave

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) | File photo by Brian Jackson for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel should add teachers and other employees of Chicago Public Schools to the list of city workers who qualify for unpaid leave if they get elected or appointed to a public office.

This should be addressed now so Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, who was elected 10th Ward alderman on the Southeast Side last year, doesn’t get another notice from CPS accusing her of being AWOL from her job as a counselor at Jane Addams Elementary School.

Sadlowski Garza has been denied an unpaid leave of absence from CPS, as Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader reported last week. That’s really petty.


The city personnel code says employees can take unpaid leave to serve in an elective office, which is a good rule. It encourages ordinary people to be civic-minded and brings diverse voices to the City Council.

Currently, there are a handful of aldermen who are taking unpaid leave from their jobs with Chicago Fire, Police and Streets and Sanitation. It is disingenuous to deny a Chicago teacher the same opportunity. Sadlowski Garza is no less a public servant because she works at a school.

Sadlowski Garza doesn’t report directly to City Hall but to CPS. Joravsky points out that the CPS personnel code doesn’t include language about employees getting unpaid leave to serve as elected officials. Sadlowski Garza broke new ground as the first CPS educator to be elected to the Council.

The alderman tells us the Chicago Teachers Union, which she has served as an area vice president, is working to include specific language in contract negotiations that are underway. “Hopefully, it will pave the way for more people to want to run for office in 2019,” she said.

Whether we’re talking about firefighters or educators in Chicago, all city employees fall under the same umbrella, the one held by Emanuel. He can see to it that educators are accommodated the way other city employees are.

It shouldn’t matter that Sadlowski Garza has been a thorn in the mayor’s side. She is known for pushing back against the mayor, in her role with the CTU and as a member of the Progressive Caucus.

“I don’t know how much of it has to do with my history of fighting back,” she said of the denial she got from CPS bosses.

Treating her differently from cops and garbage collectors looks petty but could be easily fixed.

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