Chicago Teachers’ $50 Billion Demands Include Pay Rises, Abortions, and Migrant Accommodations

By: Georgia | Published: May 06, 2024

Right now, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is deep in negotiations for a new contract, with a staggering demand of $50 billion on the table. 

They’re not just aiming for higher wages—they want a complete benefits overhaul. To give you an idea, that $50 billion is almost what Illinois collected in total tax receipts last year.

Aiming For a Raise

The CTU isn’t holding back; they’re pushing for their members to get a 9% wage increase every year all the way through 2028. 

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Two women and one man, all members of the Chicago Teachers Union, engage in a discussion on a busy street. One woman in a red jacket speaks emphatically, while the other, dressed in blue, reads from a paper she is holding. The man, wearing a red shirt and shoulder bag, looks on attentively

Source: CTULocal1/X

This reflects the union’s long-term strategy to significantly uplift teachers’ earnings.

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More Than Money on the Line

It’s not just about the paycheck. The CTU’s wishlist includes fully covered abortions and extensive fertility benefits, encompassing everything from treatment to embryo storage. 

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A large group of teachers from Chicago pose for a solidarity photo on school stairs, all dressed in red. They are smiling and posing with fists raised or hands on their hips, holding a sign that reads 'Solidarity with SEIU Local 99 & UTLA from Chicago.'

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They’re making a comprehensive case for broadening health benefits far beyond the basics.

Boosting Migrant Student Support

The union is also setting its sights on better integration and support for migrant students. 

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A young boy smiles at his desk surrounded by school supplies including books, colored pencils, an apple, and a clock. He appears happy and ready to learn, wearing a school uniform in a brightly lit classroom setting

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They propose allocating $2,000 each to help with everything from schoolwork to mental health, and they want to see a ‘newcomer liaison’ in every school to help these students settle in.

Push for Social Justice in Education

CTU is serious about weaving social justice deeply into the school curriculum, insisting on annual LGBTQ+ training for teachers. 

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This is about more than education; it’s about fostering an inclusive environment for all students and staff.

Safeguarding Student Identity

In a bold move to protect privacy, the CTU wants assurances that school staff won’t have to disclose if a student chooses not to identify with their biological sex. 

A classroom scene showing young students engaged in learning activities with their teacher. The students, some wearing casual summer clothes, are focused on their tasks while the teacher assists them. The room is filled with educational materials and a whiteboard

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It’s a significant step towards supporting students in expressing their true identities.

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What Education Dollars Are Doing

Chicago is pouring money into its schools, with spending per student topping $21,000 last year—well above the national average. 

A male city official speaking at a podium with the City of Chicago seal, addressing an audience outdoors. He is dressed in a suit, making a point with his finger, while several attentive listeners, including diverse community members, stand in the background

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This shows a serious commitment to education, but also raises questions about spending efficiency given current academic outcomes.

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The Political Power of the Teachers Union

The CTU isn’t just a player in education; they’re a force in local politics, especially evident in their support for Mayor Brandon Johnson. 

Two women, members of the Chicago Teachers Union, smiling and holding a 'Brandon Johnson for Chicago' campaign sign. One woman is wearing a black CTU sweatshirt and the other is dressed in black with curly hair

Source: CTULocal1/X

Their influence is clear, shaping not just education policy but broader city governance.

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High Pay, Mixed Results

Chicago’s teachers are among the best-paid in the nation, yet the city struggles with student literacy—only 21% of eighth graders are proficient readers. 

A classroom scene with a Chicago Teachers Union member pointing to a mind map on a whiteboard. She is wearing a black CTU hoodie and discussing ideas with students who are seated, looking engaged and writing notes

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It’s a disconnect that raises eyebrows about the balance between teacher compensation and student achievement.

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Defending the Demand

Union President Stacy Davis Gates stands firm on their demands, saying, “We are asking you to give us an opportunity to tell our story.” 

A group of Chicago Teachers Union members in red standing behind a female speaker at a podium during a public event. The speaker, dressed in a red and black outfit, is addressing the audience, surrounded by listeners in union attire

Source: CTULocal1/X

It’s a rallying call for support as they lay out their vision for the future of Chicago’s education.

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Pushback from Policy Experts

The demands have not gone unchallenged.

A young boy wearing glasses, focused on drawing in a classroom filled with other students. He is using colored pencils for his artwork

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The Illinois Policy Institute, for one, argues that the CTU’s proposals are more about wielding political power than improving education. Mailee Smith from the Institute has voiced concerns about the true intentions behind these demands.

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A Financial Crossroads

Critics warn that meeting the CTU’s demands could mean a total overhaul of Chicago’s finances, potentially leading to higher taxes and more strain on city resources.

A large group of smiling Chicago Teachers Union members posing in a school lobby. They are wearing red CTU shirts and some are seated while others stand, displaying a sense of camaraderie and team spirit

Source: CTULocal1/X

As discussions unfold, the financial implications loom large, with all eyes on how this could affect everyone in Chicago.

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