Chicago Teachers Union

Teachers Union Issues a List of Climate Demands as Students Struggle to Read at Grade Level

DCNF(DCNF)—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is making climate-related demands in contract negotiations as the city’s students continue to struggle mightily in the classroom, according to E&E News.

The CTU will push the city to include initiatives like electric school buses, green jobs training programs for students and reducing emissions from buildings with solar panels and other retrofits, among other initiatives, according to E&E News. Those demands are being made while 2023 testing data shows that about 75% of Chicago’s public school students were unable to read at grade level and 83% of students were behind grade level proficiency in math, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

The union is also demanding the removal of all lead pipes in school buildings, replacement of windows that do not open and the creation of a “climate champion” role at each school to organize climate-related initiatives and activities, according to E&E News. CTU is also proposing to have solar panels and heat pumps installed in school buildings, as well as to create “heating and cooling centers” for communal use when temperatures are either very hot or very cold.

The union’s climate wishlist could cost hundreds of millions of dollars if granted in full, according to E&E News.

CTU could be well-positioned to land a favorable contract because it provided millions of dollars to Democratic Mayor Brandon Johnson’s mayoral campaign, and Johnson himself is a former organizer for the union, E&E News reported. The union also pushed to keep students out of school in favor of learning online during the pandemic, and Chicago’s school system has the worst chronic absenteeism among America’s largest districts, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

“This is Chicago Teachers Union’s demonstration of our accountability to our larger community,” CTU President Stacy Davis Gates told E&E News. “Our collective bargaining agreement and our coalition work, especially in communities of color, will be a net benefit to everyone.”

Neither CTU nor Johnson’s office responded immediately to requests for comment.

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