CPS teachers return to school

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Teachers Union says it's looking forward to the school year and is taking aim at the mayor, especially since it's an election year. They want to make sure all promises are being kept.

About 25,000 teachers and support staff are returning to the classroom Monday to get ready for the school year. And the Chicago Teachers Union was there to greet some of them at Beidler Elementary School in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.

Acting CTU President Jesse Sharkey is now at the helm of the CTU after former president Karen Lewis retired. He says the union is bracing for a contentious contract fight with multiple contracts expiring in 2018 and 2019, including contracts at more than 30 charter schools.

"Our members are gonna demand fair treatment," Sharkey said. "We demand to be treated with dignity and respect for the people who make this profession work who go into the schools and make the public schools work. We demand resources for our schools."

The CTU says it also wants to use this week to see what conditions at the schools are like, looking to see if promises to fix rodent and roach infestations at some schools have been remedied. Educators have also demanded relief for classroom overcrowding that CPS vowed to address with additional hiring.

"To be perfectly honest, I think that our members expect all of those things to go unfulfilled," said Stacy Davis Gates, CTU political director. "That has been the norm since 2011. What they will do is take good notes. What they will do is begin to organize internally."

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel is issuing a statement saying in part that the evaluations that matter "are the ones like the Stanford University study that shows Chicago's school kids are leading the nation in academic gains and making huge strides relative to their peers. None of this would have been possible without lengthening the school day and school year."

Around 400,000 CPS students will return to school on September 4.

Lewis, 64, was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer in 2014 at a time when she was considering a run for mayor. She returned to work after treatment, but had a stroke in 2017.
In June, Lewis underwent a "planned medical procedure."

Lewis was elected CTU president in 2010. Prior to becoming president, she taught high school chemistry for 22 years in Chicago Public Schools. Lewis also attended CPS schools as a child.
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