Chicago Teachers Union: An Example in Corruption

If you want a textbook example of teachers union corruption, look no further than the gold standard for scandal and failure: the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The year 2023 was a banner year of debacles for what was the largest local union in the American Federation of Teachers until the 1960s. Similar to what the modern U.S. president hailing from the same city used to say, change you can choose to believe in came to the CTU when they elected Stacy Davis Gates as their own new president in May of 2022. Like former President Barack Obama, the results were disappointing, to say the least.

Sexual Abuse, Lost Laptops, and Hypocrisy

Where to begin? In 2023, there were 446 sexual abuse allegations in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system, ranging from sexual harassment to “the appearance of impropriety or possible grooming concerns.” Yikes.

Yet the issue of sexual abuse seems to have been overshadowed in the media by the loss of 77,000 laptops and other electronic devices..

Then, there are the scandals surrounding their new union president. Gates publicly opposed Chicago’s only school choice program, only to be caught sending her own son to private school. Choice for me, not for thee. She helped end the only lifeline for Chicago students who want out of their failing public schools, but her son gets the benefits of a pricey quality education, which she can afford with her income, which is just short of $300,000 a year. For those families without such resources? Tough luck.

But opposing school choice while sending your kids to private schools is par for the course for leftist politicians and teachers union leaders. So is demanding the “rich” (how much does she make a year again?) pay their fair share of taxes while skirting tax laws. Gates has reportedly claimed an Indiana tax break meant for Indiana residents, while not residing in the home—a great example of integrity for the students of Chicago Public Schools.

Maybe this lack of integrity prompted nearly 500 education employees to leave the CTU during her 2023 tenure. But that’s not all. CTU both raised union dues and ran a deficit for the first time under Gates’ leadership in 2023. How do you manage to lose money while raising union dues? Perhaps by tripling the CTU’s political spending. Of course, more money for politics means less for the teacher advocacy work in education for which the union is supposed to exist.

More Scandals in 2024

The scandals didn’t end in 2023, regrettably. An ethics complaint filed in 2024 over a “leaked email detailing a plan to help students vote” violated the CPS Code of Ethics, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, which filed the complaint. To be fair, CPS officials aren’t barred from engaging in some political activities. They cannot, however, conduct such activities during working hours. The Illinois Policy Institute claims the email shows “the union is asking its members to violate the CPS Code of Ethics and possibly other state or city provisions.”

In fact, while writing this article, another shocking revelation came out about the Chicago Public Schools system. A former student is suing the CPS, alleging that a dean there raped her at the age of 15 and then posed as her stepfather to get her two abortions, and the staff failed to report it. I need to stop writing before another scandal comes out, or I’ll have to add that, too.

The Chicago Way

To summarize, the Chicago Teachers Union’s leadership and members are rocked scandal, including hundreds of sexual assault allegations. Their union boss is apparently a tax cheat and a hypocrite who doesn’t even send her child to the public schools she represents, and the union is bleeding money while soaking its members for more dues to spend on politics instead of representing the teachers.

Whew! And that’s just what I had time for in this short blog. Sorry Chicagoans, but leave it to the Windy City to have a teachers union that serves as a cautionary tale for why teachers unions can’t be trusted.


Kali Fontanilla

Kali is serving as CRC’s Senior fellow, particularly focusing on topics related to K-12 public education. She has 15 years of experience as a credentialed educator working in public and…
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