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Cognitive Dissonance In Chicago

The CTU-ChiACTS merger is all about preparing for a post-Janus future


UPDATE: 01/29/18 — The Chicago Teachers Union announced tonight that the proposed merger of CTU and ChiACTS was overwhelmingly approved by its members. According to the union, 70.65% of the 16,206 members who cast ballots on the question supported the measure.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are voting this week on a proposal to merge with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), the union which represents teachers at 32 charter school campuses across the city.

In June, ChiACTS members overwhelmingly voted in favor of the merger, in spite of the fact that CTU actively opposes charter schools and many of its members would be happy to see the city’s charters shut down. Furthermore, the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation funds several of the most vocal anti-charter groups in the country, including Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education and the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, which is organizing the national #WeChoose campaign.

All of this explains why Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, criticized the merger earlier this week.

“I think it’s certainly a technique for CTU to try to grab power,” Broy told reporters. “Certainly this is much more of a political play for the CTU than it is a play that is good for either charter school teachers or, more importantly, in my view, the students educated in those charter schools.”

But the merger is also part of a broader CTU strategy to prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Janus v. AFSCME. As I explained in a previous post, it is widely expected that the Court will strike down the Illinois law that requires non-union public employees to pay agency fees. In the absence of mandatory fees, it is all but certain that CTU and other public employee unions will see a significant drop in membership over the next 12 months.

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By merging with ChiACTS, CTU can partially offset those projected losses. Plus, for complicated legal reasons (which you can read more about here), it’s unclear whether Janus would apply to charter school employees, meaning that CTU could retain the 1000 members they gain through the ChiACTS merger.

CTU is taking other preemptive steps to contain the fallout from an adverse ruling in the Janus case. Its leaders have put forward a series of amendments to the organization’s constitution and by-laws that would make it more difficult for current members to withdrawal from the union. The proposed changes would also extend membership eligibility to charter employees and would open the door for CTU to bring private and parochial school teachers into the union at a later date.

It’s also worth noting that one amendment would make the head of CTU’s charter school division a non-voting member of the union’s executive committee, which pretty much confirms Broy’s assertion that the merger is a raw deal for charter school teachers.

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Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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