Karen Lewis will keep her job as President of the Chicago Teachers Union for another three-year term. The Chicago Teachers’ Union announced yesterday that its House of Delegates voted “overwhelmingly” Wednesday night to cancel this year’s CTU elections, because there was no opposition for the union’s slate of candidates for officer and executive board positions.
By choosing not to hold the elections, which costs the union about $200,000-$300,000 in printing and courier costs, the delegates instead accepted the list of eligible candidates, including Lewis, to be seated for the new term.
That means starting July 1, 2016, Lewis will start her third term as president of the CTU, a position she was first elected to in 2010 in an aggressive run-off election fueled by the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), an organization within CTU that Lewis co-founded.
A significant portion of the union’s rank and file are now members or supporters of CORE, which represents teachers, retirees, paraprofessionals, parents, community members, and other public education stakeholders. CORE members make up a large portion of public school employees; and a notable number of the CTU’s House of Delegates (the group that recently rejected a tentative contract with the Board of Education and voted to authorize a strike on April 1st) are CORE members or supporters, according to the group’s Co-Chair, Sarah Chambers.
“No one else ran because our members are happy with [CORE’s] leadership,” Chambers wrote to Aldertrack. “[CORE] and CTU have created a movement in this city with a broad coalition of community organization. Because of our power, we have completely dethroned Rahm Emanuel who is now down to an 18% approval rating. He has no control over the city anymore. We are powerful in Springfield too, we won 8 out of 9 endorsed candidates in the last primary election.”
In February, when the House of Delegates voted against the tentative contract with Chicago Public Schools, Lewis expressed her surprise that the group rejected the deal, saying, “There were a lot of things [in the contract] that were great.”
Chambers said that a substitute teacher, Pat Breckinridge, made an attempt for Lewis’ seat, but “she received very few signatures.”
That contested 2010 election that placed Lewis at the helm of the teachers’ union also led to the decline of another sub-group within the union: the United Progressive Caucus. Lewis’ predecessor, Marilyn Stewart, was a member. Chambers said that group received a “minimal” percentage of the vote and, to her knowledge, they don’t flyer or run candidates for election anymore.
In fact, the number of active caucuses within CTU has declined since Lewis took over. In 2010, five caucuses each ran a candidate for the executive board, in the subsequent 2013 election, two caucuses, including CORE, combined to offer a slate, and this year, CORE was the only caucus with a slate of candidates. Kristine Mayle, who as Financial Secretary for CTU organizes the CTU elections, said CORE is really the only active caucus right now.
The other three officers that will join Lewis on the executive board include Jesse Sharkey, who will keep his job at Vice President, Michael Brunson as recording secretary, and Maria Moreno as financial secretary.