Last night, Brandon Johnson, a progressive organizer and former public school teacher, beat Paul Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools executive with a crime-fighting platform and a longtime affinity for charter schools, will serve as Chicago’s next mayor. The two men clashed over how to control the town and educate its children.
Education is a pervasive issue in Chicago, where the public school system faces a dramatic drop in enrollment. From 2019 to 2022, nearly 37,000 students, or 10% of the district’s population,leak the school system. This decline is likely due to lengthy COVID-related school closures, which have kept Chicago public schools sporadically farm until January 2022.
Despite this dysfunction, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) remained a powerful political force that used its membership dues to funds Johnson’s campaign.
Johnson, currently Cook County Commissioner, won CTU support promising to increase funding for Chicago Public Schools. Despite declining enrollment, Johnson has pledged not to close under-enrolled schools and to provide funding based on “student and community needs” rather than on a per-student basis. This strategy would inject funds into schools with shrinking student populations. According public records obtained by the Chicago Sun–Time, the Chicago Teachers Union pays Johnson between $83,000 and $103,000 a year.
In contrast, Vallas, CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001, had a more critical view of Johnson’s emphasis on increased funding. He pointed to the misuse of school money, in writing on its website that “at the moment only 60% of funds reach the classroom”, but “80% of CPS students (read) below grade level and less than 15% meet proficiency standards” .
Crime was also a major problem during the campaign. While CTU supported Johnson, Vallas received the approval of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. Vallas’ tough attitude towards crime extends to his educational policies, where he stress the need to increase school safety. Vallas has also been a strong supporter of charter schools, serving as CEO of a dozen military academy-style charter schools.
With Johnson’s election, the political influence of the Chicago Teachers Union will continue to grow. “CTU already has outsized power compared to any other union or special interest group because unlike police, firefighters or transit workers, they have the right to strike,” Forrest Claypool said. , former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. said policy “They also have an outsized impact on working families who have no other choice as to where to send their children…that power, combined with a mayor who is essentially a wholly-owned subsidiary, in would make a dangerous force.”