Ask an Educator: Priority Issues for Chicago’s Classrooms

March 2019

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From a new governor and mayor to the Chicago Teachers Union election and contract renewal, the 2018-19 school year is a pivotal moment of opportunity to transform education in our city. As new education policy-makers emerge, they must rely on the expertise of leaders in the classroom: educators.     

Our Chicago colleagues identified five issues that decision-makers and teachers should tackle together: educator voice, supports for diverse learners, wages and benefits, school funding, and educator mental health supports. Each of these challenges presents an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders to bring forth meaningful change and concrete plans to address these pressing priorities. 

Across our five issues, there is one universal trend: educators want to be better informed and more involved in the decisions impacting our students and our profession. In order to serve students to their full potential, leaders at all levels must bring educators to the forefront of the decision-making process and prioritize the issues we have outlined. By reading this guide, our hope is that policymakers not only focus their efforts on the opportunities and solutions we are hungry for, but realize the value to actively seek out and listen to the expertise of current classroom educators.

In order to ensure our students receive the best education possible, Chicago educators call for:

  • Educator voice: Recognition as experts and a seat at the decision-making table to ensure policies are informed by the realities of our classrooms.
  • Diverse learners: More quality trainings and specialized staff to meet diverse learners’ needs.
  • Wages and benefits: Increased financial stability and a clearer understanding of our wages and benefits.
  • School funding: A better understanding of how schools are funded and being part of the decision-making process to ensure equity for our most vulnerable students.
  • Educator mental health: Improved access to resources for prioritizing their own mental health.

About the Teacher Action Team

To create this guide, our team of educators examined data from over 1,200 surveys and 20 focus groups of Chicago educators. We identified what education issues they cared about the most in order to drive change within the district, union, and state. We believe these ideas will have a significant and immediate impact on our profession, ensuring our students receive the best education we can provide.

Charles Beavers II Teacher Leader at Kozminski Community Academy

DeJernet Farder First-Grade Teacher at Morton School of Excellence

Dayna Heller Special Education Teacher at Roger C. Sullivan High School

Bryan Meeker Biology Instructor at Garcia High School

Sarah Reardon Fourth-Grade Departmentalized English Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher at Casals School of Excellence

Karen Van Zytveld Fifth-Grade Humanities Teacher at Galileo Scholastic Academy

Dr. Winnie Williams-Hall Diverse Learning Teacher at Nicholson STEM Elementary