Chicago Public Schools

Read Former CTU President Karen Lewis' Full Letter on Chicago Teachers Strike

"Power concedes nothing without a demand," Lewis' letter ends

Former Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis made a rare public statement late Tuesday as the ongoing teachers strike closed out its ninth day of canceled classes.

In a lengthy letter, Lewis asked Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot directly to "keep your promises" but railed on the system she said Lightfoot inherited.

Lewis retired from leading the union last year to focus on her health amid a battle with cancer and after suffering a stroke in 2017. She was first diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in 2015 as she was considering a run for Chicago mayor.

Her statement reads as follows:

When Lori ran for mayor, she gave us hope that she would represent real change in City Hall. She ran on our education platform and made a commitment to reverse years of failed policy and horrible planning by her predecessors.

She inherited a system built on revolving door leadership, misplaced investments, excessive standardized testing and few wraparound services for our students. And she took office on a promise of being a progressive, pro-education mayor who gave her word for an elected school board for our district, and said she would use her power to ensure that Chicago’s students have the resources they need regardless of where they live in this city.

It’s not too late.

For far too long, the students, families and educators of Chicago have been denied the high-quality neighborhood schools they deserve. Our students should be learning in safe and thriving environments with social workers, nurses and guidance counselors. Our educators deserve to work in well-equipped classrooms with manageable and enforceable class sizes. And Chicago’s families deserve an elected leader that stands by their promises and truly brings in the light for our great city.

Lori, keep your promises and let’s get this done. Our members have resolve and will not relent when it comes to the families they serve. I stand in solidarity with each and every teacher, PSRP, clinician, nurse and librarian, and urge them to stand firm in their fight and remain united in the struggle for the schools that our students and families deserve.

To them, I ask the questions I’ve always asked of them when making any decision: 'Does it unite us? Does it build our power? Does it make us stronger?'

And remember, power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will.

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