Chicago Teachers Put ‘Green Schools’ On The Bargaining Table

If the Chicago Teachers Union gets its way, the city will have an entire fleet of electric buses, windows that actually open in its schools and a healthier environment for children in underserved neighborhoods. This article was originally published on Word In Black. By Willy Blackmore Overview: The proposals to help “green” Chicago public schools would … Continued The post Chicago Teachers Put ‘Green Schools’ On The Bargaining Table appeared first on Chicago Defender.

Chicago Teachers Put ‘Green Schools’ On The Bargaining Table

If the Chicago Teachers Union gets its way, the city will have an entire fleet of electric buses, windows that actually open in its schools and a healthier environment for children in underserved neighborhoods.

This article was originally published on Word In Black.

Overview:

The proposals to help “green” Chicago public schools would not only reduce the city’s carbon dioxide emissions but would also improve the air quality in neglected neighborhoods and help residents cope with soaring summer temperatures.

 

When contract negotiations between Chicago’s public school teachers and the city began on Friday, it marked the first time that the union had one of its own on the other side of the table: Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former social studies teacher, was also an organizer for Chicago Teachers Union. 

The union’s contract negotiators are hoping to get major concessions from Johnson and the city. Tops on their wish list is funding for its “green schools” program, an ambitious, environmentally friendly agenda which would remake the district’s built environment and upgrade the infrastructure of the aging school system for the climate-change era.

The proposals range from utilitarian — windows that can open and close in every classroom — to transformative, such as a fully electrified school bus fleet and an overall goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2035.

While teachers in other school districts across the country have worked climate issues into their union contracts in recent years, the CTU effort stands out not only in terms of its ambition but because of both the size and makeup of the student body. Chicago is the fourth-largest school district in the country, and more than  three-quarters of the kids  are Black and Latinx. 

As a result, any effort to address climate change across Chicago public school ends up addressing climate justice issues too. The union is well aware of this.

“The inequities we see among our facilities and the disproportionate environmental burden our Black and Brown students face in our schools can be addressed through intentional policy change and intentional investment from CPS,” Ayesha Qazi-Lampert, a teacher and member of the union’s Climate Justice Committee, said during the first bargaining session last week, which focused on CTU’s Green Schools proposal.

The school district has made strides on sustainability and climate justice, including using a federal grant to purchase 50 electric school buses, designating them for routes in communities already victimized by climate injustice. But the union wants the city to go bigger, including electrifying the entire bus fleet, and setting a zero-emissions goal 15 years earlier than the district’s own climate goals (CTU says their pressure alone forced the district to apply for the electric-bus grant in the first place).

With Chicago’s school buildings averaging 84 years old, however — double the national average — the city has a long way to go to not just modernize its built environment but also prepare it for the climate future. 

But given the district’s footprint — a student body of nearly 330,000, along with 30,000 teachers and other unionized educational workers  who must live within the district — greening Chicago’s schools would go a long way toward greening the entire city. 

“This is the Chicago Teachers Union’s demonstration of our accountability to our larger community,” Stacy Davis Gates, CTU’s president, told E&E News. “Our collective bargaining agreement and our coalition work, especially in communities of color, will be a net benefit to everyone.”

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