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After years of thorny relationships with district officials and mayors, the Chicago Teachers Union will bargain a new contract this year with a district that now answers to former CTU organizer Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Principals are the leaders of their schools and staff. But in Chicago, multiple entities have power over principals — and soon, an elected school board and a principals union could impact how school leaders work.

Contract negotiations between SEIU Local 73 and Chicago Public Schools have been going on since May 2023. Union leaders say talks have stalled.

The school district has outsourced the management of school janitors and cleaning services since 2014.

As roughly 320,000 students went back to class across Chicago, the district faces a number of challenges for the new school year.

The details of the new policy are still being worked out, but would make Chicago Public Schools a leader nationally and bring the nation’s fourth largest school district in line with a new expanded parental leave policy for city workers.

A decade after leaving the classroom to help the Chicago Teachers Union build political power and improve conditions outside schools, Brandon Johnson has been sworn in as the city’s 57th mayor.

As Chicago’s next deputy mayor of education, Jen Johnson will oversee policy related to the city’s public schools, youth, and families. Historically, the deputy mayor of education also represents the mayor in contract talks with the teachers union. 

The top two candidates to be Chicago’s next mayor are headed to a runoff election. Both have deep experience in public education, but differ on many key challenges facing the school district. Here’s how they answered a Chalkbeat questionnaire.

A bill that will give Chicago principals and assistant principals collective bargaining rights passed the state Senate 45-7, and heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk. 

Former teacher Brandon Johnson is one of at least eight people challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Most schools with three or more teacher layoffs were shrinking campuses. At least seven of the 22 schools are considered “underutilized” by the district.

Whether or not Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reach a reopening deal, teachers will return to classrooms Aug. 30, CTU president Jesse Sharkey said.

The Chicago school district and teachers union have both said gaps remain on some key issues, such as exactly which employees should receive permission to work from home.

Major gaps remain on vaccination timelines, the amount of surveillance testing of school staff, and which educators should get accommodations. 

Chicago Public Schools granted only 1 in 10 teacher requests to work remotely in order to care for their children at home.

The answer depends on how many individual teachers request health accommodations or unpaid leave, and the outcome of the increasingly tense negotiations between the school district and the city’s teachers union.