Negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools are underway, and the union’s 142 pages of demands are raising serious questions about the motivations behind them.

Leaked documents show the cost to taxpayers will likely be unprecedented, with CTU President Stacy Davis Gates acknowledging in March its wants “will cost $50 billion and three cents” as the union negotiates this summer with a mayoral administration the CTU payed to elect.

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In addition to an average $51,000 teacher pay raise, 45 days off each school year, and $2,000 stipends for every migrant student, the CTU is calling for a slate of other expensive provisions that are heavily focused on its social justice, pro-LGBTQ+ agenda.

Among the demands is free mass transit for all students and employees in Chicago Public Schools that the Illinois Policy Institute calculates will cost at least $122.5 million a year.

The revelation prompted numerous questions from the nonprofit think tank that have so far gone unanswered: “Why does the CTU believe it is entitled to demand a free ride for every employee and every student? How did it determine free rides are even needed? While they could argue for employee transit as part of salary and benefits, isn’t student transportation something the district should be deciding and arranging rather than a teachers union?”

The CPS budget will exceed $9 billion this year, an increase of 30% from five years ago, largely due to teacher salaries that are among the highest in any big city in the U.S. The district is also facing a $391 million deficit next year, which balloons to $700 million the year after.

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But the union’s demands for 2024 reflect the type of return on investment its leaders expect from the $2.6 million the CTU spent to elect Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former CTU legislative coordinator.

The key proposals include things like “gender affirming and inclusive healthcare coverage,” a “gender neutral bathroom policy,” “more queer competent trained service providers,” a “lactation room,” and “abortion coverage, extended bereavement leave, and more protections around bullying and respectful working environment.”

Others involve expanded “access to bariatric surgery, weight loss drugs, therapeutic supports, and service animal coverage” and to “remove all copays for all mental health services.”

There’s also housing assistance for teachers, cost of living adjustments that meet or exceed inflation, a ban on teacher layoffs based on performance, lower enrollment caps at charter schools that compete with traditional public schools, and a requirement for a librarian, band, choir, art and sports in every school.

Still others include stipends for school staff who obtain certifications, stipends for school staff assigned a number of students above contractual limits, $2,500 retirement bonuses for educators who serve 30 years, compensation for absences related to verbal assaults, leave to work for the CTU Foundation and mayor’s office, CPS schools converted to dorms for migrant students, fewer student attendance days, and the removal of school resource officers, the Illinois Policy Institute reports.

“These demands read more like a political agenda than a serious contract intent on supporting teachers’ wages and benefits, and promoting the education of Chicago students,” Meilee Smith, the Institute’s senior director of labor policy, said in a statement. “These demands are far outside the scope of traditional bargaining, putting taxpayer dollars on the line in pursuit of more union power and social activism.”

“We are in the process of calculating the cost of these demands, but we can already tell that funding them will require a sweeping overhaul of finances and new revenues – meaning more and higher taxes for residents.”

Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas offered a similar perspective on the union demands in a conversation with WMAQ when demands first leaked in March.

“I’m not averse to finding ways to incentivize teachers to come to Chicago, but when you’re basically the highest paid teachers among large urban districts in the country, I tend to think we need to focus our attention more on what we are going to do for the students,” he said.

The Institute has called on Mayor Johnson to recuse himself from contract negotiations, citing his close ties with the CTU.

CTU members, meanwhile, are producing some of the worst results for students in the nation.

A mere 14% of CPS students can perform math at grade level, while only 16% are proficient in reading, according to U.S. News & World Report.