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CTU Speaks!

News & Politics Podcasts

CTU Speaks! is a production of the Chicago Teachers Union.

CTU Speaks! is a production of the Chicago Teachers Union.


United States


CTU Speaks! is a production of the Chicago Teachers Union.






Rating REACH

Teacher evaluations could be a valuable part of helping educators get better at their craft. But that’s not how they work at Mayor Lightfoot’s CPS. Instead, they chiefly reflect whether a given school gets the resources it needs — or not. That’s why a great teacher getting great ratings at a selective enrollment school can suddenly find that their ratings dip considerably when they move to a school that isn’t showered with adequate classroom supplies, a rich curriculum, and top-notch...


Lies of Learning Loss

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, Tara Stamps sits in for Andrea Parker as co-host alongside Jim Staros to talk with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who is a professor in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. Prof. Taylor, who frequently writes and speaks about Black politics, racial inequality, and social movements, recently penned an article titled "Who's Left Out of the Learning-Loss Debate" for the New Yorker. Her article explains how the concept of "learning...


Vote Yes on Workers' Rights

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros talk with CTU PAC chair Kimberly Walls-Kirk and State Sen. Robert Peters about the November 8 ballot measure to include workers' rights in the Illinois Constitution. The measure would add the right to collectively bargain over wages, conditions, and workplace safety to the Illinois Bill of Rights. Predictably, right-wing extremists are campaigning against the measure because they are warriors against any effort to rein in...


Justice for All

In this episode of CTU Speaks! co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros talk with Lauren Bianchi and Chuck Stark, two teachers at Washington High School that CPS sought to terminate this past summer. Their crime? Teaching their students about the city’s plan to move the toxic metal shredding corporation General Iron from wealthy Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side, which has already suffered more pollution and toxic industry than almost any other region of Chicago. CPS actually requires teachers...

Decreasing Debt

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, cohosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros talk with Chris Goff from the American Federation of Teachers about student loan debt. The three of them discuss how student debt has ballooned out of control, and how the AFT sued the federal government over unscrupulous and predatory practices to help borrowers attain some debt relief. They also explain what members can do about their own debt and review some of the resources out there to assist them in the process. As...


Changing of the Guard

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros talk with CTU President Stacy Davis Gates and Vice President Jackson Potter about their vision for the CTU in the coming year and beyond. They review some of the accomplishments of prior CTU Presidents Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey and then dive into their goals as the new leadership of the CTU. And they place the challenge of negotiating a new contract in the context of the broader struggle for a just Chicago. As...



In this episode of CTU Speaks!, co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros talk with two rank-and-file members — Lori Torres and Tammie Vinson — about their experience at the AFT National Convention in Boston. Lori and Tammie discuss their time at the conference, resolutions passed at the national level, and why that matters to CTU members. They also talk about the impact of CTU’s social-justice unionism on the national education labor movement and how members can get more involved in making a...


Sharkey Signs Off

In this episode, CTU Speaks! co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros welcome Jesse Sharkey onto the show to discuss his recent announcement not to seek re-election as president of the Chicago Teachers Union. They look back at what the CTU looked like when Jesse became vice president under then CTU President Karen Lewis, and they reflect on what the CTU did to re-shape the entire debate about public education — in Chicago and beyond. And Jim and Andrea grill Jesse about what comes next after...


Safety and Staffing

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, cohosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros talk with CTU Chief of Staff Jen Johnson about the new safety agreement with CPS. They break down what’s good and what’s not so good about it as well as some of the safety resources on the CTU’s website, including this chart tracking implementation of key aspects of the agreement. Then we turn to a discussion with substitute teacher Burma Green and CTU staffer Georgia Waller about the dire shortage of subs available to fill...


Back to School, Back to Safety

This episode of CTU Speaks! has co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros speaking with CTU President Jesse Sharkey and CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates about what the new school year might bring for educators, students, and parents in Chicago. The recent surge in COVID cases among young people is creating a wave of anxiety about school openings, not just here but across the country. CPS continues to drag its feet at the table as they unilaterally attempt to roll back last year’s health and...


CTU Cares

This episode of CTU Speaks! has co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros speaking with Tara Stamps, the longtime educator and activist who is now the CTU's Administrative Director of New Teacher Development. Tara is heading up recruitment to the "We Care New Educators and Clinicians Coaching and Mentoring Program,” which connects new educators and clinicians with veterans who can provide support to them in the early years of their teaching careers. A critical aspect of this multi-pronged effort...


Access is a Civil Right

This episode of CTU Speaks! has co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros speaking with Judy Mahoney, a clerk at Byrne Elementary who was in a terrible car accident back in 2017. The accident left Judy in a wheelchair, but as she herself put it, “‘The only thing that remains the same is my ability to work.” This discussion focuses on how Judy has overcome various obstacles in front of her, including obstacles of CPS’ own making. And after you listen to this podcast, you can check out the...


Barriers Facing Deaf Students at CPS

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, Andrea and Jim talk with Kelsey Cavanaugh, an American Sign Language interpreter for CPS, and Christa Valencia, a middle-school teacher of the deaf. They discuss the many hurdles that deaf students confront at CPS — from getting placed in a school in the first place to the inequities they experience once they get there. They also talk about some potential solutions to these problems going forward. And as always, please share your thoughts and questions with...


Commit To Safety

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, CTU President Jesse Sharkey and CTU organizer Rebecca Martinez join co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros to review the broad sweep of the campaign that finally compelled CPS to agree to a safe reopening framework. One of the most important elements of the agreement is the creation of safety committees in every school building. Jesse and Rebecca discuss how these will work and the essential role that rank-and-file members will need to play in order to make...


33: Fighting for clerks and techs

This episode of CTU Speaks! has co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros speaking with Deanna Myron, who has worked at CPS for the last 20 years and as a CPS clerk for the last 10, as well as CTU Recording Secretary(and PSRP for Life) Christel Williams-Hayes. They talk about the arbitration victory allowing clerks and tech coordinators to work from home at least four days a week, which CPS has refused to honor in defiance of the law, public health guidance, and a basic sense of decency. Find...


32: Strike Anniversary

In this episode of CTU Speaks!, co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros look back at the 2019 strike — all that we won and all that we have yet to realize. The strike holds some important lessons for the current fight against CPS and its push to return to school buildings despite spiking cases of COVID-19 and the lack of adequate safeguards for students, educators, and their families. We also replays some of the voices and sounds of those days in October 2019. As always, please subscribe to...


31: Favoring Fair Tax

In this episode, co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros have an in-depth discussion with Illinois State Senator Robert Martwick and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson about the many reasons to vote yes on the Fair Tax on November 3. They outline how the Fair Tax would benefit the state as a whole while 97 percent of state residents would see a decrease in their taxes or have no change at all. That’s because the millionaires and billionaires of Illinois will finally pay their fair share....


30: Fair Tax Facts

This episode is a little different. Co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros forgo a guest interview so they can dish essential facts about the Fair Tax, which will be on the Illinois ballot this November. They dispel many of the myths and outright lies that opponents of the Fair Tax — like billionaires Bruce Rauner and Ken Griffin — are blasting into people's homes through relentless TV advertising. This opposition is hoping to sow doubt in voters' minds about this badly needed measure that...


29: Athletes in Activism

Co-hosts Jim Staros and Andrea Parker talk to author, activist and Nation magazine sports editor Dave Zirin. In addition to his editorial duties at The Nation, Zirin has authored almost a dozen books about sports, athletes, and the struggles for justice and civil rights. The three discuss how the sports scene has changed very quickly from the vilification of Colin Kaepernick just a few years ago, to seeing him as a hero in the vanguard of athletics taking a stand for the rights of Black and...


28: Housing Epidemic

This episode of CTU Speaks! has co-hosts Andrea Parker and Jim Staros speaking with Mueze Bawany, a teacher at Roberto Clemente High School, about another epidemic hitting our city...housing instability. They discuss issues of homelessness, rising rents, and gentrification as well as the overarching need for safe and affordable housing in Chicago. These issues impact our students and families throughout the city and across the racial and socio-economic spectrum. Join the CTU Housing...