The re-election campaign for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently emailed a number of teachers from the Chicago Public School System in which he attempted to strong-arm the teachers into pushing their students to ‘volunteer’ their time to help Lightfoot‘s re-election under the promise of extra credit in class.
As a deputy campaign manager, Megan Crane sent out the email which was officially sent directly to the work email accounts of a large number of area teachers.
“Externs are expected to devote 12 hrs/wk to the campaign,” expressed the emails. “Students are eligible to earn class credit through our volunteer program.”
“We’re simply looking for enthusiastic, curious and hard-working young people eager to help Mayor Lightfoot win this spring,” read the email, a copy of which was grabbed by WTTW News.
The first bits of information from the Lightfoot Campaign issued to WTTW by a campaign spokesperson made the claim that the idea was meant “to provide young people with the opportunity to engage with our campaign, learn more about the importance of civic engagement and participate in the most American of processes” and “done using publicly available contact information.”
However, in the wake of the revelations from the WTTW about the emails, the campaign for Lightfoot expressed that it would “cease contact with CPS employees” due to an “abundance of caution,” quickly chased the previous statement with another, claiming, “All [Lightfoot for Chicago] campaign staff have been reminded about the solid wall that must exist between campaign and official activities and that contacts with any city of Chicago, or other sister agency employees, including CPS employees, even through publicly available sources is off limits. Period.”
As the executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, Colleen K. Connell quickly stepped up to label the emails as “inappropriately coercive and raises First Amendment concerns. The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials cannot use their office or power to coerce participation or to punish for lack of participation in political campaigns. … Because the mayor has the ultimate authority over the Chicago schools, teachers may feel coercion in this ask from the mayor’s campaign or fear negative consequences for lack of participation.”
Stacy Davis Gates, the President of the Chicago Teachers Union, explained that the email was entirely “unethical” and parrotted the concerns from the CLU that both students and teachers that did not want to go along with the plan could end up being targeted. The teachers’ union has instead chosen to stand being a new candidate for the office of Mayor, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.