Email From Lightfoot Campaign Slammed as 'Unethical'

Message to Chicago teachers said students could earn credit for helping with mayor's reelection efforts
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2023 9:15 AM CST
Chicago Mayor's Campaign Under Fire for Student Solicitation
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference in Chicago on Sept. 14.   (Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

Kids in Chicago Public Schools have a variety of ways in which they can earn class credit, but one suggested by the city's mayor is being called "deeply problematic" and has spurred calls for an investigation. WLS reports that the campaign of Lori Lightfoot, who's running for reelection on Feb. 28, sent out an email to an "unknown number of teachers" within the school system asking them to share "an opportunity" with their students that would have the youngsters volunteering for Lightfoot's campaign, calling it an "externship program." The email, which originated from her deputy campaign manager, noted that "no prior campaign experience is required, nor is a major or minor in political science," per the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're simply looking for enthusiastic, curious, and hardworking young people eager to help Mayor Lightfoot win this spring."

WTTW reports that the message, which was sent to teachers' official work email accounts, noted that students who took part in the program would be expected to put in 12 hours a week on Lightfoot's campaign. Backlash was swift, with a CPS spokesperson telling the outlet that "as a rule, the district does not coordinate with any political candidates or campaigns." Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates called the email "unethical" and expressed concern that teachers could face retaliation if they didn't offer students up for the campaign.

The city's former inspector, Joe Ferguson, said that Lightfoot's campaign reaching out in this way was "deeply, deeply problematic." WTTW notes that the mayor's campaign initially issued a statement insisting that the opportunity was so students could "learn more about the importance of civic engagement and participate in the most American of processes." A follow-up statement, which came after the outlet published a story about the emails, said the campaign would "cease contact with CPS employees" out of an "abundance of caution."

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A third and final statement shortly after was more firm, noting that campaign staff had "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." Paul Vallas, who used to head CPS and is one of the mayoral contenders running against Lightfoot, is calling for an independent probe into the matter. (More Lori Lightfoot stories.)

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