CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s deputy campaign manager emailed at least 73 Chicago Public Schools teachers earlier this month to ask for students to help in Lightfoot’s reelection effort in exchange for class credit, newly obtained emails show.
Records obtained by WGN Investigates show that Megan Crane, Lightfoot’s deputy campaign manager, sent the emails to at least 39 CPS teachers at 8:32 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Crane sent the same message to at least 34 more teachers at 12:32 p.m. the following day.
An hour after the initial solicitations were sent out, a teacher at Walter Payton College Prep responded to Crane, asking her if Lightfoot would be available to join in a candidate forum at the Near North Side high school.
“I have brought this to the attention of the Mayor’s schedulers – given the Mayor’s dual roles as manager of the city and as a candidate, scheduling is very challenging,” Crane responded at 10:50 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
“Is there any way to send a surrogate or show students a video statement made by the Mayor?” she continued. “If so, I can bring this option to our team as well.”
Less than two hours after that correspondence with the teacher at Payton, Crane sent out the second round emails to CPS employees, records show.
A social science teacher at Jones College Prep — who’s also a delegate in the Chicago Teachers Union — responded to Crane about 30 minutes later, saying: “Thank you for your email. I find your candidate’s values to be contrary to those that I attempt to inculcate in my classroom.”
Crane did not respond. In the ensuing hours, higher-ups at CPS were apparently made aware of the campaign’s efforts to recruit student volunteers in exchange for class credit.
At 3:16 p.m. on Jan. 11, Chuck Swirsky, the senior advisor to CPS CEO Pedro Martinez emailed Crane: “Thanks for chatting before. Just to reiterate our phone conversation, no recruitment for interns or vols can be done on campus or by staff/teachers. We also can not provide any classroom credit. Any questions can be directed to me or Jennifer Chan [the CPS ethics advisor], cc’d here.”
Crane’s emails to CPS employees were first reported by WTTW on Jan. 11. Though her campaign initially defended the email solicitations as “common practice,” Lightfoot held a press conference on Jan. 12, during which she called the effort a “mistake.”
Lightfoot’s campaign reached out to professors in the City Colleges of Chicago in August 2022 to ask for student volunteers — also in exchange for course credit.
Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General and the CPS Inspector General have both opened investigations into the recruitment efforts.