Chicago Teachers strike for first time in 25 years
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 19:09
Contract negotiations between the Chicago’s school board and the Chicago Teachers Union are expected to head into day two as students stayed home and teachers took to the picket lines on Monday.
For the first time in 25 years, CPS teachers were on strike today, taking to the streets in solidarity. Officials have tried for months to reach definitive solutions on wages, class sizes, charter school expansion and a longer school day.
But because new-contract negotiations were not hammered out by Sunday night’s deadline between the CTU and Chicago Board of Education, public school teachers took their battle outside of the classroom and onto the streets early Monday morning - circling and chanting in red shirts and pinned buttons, “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Rahm Emanuel has got to go!” at the intersection of Clark and Adams streets.
In Chicago’s first teacher walkout since 1987, some 26,000 teachers and support staff were expected to join the picket. The walkout in the nation's third-largest school district posed a tricky challenge for the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said he would push to end the strike quickly as officials figure out how to keep nearly 400,000 children safe and occupied, according to the AP. An estimated 350,000 students received an unscheduled day off from school as their teachers marched through the Loop.
Some high school students spent the day off at YouMedia, a teen learning center at the Harold Washington Library, where the strike was announced Sunday night. Many of them agreed that negotiations should be met in favor of the teachers union, but were concerned that the strike would cause missed school days.
That could mean make up days in the summer, posing particularly problematic for seniors who want to avoid a late graduation and spending hot days in schools, some without air-conditioning.
Mayor Emanuel has been the center of controversy among protesters for his bold education reform plans and staunch opposition to the strike. But CTU delegate Kirstie Shanley said people need to understand that its about greedy CEOs, not greedy teachers.
“It reflects poorly on Rahm Emanuel to call himself a Democrat when he treats civil servants the way he does,” she said.
Shanley called the strike a travesty but noted that the forefront of the issue remains centered on inequality.
And as teachers picked up their picket signs, Emanuel emphasized that the issues were no longer financial at an early morning press conference. He added that fair offers were made to teachers over pay increases while the issues of health care benefits and evaluation of teachers remained. He expressed his disappointment at the strike particularly amid both parties acknowledging that resolutions were close.
“This is a strike of choice,” he said, “and because of how close we are, it is a strike that is unnecessary.”
Emanuel said the offers made were respectful of teachers, does right by students and is fair to taxpayers.
CTU teachers reported to their schools at 6:30 a.m. to begin the strike and later convened at 125 S. Clark St., the Board of Education headquarters.
Supporters poured in by the hundreds for a 3:30 p.m. rally.
A common issue among teachers is the corporatization of schools and disparities in funding for art, music and physical education classes. Class sizes also fueled the walkout. According to the CTU, Emanuel has threatened to put as many as 55 students in one classroom.