Teachers of Chicago Public Schools staged an impressive and unprecedented one-day strike on Friday in a coordinated effort with the aim to renew movement on stalled contract talks that would see lawmakers provide adequate funding for education and other programs to the third-largest district in the nation.
The Chicago teachers are holding Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner responsible for the steps they had to take as he is currently having a budget standoff with the Democratic-controlled state legislature. Cries are being made to get the Illinois education funding formula fixed. The condition of the Illinois education system has notably been referred to as being the most unfair to the nation’s poorer students. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also under fire from the teachers for the lack of public school funding.
Nearly 400,000 public school students were given the option to spend the day at over 250 “contingency sites” which the Chicago Public Schools opened at churches, libraries, and school buildings in preparation for the fact that the walkout would cause schools to be closed. A press conference was held outside of one of the schools earlier today, and teachers and their supporters chanted in the background that they would “Fight for funding!” while they waved protest signs. Vice President Jesse Sharkey spoke to the media on their behalf, reiterating the chant.
“We’re going to win funding for our schools and we’re going to fight until we get it.”
The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, was also calling the budget cuts a “reckless disregard of children.”
Fox News believes that the one-day strike the teachers orchestrated for better funding could also be a precursor to a much longer strike regarding a new labor contract, though by law this cannot occur for several more weeks.
Following the picketing of the shuttered schools on Friday, which Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling a “shameful” display by the Chicago teachers since “children are the victims in this raw display of political power,” the teachers and supporters marched to college campuses that were being similarly affected by lack of funding. Reportedly, while amidst the chants and playing of instruments, one protest sign offered up the ultimate Chicago insult as it claimed both Mayor Emanuel and Gov. Rauner use ketchup on their hot dogs.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and Rev. Jesse Jackson were among the numerous teachers and demonstrators who followed the lead of the city’s young activists — college students — who are pushing for funding from the state for Chicago State University on the Far South Side. The university is a public one like the secondary and primary schools of the Chicago Public School system and is in such dire financial straits that a state of financial emergency was declared and the employees are facing possible lay-offs. The Chicago Tribune wrote of Jackson’s belief that the schools will remain in operation.
“This is a day that Chicago State’s budget is in jeopardy, but the Cook County jail budget is secure. They plan to lock up and not to lift up, because somebody knows that strong minds break strong chains. We will not let them break our sprits. This school will not be closed. The governor may go, but Chicago State will stay.”
CPS faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit with billions in pension debts, any salary increase has already been halted, and teachers are ordered to take three furlough days while other cuts have been proposed for the schools. Earlier this year an agreement with union leadership, which included increases in salary, was reached. However, it was later rejected in part because it required employees to contribute larger sums to their own pensions and health insurance.
The rallies which the dozens of unions and community groups will participate in at public schools and universities across the city will come to an end with a rush-hour gathering and march to downtown Chicago, where preparations to block streets and disrupt traffic are activities which the union has planned.
[Photo Courtesy of Teresa Crawford/ AP Images]