CHICAGO – Teachers in the third-largest school district in the United States walked off the job this morning after negotiations with the City of Chicago broke down last night. Some 25,000 Chicago Public School teachers hit the picket lines at 6:30 am in a significant show of strength and resolve. They were joined by members of the Service Employees International Union, Local 73, who also work in Chicago Public Schools.
Represented by the Chicago Teachers Union, which is affiliated with the AFT, teachers in Chicago are only the latest public school educators to walk off the job in recent years, demanding improvements to inadequate resources and working conditions, as well as fair wages. “Educators in Chicago want the same thing educators who have walked off the job all across this country want: the resources to give their students what they need,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
Chicago teachers feel particularly betrayed by the administration of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who ran partly on a promise to improve public school funding in the municipal election earlier this year. “Mayor Lightfoot promised those resources during her campaign—she ran on a 15-point plan for education justice and equality,” Weingarten continued. “But she hasn’t kept those promises: When the rubber meets the road, she’s refusing to put those promises in writing so Chicago’s students, parents and educators can count on them. That is what this strike is about. Other cities, like Los Angeles, Boston and New York, have put their plans in writing. Why can’t Chicago do the same, and give our students the safe and welcoming conditions they need in schools to thrive?”
The Chicago Public Schools system had already canceled today’s classes in anticipation of the walkout. One Chicago public school teacher who declined to be named noted that, while nearly 400,000 students will miss classes until the two sides reach an agreement, the city’s intransigence made the strike inevitable. “This is not something that we want to be doing, but it was forced on us,” she said from a picket line on Chicago’s West Side. “We want to be in the classroom, teaching these kids. But we want to be able to teach them effectively, and with adequate resources. That’s what this is about.”
“Every student in this city—in this country—deserves a quality public school. So while Chicago’s teachers, paraprofessionals and other school staff would rather be in school than be on strike, they are ready to fight for their students’ future,” Weingarten added. “And the AFT’s 1.7 million members, along with parents, the community and other allies, are right here with them in this fight for great public schools and a better life for our families.”
The teachers are seeking for better pay, smaller class sizes and improved staffing, as well as access to affordable housing in a city which has seen rental and property costs skyrocket due to extensive gentrification. The CTU wants the city to low open-up low-income housing to new teachers and the Chicago Public Schools system’s 16,450 homeless students.