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AFL-CIO Now

Chicago Teacher Strike: Fighting for Students

Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee.

At 12:01 a.m. today, for the first time in 25 years, more than 29,000 teachers and education professionals of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) were forced out on strike to gain a contract that provides students with the education they deserve.

CTU expressed disappointment in the school district’s refusal to concede on issues involving resources for students, job security and compensation—including the district’s decision to strip teachers and paraprofessionals of an agreed-upon 4 percent raise. Resources for students also are highlighted in a one-page paper excerpt of their 46-page comprehensive study, “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” outlining the type of school and educational environment their students should have. Its recommendations include:

1. Recognize That Class Size Matters: Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.

2. Educate the Whole Child:  Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy  food offerings and classes in art, theater, dance and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.

3. Create More Robust Wrap-Around Services: The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system is far behind recommended staffing levels suggested by national professional associations. The number of school counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists must increase dramatically to serve Chicago’s population of low-income students. Additionally, students who cannot afford transportation costs need free fares.

4. Address Inequities in Our System: Students and their families recognize the apartheid-like system managed by CPS. It denies resources to the neediest schools, uses discipline policies with a disproportionate harm on students of color and enacts policies that increase the concentrations of students in high poverty and racially segregated schools.

5. Help Students Get Off to a Good Start: We need to provide age appropriate (not test-driven) education in the early grades. All students should have access to pre-kindergarten and to full-day kindergarten.

Read the rest of “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve."

Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been without a labor agreement since June of this year.

AFT released the following statement in support of the strike:

The Chicago Teachers Union is the AFT’s Local No. 1. The AFT was founded in Chicago 100 years ago by teachers determined to have a voice in the quality of their workplace and the quality of the instruction provided to their students. They knew then, as CTU members know now, that collective action was the only way to improve their schools, their communities and their students’ education. We know that the members of the CTU are prepared to stay on the picket lines. We also know they would rather be on the job, in the classroom educating their students.

CTU President Karen Lewis made clear last night that the CTU is prepared to continue negotiations during the strike. Mayor Rahm Emanuel echoed that sentiment on behalf of the district. The students, teachers and educational support staff—and the city of Chicago—deserve a school system that works for everyone. In the end, that is what this strike is all about.

A solidarity rally outside of the Chicago Board of Education headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. will be held Monday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Teachers and other education professionals are picketing outside the city’s 675 schools, demanding a fair system for their students.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement:

We’ve been monitoring this situation closely and in close touch with the AFT, the parent union of the CTU. No one wants to strike.  And teachers recognize the enormous financial strain facing the district and the city. But right now, Mayor Emanuel’s proposal does not provide the elements necessary to ensure success for Chicago’s students or educators. We’d like to thank Chicago’s educators, Jorge Ramirez and the Chicago Federation of Labor, who are working together to ensure a successful school system for every child.

Follow updates on the strike http://www.ctunet.com/for-members/strike-central or on Twitter by following the handle: @CTULocal1 or https://twitter.com/CTULocal1.  

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