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Chicago Teacher Speaks Out About Reasons Behind Potentially Illegal Union Strike Tomorrow

Chicago Teacher Speaks Out About Reasons Behind Potentially Illegal Union Strike Tomorrow

The Chicago Teachers Union has declared it will go on strike tomorrow. The Chicago Public School District has declared the strike will be illegal. Even despite the current political tension, it's only been four years since the last CTU strike- which raises the question, what is going so wrong in Chicago’s public school system?

Since the 2012 strike, things haven’t gotten better for Chicago's teachers or students, the CTU says.

“...the union has suffered defeat after defeat: 49 school closures, round after round of layoffs, budget cuts teachers say have been devastating. And Illinois’ new Republican governor, private equity mogul Bruce Rauner, has carried out a disastrous agenda of cuts and holding the state budget hostage unless legislators agree to major rollbacks of union rights,” says

A Chicago teacher and member of the CTU Executive Board, Sarah Chambers, spoke with In These Times to explain why the union’s members won’t be in school tomorrow.

According to Chambers, severe funding cuts have resulted in schools being forced to cut staff and activities that are crucial to their students’ development. Chambers says her school alone was forced to cut after school activities, which have been proven to boost student achievement, as well as most of the substitute teachers on staff.

And substitute teachers aren’t the only staff members Chicago’s schools are low on thanks to bare-bones funding, she says.

"We only have one nurse right now for a couple days a week to serve 1200 students. If a student is sick—maybe they vomited, maybe they have lice—they’re sent back to the classroom, because there’s no nurse there. The majority of schools only have one counsellor for all their students,” Chambers says.

Chambers responded to the argument that striking does damage to students who are forced to stay home from school:

"The consequences of not striking are far worse than striking. If you want to see the consequences of not striking, look at cities like Detroit, where they have skyrocketing class sizes and don’t have proper cleaning services. Look at New Orleans, which has no public schools left. These are the consequences of not fighting the privatization and austerity agenda in public education,” she said.

"Some politicians are purposely defunding our schools, but they’re funding prisons. If they actually funded our schools, social services and restorative justice coordinators, we would have fewer of our students going to jail,” Chambers said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been extremely critical of the CTU’s strike efforts, saying members should instead target energy on reaching out to the state legislators to get more money.

The strike will take place tomorrow.

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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