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Chicago's Teachers Are Mad As Hell

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Photo by Dominic Gwinn

Yesterday 32,500 Chicago teachers and support staff went on strike. Organizers in the Chicago Teachers Union estimate between 10,000 and 15,000 teachers, staff, students, and supporters showed up to march, demanding the city cough up money it always seems to find under a couch cushion whenever wealthy, tourist-friendly areas need stadiums, amphitheaters, or condos.

For years teachers have been demanding an increase in the funding of school services, and every time the city replies, "Maybe next time." After her historic election earlier this year, many Chicagoans had high hopes for the new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, thanks to lofty promises during a contentious election. Lightfoot had promised to increase the number of support staff (like guidance counselors, social workers, and special education workers) at schools throughout the city ahead of the CTU's expiring contract with the city. Teachers say the mayor walked away from her promises, while the mayor argues the city doesn't have enough in its $7.7 billion budget.

Years of segregation, mismanagement, budget cuts, school closures and the usual big shoulder-shrugging from now-former city officials have left Chicago's schools desperate to keep even the most basic support staff, like nurses and librarians, while class sizes continue to swell. A majority of Chicago's public schools serve low-income families. Parents and teachers argue that they've been carrying the weight of the city's exhaustive list of budget problems, and that instead of building an unwanted $6 billion amphitheater or a new police academy, or repeatedly shelling out multi-million dollar settlements every time a cop "accidentally" kills a kid, maybe we could invest something into the fucking schools.


Teachers are demanding that Lightfoot put her promises in writing. Lightfoot has offered a pay increase, but teachers rejected the offer saying said it was too little and too late. The city's financial outlook is a little less grim than it was a few years ago thanks to tax increases, and the CTU wants some of that cash to fund additional support staff and increase affordable housing in the city (on top of the pay increase). Lightfoot argues that she'd rather deal with affordable housing separately, but teachers are wary that this is empty rhetoric and are striking while public opinion is on their side.

The Chicago teacher's strike has already won the support of Democratic presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, and Bernie Sanders, with the latter staging a rally at CTU headquarters two weeks ago.

[Chicago Sun-Times / Vox / WBEZ / Chalkbeat]

photo by Dominic Gwinn

Britteney Kapri and Brenda Shiller with their dog, Space Jam, at the CTU strike.

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Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.

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