Apr 11, 2016
Chicago teachers launched a spirited one-day strike on April 1st. The teachers demanded more funding for schools and sent a message that they aren’t ready to give in to the Board of Education’s demand for massive cuts.
Teachers have had enough of Forest Claypool, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed CEO of the schools. Claypool refused to pay raises for seniority and education, called Lanes and Steps, he instituted repeated cuts at schools already cut to the bone, and he massively cut special education services. More recently, he threatened to unilaterally cut teachers’ pay by 7%, but he was forced to back off when the union threatened to strike. His reply was to give all Chicago Public Schools staff three furlough days. In response, the union stuck to its call for a strike.
Claypool has repeatedly sent home letters to parents, trying to shame the union for “abandoning their classrooms,” and raising safety concerns for students not in school for the day. When the newspapers asked why he does not raise the exact same concerns about the furlough days he imposed, he was left speechless – because he and Emanuel behind him are total hypocrites when it comes to public education!
The teachers have also been facing a campaign of propaganda by politicians and the media trying to discourage them from fighting. The Chicago Tribune newspaper called on teachers to cross picket lines – though it seems like pretty much no teachers followed this advice. Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attacked the teachers for striking, saying, “I don’t think the kids should pay a price for a political message.” Republican Governor Bruce Rauner tried to one-up him, calling the one-day strike “shameful” because “children are the victims of this raw display of political power.”
What nerve! These are the people who have stolen money from Chicago’s children. The Tribune, Emanuel, and Rauner are all speaking for the wealthy people who want to put their hands on the money that’s needed for the schools.
It seems like the teachers were not taken in by this propaganda. On April 1, teachers picketed the big majority of Chicago’s 600 schools in the morning. Then they protested in support of colleges facing big attacks from the state. Finally, they organized a rally with many thousands of people downtown. Teachers and supporters chanted and marched in high spirits despite a cold rain.
Everyone knows it will take more than a one-day strike to back off these vultures. But if teachers hadn’t made their point on April 1st, and strongly, they’d be much worse off today.