The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted 486 to 124 in favor of a one-day strike on April 1, but questions about the legality of the walkout have been brought up by the Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool.
Chicago has not seen this kind of coordinated and united labor action in a generation, according to the official CPS website.
Miriam Rodriguez-Ruiz, a special education case manager at Newberry Elementary school and a CTU member, said there are five major reasons for Friday’s walkout:
- CTU is asserting unfair labor practices coming from the last year’s contract. Since no new contract has been approved, CPS teachers are still following the contract that expired June 30, 2015. Teachers get a raise each year, but the raise has not been honored this year, according to Rodriguez.
- “CTU is fighting for a steady source of revenue once and for all,” Rodriguez said.
- CTU is asking CPS to stop depending on swap deals and find a way to relieve CPS’s one-billion dollar deficit. CPS is accruing debt and is now paying back interest. The Union wants the interest to be pardoned.
- CTU want to allocate TIFF money to the public schools to supplement deficit.
- CTU wants the Chicago Board of Education to not dodge Chicago Teachers Pension Fund payments. CPS teachers have not been receiving money towards their pension for the last 13 years. Chicago tax dollars have instead gone towards school construction.
“The loans the CPS has to pay the banks is so high,” Rodriguez said. “At this point, we’re just paying interest.”
The lack of the state budget, has already forced teachers to take three furlough days in order to save the district $30 million. The first furlough day took place on March 25.
Sophomore education major Julian Ruiz said CPS teachers should be compensated fairly.
“Nobody gets anywhere without education,” Ruiz said. “To become a doctor or CEO, you need good teachers and a good education. So I agree there needs to be a strike.”
Some schools don’t have air conditioning, heat, proper funding for supplies such as textbooks and desks. Some of the buildings are crumbling, according to Rodriguez.
“I’m angry at these conditions,” Rodriguez said. “You say ‘wow, this is what we have to face everyday’.”
While this may help the union get their message across, Ruiz said the strike has costs, too.
“Obviously, it’s not beneficial for the children because they are losing a day of school,” he said. “Teachers’ schedules could be pushed back. It could mess up planning for the next school year. There will be a lot of lost learning opportunities.”
Student teachers from the School of Education at Loyola will also be affected, according to Ann Marie Ryan,associate dean of Academic Programs.
“It’ll be a non attendance day for all student teachers,” said Ryan. “They cannot be in a classroom without a certified teacher.”
Rodriguez said the biggest challenge for teachers who are striking is getting the word out and making people listen.
“People have a notion that a teacher’s job is not that difficult,” Rodriguez said. “It’s the most challenging job. I dare anybody to walk in my shoes for an hour.”
The day will begin with a picket line at every Chicago school to let families know that the school is closed at 6:30 a.m. The CTU will give the protestors chant sheets to use throughout the day and members will gather in front of the Thompson Building for a demonstration at 4 p.m.
“This action is about educators coming together and looking at the larger issue: it highlights how we fund education,” Ryan said.