After a debate over new teacher contracts collapsed on September 9, 20,000 public-school teachers in Chicago’s education system went on strike, leaving hundreds of thousands of students without schooling or supervision. Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said later that day they had made progress on resolving many provisions in the contract, but “we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike.”
“[W]e are committed to staying at the table until a contract is place,” the union stated in a press release. “However, in the morning no CTU member will be inside our schools. We will walk the picket lines.... We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the state and country who are currently bargaining for their own fair contracts. We stand with those who have already declared they too are prepared to strike, in the best interests of their students.”
The strike has impacted about 350,000 students between kindergarten and high school age, leaving parents to find alternative supervision for their children. Consequently, many parents have sent their children to churches, community centers, and other public facilities. “They’re going to lose learning time,” said Beatriz Fierro, a parent of a child in the district. “And if the whole afternoon they’re going to be free, it’s bad. Of course you’re worried.”
Interesting, though, is the “contingency plan” financed by the school district to open more than 140 schools where students will be fed lunch and breakfast, and receive supervision for the morning and part of the afternoon. The teachers union responded that the plan is a “train wreck,” as the caregivers are not properly trained to supervise children, and they warned of a potential increase in gang-related violence in many high-crime areas in the district.
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Photo of Chicago Teachers Union members preparing to strike: AP Images