Chicago Teachers Walk in to Stop Budget Cuts
By Jim Vail
Special to Mychinews.com
|Hammond School Walk-in Wednesday morning Feb. 17, 2016!|
Thousands of Chicago public school teachers, parents, students and community members rallied outside their schools Wednesday morning and walked in together to protest the recent school budget cuts.
One Chicago principal told local media that if their school went down because they didn’t have the funds, then the neighborhood would go down as well, “and that’s why we’re out here in the freezing cold.”
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said because the teachers union and the board of education could not agree on a contract, he mandated $120 million in school cuts that could result in layoffs.
The Chicago Teachers Union said this was merely an intimidation tactic to force an agreement demanding cutting the teachers pensions, salaries and health care because of a budget deficit.
CPS just borrowed over $700 million to finance the budget and will pay a sky-high interest rate of 8.5%, resulting in paying millions to bankers and hedge fund operators while cutting school budgets.
The CTU has been demanding that the banks, the rich and other financiers pay their fair share as well, something the mayor has made no attempt to do.
While the CTU and CPS continue to negotiate a new contract, the union helped organize a “walk-in” in which up to 200 public schools across the city gathered outside to protest the cuts and show unity.
“Rahm and Claypool have declared war on the CTU,” the CTU stated in an email to teachers. “What do we do next? On Feb. 17 schools across Chicago and even the nation will hold rallies before school and “walk in” together to support public education and demand adequate resources. As we continue to build our power and solidarity, this will be the next step to involve parents and students.”
I am a teacher and delegate at a school in Little Village on the Southwest side. We rallied outside with the full support of the administration and parents. The feeling of unity was in the air.
“It was great to get together and feel a sense of togetherness against the city’s attack on teachers,” stated one teacher after the walk-in.
While there were rumors that a high school principal ordered that no parents walk-in with the teachers, the walk-ins were peaceful and showed that the communities support their local schools.
According to media reports, CPS even sent letters to parents and warned administrators that the protests could cause disruptions, perhaps resulting in a silly order from the one principal.
But for the most part, the city supports the teachers as shown by CTU President Karen Lewis’s high approval ratings, versus Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s low ratings and demands for his resignation.
The earliest the teachers could strike would be in mid-May. However, should the negotiations and mediation fail, many believe the teachers would not “walk out” until the beginning of the next school year.