With contract negotiations still at an impasse, Chicago public school teachers hit the picket lines for a second day as local and national labor union leaders joined in a show of support.
Instead of heading to their respective schools Tuesday morning, many teachers picketed outside of the schools chosen for Chicago Public Schools' $25 million “Children First” contingency plan.
“If they can afford the contingency plan, what is the problem with paying the teachers or providing resources and the things that they need in order to be effective,” asked Kenge McCall, a third-grade teacher at Washington Irving Elementary.
McCall was joined by about a dozen CPS teachers and parents outside Wilma G. Rudolph Learning Center for the 6:30 a.m. strike. She said she was urging parents not let their children participate in the back-plan program as a means of further protest.
Reports from CPS said that only about 18,000 of Chicago’s nearly 400,000 students showed up for the program, which provides supervision, activities, and two meals from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Later in the day at a downtown rally similar to the one that took place Monday night, during which, according to police estimates, some 7,000 picketing teachers and supporters demonstrated in the heart of the Loop, SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff announced that union janitors will be allowed to walk off their own job sites to strike with the teachers.
“We stand in solidarity with the teachers,” Balanoff said. “Many of our members have reached out and said they would like to honor the picket lines. We have a 48-hour notice in our contracts today. We sent the notice to our contractors saying on Friday there very well may be Local 1 members, janitors, who will stand outside and support the teachers.”
Meanwhile, CTU members also received support from Chicago’s charter school union members who are still working a normal school day during the strike.
Mary Green, a CPS teacher, instructional coach, and mother of two CPS students was at the rally. Green said access to classroom and extracurricular resources, like a well-stocked library and computer labs, are what she cares about most for not just her own children, but her students as well.
“These are all issues that are on the table and are urgent and necessary for the equal education of all our kids,” Green said.
Negotiators were at the table late into the night Monday and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said talks will most likely continue Wednesday. This comes despite School Board President David Vitale’s assertion early Tuesday morning that an agreement would be reached by the end of the day.
During a break from discussions, Lewis told reporters it was “lunacy” to think an agreement would be reached that quickly, according to the Associated Press.
The talks are still stuck on two key issues that PI has reported on and Mayor Emanuel says are the only remaining issues, although union member say there are others as well. The two hot topics surround a new teacher evaluation system and who gets to hire and fire teachers: school principals, the union, or the school board.
Teachers continued to say the strike is not about pay raises — they stress the need for better classroom resources and the consideration of student homelife and environmental circumstances in addition to the aforementioned issues. Some local politicians have sounded off on those issues as well.
Here's more from a CPS teacher who details why she supports the strike, laments on the lack of a library in her school, and explains why schools cannot be run like a business: