A thread of optimism ran through Thursday, the fourth day of the Chicago teachers’ strike, as both the union and the school board hinted that a deal could be reached by Friday, with a possibility of children heading back to school as early as Monday.
That optimism also extended to yet another downtown rally that brought an estimated 3,000 picketing teachers and supporters outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 151 E. Wacker late Thursday afternoon.
Later, the group, lead by a marching band from Morgan Park High School, rallied at a park near Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue.
There, speakers railed against Chicago School Board member Penny Pritzker, who they say received $5.2 million in TIF – tax increment financing – dollars for a Hyde Park Hotel. The Pritzker family owns the Hyatt Hotel chain. Recently, a group of Chicago teachers called for Penny Pritzker to step down from the school board.
“TIF money is our money. TIF money is our tax dollars that gets diverted, that means taken away from critical public services like education, and all too often gets used as corporate handouts,” said Tara Stamps, a Chicago Teachers Union member.
Many teachers at the rally held signs that read “Silly Rich Guy TIFs Are For Kids.”
Speakers at the rally included Chicago Public Schools teachers, parents and other community members. Each told a story of how their schools could use TIF money for educational resources, which was one of the original intentions of the TIF program. Here's more from the rally:
Meanwhile, contract talks between the union and the school board continued. Union President Karen Lewis told the Chicago Tribune that she was very confident that a deal could be reached soon. At the time of this writing, the negotiations were still hung up the same two issues that have dominated this week’s talks: teacher evaluations and the rehiring of laid-off teachers.
CPS’s Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett echoed Lewis’ assertion that talks were moving in a positive direction.
Some teachers at Thursday’s rally remained cautiously optimistic.
“I think they will settle for most everything that we’re asking for, because it’s all reasonable,” said Vivian Alden, a CPS teacher who was recently laid off. “I think one or two sticking points are really power struggles. But in the long run, if the school board really wants the principals to have autonomy, it’s going to come from within the teachers. By not hiring experienced teachers, they’re not going to be serving the children.”
Despite her financial hardships, as Alden’s surviving off inheritance money at the moment, she remains hopeful that once a deal is reached she’ll be able to find full-time employment again.
The teachers union House of Delegates has a meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. today where delegates could vote to end the strike pending the approval of a new contract.