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Why the Chicago Teachers Strike Is Really About Better Schools

The Chicago Teachers Union has pushed for smaller classes, enriched curriculum, better supplies and facilities, and more counselors and support staff.

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Instead of experienced professionals having a voice, the board consists of rich people such as  billionaire hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, whose businesses  benefit from TIF funds that divert money from schools. Meanwhile, she sent her children to the private University of Chicago Lab School (as Emanuel now does), which she praises for its generous, well-appointed facilities. Lab is a few blocks from Ray (a fine public school that my kids attended), but worlds apart in amenities.

"We'd like to be involved in discussing class size," Cusick adds. "We'd also like more social workers and youth guidance counselors. We'd like to be funded to the hilt like [the rich northern suburb of] Winnetka. Last year Ray had classes with as many as 41 students. Let's have those choices."

And beyond those strictly educational policy choices, there are the critical environmental issues--violence and poverty. "We do think there's a crisis in American education," Cusick says, "and it has to do with poverty, but officials offer charter schools. In ten years they'll realize charter schools don't solve the problem. We don't need quick fixes. We need long-term commitment and investment."

David Moberg is a senior editor of In These Times.