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Chicago Teachers Countdown to Strike Time

The union’s top priority is a “better school day” for all of Chicago’s students, one that would include art, music, gym, recess, and foreign languages.

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Aides report supervising up to 96 kids each during newly implemented recesses.

“It is not a better school day yet and if we just leave it up to these guys, it will never be a better school day,” said Lewis at a press conference Wednesday.

STRIKE PRACTICE

Teachers not yet back at work spent last week honing their strike skills with informational picketing at the Track E schools. Carrying signs proclaiming they are “fighting for the schools Chicago’s students deserve,” staff and supporters spoke to parents and passersby about the issues at stake.

The response was supportive. Officers in a police truck honked their horn and blew their whistles to show solidarity with the picket at Ruggles Elementary. Drivers on their way past Azuela Elementary reached out of their cars to grab solidarity stickers from teachers holding signs on the street corner.

When protestors at Arnold Mireles Academy decided to march down the neighborhood’s main strip, they were met with people darting out of stores to grab literature.

Veronica McDaniel, a middle school librarian, was glad for the chance to connect with community members and dispel media rumors.

She asked parents she met on the picket line to “tell me what your kids have in their schools. We’re trying to get decent programs in all our schools.”

The union held picket captain trainings over the weekend and as the rest of teachers and staff go back to work, strike meetings are being organized at each school.

CITY GEARING UP

The city is clearly taking the strike threat seriously. As dozens of teachers and allies rallied outside next to a giant inflatable rat on loan from the Teamsters, the school board voted to spend $25 million on alternate arrangements for students in the event of a strike. The money would be spent on hiring organizations like local YMCAs to provide food, shelter, and “non-instructional services.”

Teachers who’ve seen their schools denied resources for years were outraged that the district could find the money for its strike plan so easily. “That’s a lot of money,” fumed elementary teacher Al Ramirez. “Tell me it couldn’t be used for something else a lot better.”

Last week the district asked principals to report any union activity they found disruptive as “harassment/threat-type activity” on the district’s electronic reporting system.

Meanwhile, “Mayor 1%” Rahm Emanuel, architect of the longer school day and proponent of school privatization, has started to take a more active role.

The Chicago Sun Times reports that Emanuel seeks to facilitate a “second level of negotiations with more senior people” this week. This second tier would likely include Beth Swanson, Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Weingarten has praised CTU’s “incredible school-by-school organizing.” The union passed a resolution at its July convention promising full support for Chicago and other locals in a “hostile bargaining environment.”

But critics inside the union have decried Weingarten’s willingness to tout deals in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New Haven, Connecticut, as models of collaboration when AFT locals have accepted contracts that hand power to privately run charters, undermine job protections, and allow for layoffs based on teacher evaluations drawing from standardized test scores.

 
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