Socialist Worker

Chicago teachers on strike show mood for change in the United States

by Kristine Mayle, financial secretary of Chicago Teachers Union Local 1
Issue No. 2498

Chicago teachers and students campaign for education

In February teachers, parents and students at Chicago schools held 'walk-in' protests to call for more money for education (Pic: ctunet.com)


Chicago teachers are on strike today, Friday, to try and force the government to give us more funding so we can run our schools.

Our contract expired on 30 June 2015 and we've been bargaining ever since. It seems the board of education is broke on purpose. They don't have any money left because of their borrowing schemes and poor management of their funding.

It doesn't look like we're going to be able to get a contract settlement.

We've been urging them to push for other kinds of funding, looking for revenue from other sources.

We're looking for some fair taxes. We're putting on our strike signs, tax the rich, which is pretty revolutionary. We want to close loopholes on corporate taxes, and make the wealthy pay their fair share.

We have a flat income rate tax here. It's not proportionatethe guys making millions or billions of dollars don't pay a fair share of taxes.

We just had a second round of cuts about a month ago. I was at a school yesterday that just lost $200,000 and that's a small school with about 30 staff members. That's equivalent to losing two teachers - and they're already four teachers short.

Some of our schools lost a quarter of a million dollars midway through the school year.

We were already working with the bare bones of a budget and the cuts are just getting deeper and deeper.

According to Chicago public schools' own books, they're only going to be left with $24,000,000 to run the entire school year. That's basically three days of payroll for the district.

They've already furloughed us for three days. That's basically a layoff. School shuts down, nobody gets paid, nobody attends.

Our members were furloughed last Friday and there are two more coming up at the end of the school year. So students are going to miss at least one of those days as an educational day.

There are no materials. Schools have used their budgets for copy paper and ink. There's just no more money and it's the beginning of April.

Poverty

It is happening elsewhere, not only in Chicago, because of the funding formula in Illinois.

Chicago is the largest district by far. But we don't get a proportional amount of funding based on the number of students we have living in poverty, special education students and English language learners, that cost more to educate.

And our property tax base is a lot lower than many of the suburbs around us. Their funding is made up of taxing property in places where they have a lot more money than we do.

The majority of our students are low-income and their parents are low-income so the property tax revenue is not as high.

The parents are with us because they realise their students' class sizes keep going up. Individual schools used to do fundraising to pay for a band or a field trip. Now it's to buy teaching positions.

That's appalling because we have a public school system that should be paying for this.

What's more significant this time is that we have a lot of support from other unions. We are not alone on this strike - there are other groups striking with us. That is a first.

One group is the university professors. At Chicago State University the professors were told this week to turn in their keys as they don't know how long they'll be able to keep the school running.

At another downstate college they're furloughed one day a week, so they are earning 20 percent less every week.

On the student level there are grants that are income based. Low income students are starting to drop out because they haven't received them and they can't afford to carry on.

We also have some low-wage restaurant workers taking part today. They are at McDonalds and part of the fight for 15. A handful of restaurants said they would be closing for sure. It's an exciting step to have them joining us.

The other major group we're pairing with is the SEIU, the service employees international union. They have home daycare workers who care for children and the elderly. They have not received their funding this year, so a lot are shutting down or unable to keep their programmes running.

So some of them will shut down with us.

It's starting to feel a little bit like a general strike. It's not big enough, but it's starting to feel like that.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.