Socialist Worker

Striking Chicago teachers say funding crisis takes the biscuit

A teachers’ strike in the US has gained widespread support, reports Kristine Mayle from Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 branch

Issue No. 2498

Teachers in Chicago on strike on Friday of last week

Teachers in Chicago on strike on Friday of last week (Pic: Chicago Teachers Union)


Chicago teachers struck last Friday to demand that the Illinois state government gives us more funding for our schools—and it was a fantastic day.

There was so much going on all over the city, starting at 6.30am with picket lines. Probably about 35 different events took place.

Some schools marched on bank branches, and there were some larger rallies at colleges.

The pickets I saw looked great. They were spirited, well-attended and there were a lot of allies.

I think we may have had more allies than we did during our previous strikes. The rallies were as big, if not bigger. I was at one school that had teamsters and SEIU service employees’ union members at it.

Some college workers were out too and there was a teach-out at Chicago State University. Some fast food workers walked out too.

I was at a brilliant event with daycare workers. About 40 three and four year olds were on the picket line demanding funding for daycare.

Cookie

They were singing the children’s song, Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? And they were saying that it was the Republican governor Bruce Rauner stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

We were afraid the media coverage would be like it always is—about greedy teachers wanting money. But it captured what our strike was about—funding and equity for our schools.

We want to close loopholes on corporate taxes. We want the guys making millions or billions of dollars to pay their fair share of taxes.

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.

They’ve already furloughed us for three days—basically a layoff where schools shut down. Nobody gets paid, nobody attends. Schools have used their budgets for copy paper and ink. There are no materials and no money.

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 field trip. Now it’s to buy teaching positions.

That’s why it wasn’t just teachers who came out last week. It was a broad showing of people from across society who are unhappy at how the state is funding services.

For more on the strikes go to bit.ly/1S3G9ro

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