Chicago Public School teachers have gone on strike with a list of changes that they wish to see in the city’s education system, including reducing class sizes, tackling the increasing rates of homelessness among students, and hiring more nurses, social workers, and bilingual educators. More than 25,000 teachers and 300,000 students are out of the classroom after the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not reach a consensus on the demands.
This is Lightfoot’s first major challenge as leader of the city since winning the mayoral race last April. She has said that the city simply cannot afford the teacher’s demands, like hiring a restorative justice coordinator for every school or hiring more special education aides, librarians, and teacher’s assistants, telling the Chicago Tribune that she “must be responsible for the taxpayers who pay for everything that goes on.”
The housing crisis in Chicago has been a major element in the strikes. In 2018, more than 16,000 students were counted as homeless. Many students, particularly low-income Black students, face threats of gun violence and rely on free or reduced lunch in school. Housing inequality has also had a major impact on school faculty and staff. Teachers and teacher’s assistants have had to pick up extra jobs just to make ends-meet in the face of Chicago’s rising cost of living.
Chicago Public Schools have offered a raise of 16% for all teachers’ salaries. Additionally, Mayor Lightfoot said that school community representatives would be put in schools to address the homelessness problem and that $1 million dollars will be set aside to help reduce class sizes. During the strike, breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided to students who need it, but there will be no transportation to and from the schools. While students will not be required to go to school, administrators and nonunion staff will be present.
Sources: Washington Post 10/17/19; CNN 10/17/19