United States: Chicago teachers stage large strike

April 2, 2016

Teachers protest outside the front of the Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Chicago teachers staged a one-day strike on April 1 in a bid to get lawmakers to adequately fund education and other programs in the United States' third-largest school district.

About 27,000 teachers staged a walkout. Nearly 400,000 students, who had the option of spending the day at one of the more than 250 “contingency sites” Chicago Public Schools had opened at churches, libraries and school buildings, missed a normal day of lessons.

Many educators picketed across the district armed with “Fight for Funding” signs. The strikers bemoaned the lack of funding in the city's public education system and the lack of a union agreement for state school teachers.

“There's not enough textbooks,” a Spencer Technology Elementary School teacher told the Associated Press. “There's not enough technology that's up to date and working.”

Tiffany Stockdale, whose two children attend a Chicago Public School, said she agreed with the teachers, even if closing the schools was an inconvenience. She said the strike seemed like the only way to get people in power to listen.

“This is what the teachers have to do and I think the parents — whether it's hard, whether it's easy — they should support this,” Stockdale told AP. “If they have to be out longer, so be it.”

The Chicago Teachers Union's one-day strike comes at a point when educators have worked without an agreement since last July. The district, with its US$1.1 billion deficit, also faces the possibilities of state funding cuts and a state takeover pushed by Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

Demonstrators also protested against what they described as Rauner's assault on unions and his unwillingness to fund social-service programs and public universities.

The Chicago's Teachers Union has hinted there could be a full-blown teachers' strike in mid-May over pay rises and the need to protect teachers' retirement packages.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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