CHICAGO – An overwhelming majority of the Chicago Teachers Union voted last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to authorize a strike as a means of rejecting the Chicago School Board's contract recommendations for the next three years' contract.
88 percent of total CTU membership voted "yes."
"The members of the Chicago teachers union do not want a strike, but we will if you do not listen to us," said CTU VP Jesse Sharkey at a press conference Monday. "Our members will be in the streets of the city of Chicago to demand justice for our schools."
Sharkey went on to warn Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago School Board President Forrest Claypool of the teachers' demands:
Rahm, Forrest Claypool—listen to what teachers and educators are trying to tell you: do not cut the schools anymore, do not make the layoffs that you have threatened; instead, respect educators and give us the tools we need to do our jobs. In particular:
(1) Improve the teaching and learning conditions by reducing standardized testing, eliminate time-sucking compliance paperwork, and restore professional respect and autonomy to teachers on matters like grades. These improvements cost nothing;
(2) Staff our schools at an adequate level. We deserve reasonable class sizes, instruction in art, music, science and technology, a library with a librarian, a nurse;
(3) and, Help our schools and our communities address the social crisis in large swaths of our city. While we do not expect the schools to fix homelessness, broken immigration policy, crisis-level unemployment, and racism, we must address the undeniable fact that these problems spill over into our schools and devastate the lives of our children. We have modest demands to address these problems—allow our counselors to counsel, approve restorative justice programs in targeted schools, help with translation and bilingual services.
Chicago Teachers Union members do not want to strike, but we do demand that you listen to us. Do not cut our schools, do not lay off educators or balance the budget on our backs.”
Karen Lewis, cancer-fighting president of the CTU, laid out her appeal on the CTU website to teachers to vote "yes" and explained what she saw as the problems with the Board's proposals: