In response to recent clashes over teacher contract negotiations, over 4,000 teachers rallied together in support of the teacher’s unions in preparation for a potential strike. Teachers expressed their frustrations over recent attempts at education overhaul—like teachers’ salaries, proposed longer school days and larger classes—that have been proposed.
“We haven't seen movement and we haven't seen political recognition there's a problem,” Jesse Sharkey, CTU vice president said in a statement.
Sharkey said at that press conference that he feels the city is heading in the wrong direction. He explained that the city has not provided enough funding for longer school days, that there are 160 schools with no libraries, among other problems. However, union officials explained that this rally is not a vote to go on strike, and only to show dissatisfaction.
Many of the teachers are also protesting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent actions related to teachers and education.
“He's lost touch with reality,” Harper High School teacher John Thuet said of Emanuel before the rally to The Chicago Tribune. “I feel like we're getting walked on. They're extending our hours, not giving us raises. And if we don't stop it now, I don't know when it will stop.”
Earlier in the week, over 80 percent of teachers polled rejected the latest contract proposal, more than the 75 percent required to authorize a strike. Union officials balked at the proposal, a 2 percent raise 2 percent raise in the first year of the contract for a 15 to 20 percent longer work day, calling it an insult.
In spite of teacher discord, Emanuel voiced support for teacher pay raise.
“Chicago teachers deserve a pay raise,” the mayor said in a statement prior to the teachers’ rally. “They work very hard. Chicago schoolchildren do not deserve a strike.”
Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard echoed Emanuel’s position on resolving these contract negotiations as swiftly as possible.
“We respect our teachers and the work they do on behalf of our kids every day,” Brizard said in a statement. “They deserve a raise for that work, but our children can’t afford a strike. That’s why we are working with an independent negotiator to find a compromise proposal that fairly compensates our teachers and starts the school year on time.”
An independent panel has been hired to examine and analyze both sides of the contract negations. Chicago Public Schools officials are asking the teacher’s unions to wait on a strike until after they have seen the report.
“The CTU today should fully commit to this process and declare no strike authorization votes will be taken before allowing their members to first review the independent fact finder’s compromise report,” CPS spokesperson Becky Carroll said in a statement.
However, union officials feel that the vote needs to come sooner to garner more support before teachers go on vacation.
“We're hoping that maybe Mr. Rahm Emanuel will get the picture and that he has to support our schools,” Dolly Taval, history teacher at Edward's Elementary School said during the rally. “It's important that the government gives the teachers the respect that they deserve.”
James Dugan is a writer for 360 Education Solutions