CTU And Allies Rally In The Loop Over Contract Concerns

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 10, 2015 9:05PM

Calling Chicago Public Schools “broke on purpose,” thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters took to the streets yesterday during an afternoon rally for a new contract. The old contract, which was reached after the CTU’s 2012 strike, expires on June 30. Organizers say that the City has the money to afford to meet their demands but instead has chosen to spend it in other places.

“The one thing they don’t want to hear, the tough choices that people don’t want to make, is going where the money is,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis at a rally in front of the Thompson Center prior to the march. “There’s a person who lives in this town who can solve this pension crisis. Not by reaching into his checkbook and taking food from his children’s mouths, but just by paying his fair share of taxes.”

Lewis, who was flanked by former Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, Alderman Rick Munoz and Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza and others, called out Governor Rauner for “trying to get rid of unions” and tied the decline in union power over the past few decades to a shrinking middle class. “You have to remember that what you’re fighting for is not just a fair contract, but the history of fair contracts,” said Lewis.

The union is calling for a new one-year contract that includes smaller class sizes, a reduction in standardized testing, a 3 percent pay raise and additional resources. CPS has said that because it faces a $1.1 billion deficit, it cannot meet the Union’s demands. The CTU and its supporters however, say that through new revenue solutions, CPS can in fact, afford it.

“When the wealthiest in our city tell us that our schools are broke, we say our schools are broke on purpose,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “We will not stand for a school system in which our future is mortgaged, in which our classrooms are shortchanged and in which teachers cannot do their jobs.”

The union and its supporters say revenue options include enacting a LaSalle Street or financial transaction tax, closing some Tax Increment Finance districts, ending toxic swaps and cutting spending on standardized testing.

“We cannot have a robust and sustainable system of public education in Illinois or Chicago if there isn’t sustainable funding to make that a reality,” Garcia told the crowd. “Unless we have a system of solid neighborhood schools we cannot have safe neighborhoods."

After a short march down LaSalle Street, demonstrators filled the plaza in front of the Board of Trade. “They took our money,” said Tara Stamps, a teacher and former candidate for 37th Ward Alderman. “This is Chicago Board of Trade, they're the biggest gamblers in the business and they're gambling on our babies' future. They don't even want us here, so they're gambling on shooing us out! They're jailing us out, they're privatizing us out and they're trying to get us out by any means necessary.”