CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) took a stand last Friday as the city united for the National Day of Action Rally. Community members organized a day long strike, which included demonstrations and teach-ins at several of the local universities directly affected by the State’s budget impasse.
Labor and community organizers worked tirelessly throughout the day to stage events that engaged the community in vibrant ways, and that connected the dots among various parts of the educational system, its funding, and its inequities. Organizational collaborations included: Black Youth Project100, Chicago State University, the Chicago Teachers Union, Northeastern University, Fight for $15, Jobs with Justice, Grassroots Collaborative, Teachers for Social Justice, Village Leadership Academy, Parents for Teachers, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, BLM Chicago, Bridging While Black, Black on Both Sides, Love and Protect and Project NIA. (story continues after video)
The day was filled with events such as a New Orleans style jazz funeral march for higher education at Northeastern University, and a teach-in regarding the funding cuts and subsequent total shutdown at Chicago State University. On the West Side, Project NIA held a rally in front of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, calling for the abolishment of youth prisons. Eventually all demonstrators made their way to the Thompson Center state office building, where thousands joined together in a city-wide march across the loop.
Teachers, activists, unions and community organizers voiced their concern with the existing educational system and the effect it has on students in the learning environment. Jeri Sparks, a Chicago Teacher and union delegate, elaborated on the demands of the public school system “They asked the teachers to work longer days, we did it. They asked us to take furlough days, we did it. They asked us to put all kinds of pressure of our students to take three standardized test a year-taking up dozens of hours of instructional time- we did it!”
Sparks is just one of many individuals who expressed frustration with the limited funding that educators are forced to work with, particularly in low income and marginalized communities. “All they do in response is take away from us. We have had it!” Sparks called on Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, to come up with sustainable funding for the Chicago Public Schools and the public higher education systems.
Video (and snapshot photo): Earchiel Johnson and Michelle Zacarias/PW