As Windy City teachers began day two of their first strike since 2012, 300,000 public school students remained out of school Friday.
The list of concerns among the 25,000 educators on strike will probably sound familiar, as they tend to be some of the biggest pain points in public schools: smaller class sizes, more school counselors and support staff, and equity for disadvantaged students.
A Chicago Sun-Times poll taken just before the strike showed parents are largely sympathetic to teachers’ concerns, even as families have had to adjust.
While schools remain open, buses aren’t running, and children aren’t technically required to attend school. “We understand that’s hard for parents,” said Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, to a group of reporters at the start of day two of the strike. “But it’s a short-term disruption for what we hope is a long-term commitment to educational justice in this city.” For every child whose school is affected but still made it to school, administrators are left scrambling to fill students’ days with lessons so they don’t fall behind.
Day one ended with no resolutions after 10 hours of negotiating. In a press conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pointed to a lengthy counter-offer the city had previously released. “It provides a 16 percent pay raise for all employees,”’ Mayor Lightfoot said. “It would lift up lowest-paid workers immediately. On average, support staff will see a 38 percent pay raise over the life of the (five-year) contract under the current offer.” More money would be set aside for counselors and nurses and $1 million would go towards reducing class sizes among all grade levels.
Several similar strikes have taken place around the country this year, and some have lasted up to two weeks. To help support parents as negotiations continue in the coming days, dozens of community centers, aquariums, churches, YMCAs, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago have opened to students.