By McKayla Hunt
On Thursday, Oct. 17, more than 32,000 public workers of the Chicago Teachers Union decided to go on strike, which strongly affected around 400,000 students, along with their families. This abruptness shocked many, considering that it is the first Chicago Public School (CPS) strike since 2012.
Last winter, Los Angeles teachers were apart of a week-long strike, due to pay, staff and class size. Teachers in Union City, Calif. joined a four-day strike this past spring, holding the record for the longest public school teacher walk-out— that is, until the current CPS strike.
The teachers union failed to come up with a contract with the CPS, so the school system had nothing to do but cancel all of the classes. The buildings have still been open for public use, along with breakfast and lunch being served like normal, but they have cancelled all after-school activities and revoked the ability for school transportation.
The main reasoning for this strike is that the teachers want their classroom sizes to be reduced, and they also need more resources for the classes. Yvonne McNutt, a teacher at New Sullivan Elementary School in South Chicago, said, "I've had class sizes as large as 43 in my time teaching. That's not an easy struggle when you have to meet the needs of every child… I'm standing up for my kids."
While the majority of the issues have yet to be resolved, they are slowly working on forming some sort of deal. As of right now, they have currently established a written proposal to reduce class sizes, which is a step in the right direction.
LaTanya McDade, a CPS Education officer, says, "We're hopeful. We're working hard every single day. As long as it takes to get our students back in the classroom.”
Along with the class sizes desperately needing to be reduced, the union claims to be in need of more support staff, like social workers, counselors, assistants and more.
Adrienne Vaccarezza-Isla is a school counselor at Avondale-Logandale Elementary School—actually, she’s the only school counselor for the 650 preschool through eighth graders that attend.
Ms. Vaccarezza-Isla deeply cares about her students, so this strike has put a heavy toll on her. According to Dana Goldstein from The New York Times, Vaccarezza-Isla stated, “Kids are looking for me because they are having some sort of social emotional breakdown… it hurts me that I can’t be there for them when they need me.”
Jackie Gilson is the only psychologist for the 4,500 students at Lane Tech College Prep High School, which is undoubtedly overwhelming. Gilson never expected her school to get a wide range of mental health staff soon, but according to Goldstein, she is very glad that what’s important is being fought for.
While negotiations have been on-going, the CPS officers are trying their best to get things in order, and show that they do understand what is being hoped for.
According to Officer McDade, “We still have really big issues on the table and we’re waiting on [Chicago Teachers Union] to counter on both class size and staffing. We are taking this very seriously at the table. We are bargaining in good faith, and CPS has given on a lot of key issues. We’re not making ultimatums here. We understand what bargaining is, we understand that we’re negotiating. But we also understand that as a district, we have to be financially or fiscally responsible.”
Despite the hard work coming from both sides, the strike did end up rolling into the following week as well, classes still cancelled. Mayor Lightfoot has been working hard to satisfy everybody’s needs; “I think the ball is decidedly in the CTU’s court. We have met them and answered every single issue that they’ve brought forward.”
In the end, this teacher walk-out was finalized on Thursday, Oct. 31, lasting a whopping 11 days. Millions of dollars are being put towards reducing class sizes, and Chicago teachers are getting a 16% increase in their salary. Even though there are still some faults in the outcomes, the members of the Chicago Teachers Union are satisfied enough to get back in class—which means it’s finally time for the kids to get back in class, as well. Sure, we all love a long break, but many parents and kids are relieved to finally be back.