Chicago teachers and staff battle for the future of the city
Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS), U.S.
In Chicago, an intense political battle is under way: on one side Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the representative of the neo-liberal order, and on the other side the teachers and staff of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and their supporters. The 25,000 teachers of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have been on strike for nine days, shutting down the United States' third largest school system demanding a fair contract and a more equitable and just education system for the students of Chicago. Their demands throughout the strike have been humble: a reduction of class sizes, and an increase in nurses, counselors, social workers, and librarians. In other words, quality schools for the students – thousands of whom are homeless. The teachers have been joined by 5,000 school staff from the Service Employees International Union, which recently settled its contract with the city, but pledged to remain on strike in support of the teachers. For 9 days the teachers have maintained active pickets at every school in the city, joined by students, parents, and community members, and have flooded downtown Chicago with CTU red colors in a number of major rally's and protests. The demands of the Union, supported by a majority of the city, have been summed up in two simple slogans – #faircontractnow and #putitinwriting.
The twin storms of white supremacy and neoliberalism have left Chicago a profoundly divided city: the gentrified districts near the Loop (central business district) glisten with new condos and farm-to-table restaurants, whole sections of the city turned into a playground for the elite – while the working class Black and Latino neighborhoods on the city's south and west sides feel the brunt of disinvestment and privatization: high rates of unemployment, crippling poverty, and an absolute occupation by the murderous Chicago Police Department. At the center of this struggle over the right to the city are the schools: the financiers and real estate speculators who comprise the ruling elite in Chicago have long attempted to starve the public schools of resources, funneling the working class into charter schools: privatized schools with prison style discipline, funded by public money, yet turning a profit without regard to educational outcome. The CTU strike of 2012 was able to slow the privatization of the schools, but the city has continued to cut school staff and close schools.
The reality of many Chicago Public Schools is stark. There are kindergarten classes with 40 students and one teacher. Most schools only have nurses one day a week. No majority black school has a working library. Buildings are in disrepair. The teachers on the picket line would rather be teaching, but they know they are the only social force that can reverse these awful conditions. As the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS) wrote on World Teachers Day 2018: “Neoliberal education managers do not care about us until they are threatened by our strong unity and bold resolutions to strike back.” The CTU strike is bigger than the contract discussions. It's a fight for the right to the city, a fight for the heart and soul of Chicago. While Lightfoot was elected as a reformer, in this struggle she has revealed her true colors – a marionette for the forces of capital. Her recently revealed 2020 budget makes it blatantly apparent how much more she, and the forces of capital, value financing the police over the education system, jobs, health and other social services for the people. In their courageous fight and determination to win a just future for their students, the Chicago teachers have offered a path forward for all sectors under attack by neoliberalism. The way forward is resistance! As the ILPS US Chapter continues to grow, we will continue to fight alongside the teachers and all workers and their families in pursuit of a brighter future together!