Chicago Teachers Stage a Historic Strike

The nation’s third largest school district is without teachers today. After contract negotiations fell through over the weekend, the Chicago Teachers Union declared a strike and walked off the job this morning. This is the first time Chicago teachers have gone on strike in 25 years. Altogether 29,000 teachers and school workers are joining in on the strike to demand better pay, working conditions, and stop the march toward privatization of the city’s schools.

At the heart of the strike are several issues: One is a four-percent pay increase teachers were promised last year – but was cancelled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Instead, the mayor is asking teachers to work a longer school day. Also, teachers are asking for a state limit on classroom sizes – a law that’s in place in 32 other states, but not in Illinois. Plus, teachers are trying to reverse the Mayor's plans to slash public education funding and use that money to create 250 non-union, for-profit charter schools.

Chicago has now become ground-zero in the battle over how we as a nation will educate our children. Will we embrace the public school system that Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann worked so hard to create – and support teachers who perform one of the most important jobs in our society? Or, will we hand off educating our kids to the money-changers and corporate CEOs who see education as a get-rich-quick scheme? Keep an eye on the Windy City.


Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 37 weeks ago

The Education system is broken. The problem isn't the teachers they are mostly hard working dedicated people. The problem is the ratio of school board employies to teachers in the classroom. Some how the ratio in most school boards has ballooned close to 50%. In my school district there is one school board employee for every 15 students but we have an average of 27 students per class room. What do the non classroom people do? With these rediculous ratios the public school boards are opening the door for private schools where most of the resources are in the class rooms.

I might add I think it is dispicable that the city and the union had the whole summer to work this out and they couldn't. They all should be fired. It is obvoius to me that no one really cares about the students. Just think if you live in Chicago you are putting your childrens future in the hands of these imcompetent idiots. Mortgage the house and send your children to private school.

U.S. Citizen's picture
U.S. Citizen 10 years 37 weeks ago

Tell Obama to put on his sneakers and go to Chicago--something he didn't do in Wisconsin.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 10 years 37 weeks ago

Isn't it clear we've just totally lost it? Our guides have led us astray-

dowdotica's picture
dowdotica 10 years 37 weeks ago

hey thom, why don't you or someone in the news pull together the stats on private educa verses public. i'd be curious to see how the top 100 private schools compare in testing to the top public. what do you think? not that my kid gloats but i will! she went to public magnet for 7 years, top 10 in her class, national honors society and top 10% in the nation for AP scoring! the funny thing? i paid for privat educa for her and her bro for the first 6 years and started to worry when i found out that the matriculating ninth graders were way behind in math and english!! yikes. and it might just go to show as my son was in 7th grade when i pulled him from private and wound up having a bit of a struggle catching up with even some of the regular kids at the public school which by the way may not be the greatest but had some of the best faculty i have ever met in respects to what they offer the kids, some 3700! over what i found the private teachers offering in a scool that had all od maybe 600-700 students?!!! interesting to say the least.

ptg0's picture
ptg0 10 years 37 weeks ago

What it comes down to is these teachers demands could all be satisfied by ordering one less military aircraft or one less helicopter.

What do the people want? Good education for thier children or another F-22?

What do the people want? Support for a displaced worker or health care for someone that cannot afford it or a tax deduction for a dancing horse that gets a $77,000 per year tax deduction?

By the way, the tax deduction for the horse means two teachers cannot be paid.

Dem-0-Crat's picture
Dem-0-Crat 10 years 37 weeks ago

I'm really torn about this situation. I'm a former teacher who got fed up with the bureaucracy. I don't believe in teacher tenure: first in, first out sucks. Anyway, we have a FAILING nationwide school system. In other countries, teachers come from the cream of the crop - same test scores as doctors and are revered more. In the U.S., teachers are now coming from the bottom of the barrel.

In this economic crisis we don't have zillions to spend on all schools, let alone the failing schools. Schools should be longer and lengthened. Children have been failed by their parents, teachers, administrators, community and government.

What is so wrong with the private sector stepping in? Look what Microsoft has done for his schools. The kids are active and thriving. If the private sector and the teachers could come to a common goal of maintaining accountability and working towards creating a well-rounded, highly educated child - not seen since the 60's, it might work. I'd love to see the bickering stop and the children put first for a change. Everyone's fighting over everything BUT the kids.

We don't have time to sit around a bicker. We have lost a generation of children who have been dumbed-down all at the expense of adults who know best.

The longer we fight, the more kids lose and the dumber this nation gets.

Dem-0-Crat's picture
Dem-0-Crat 10 years 37 weeks ago

I went to 12 years of Catholic school and my education was stellar. Grades 1-8 was mixed, but grades 9-12 was girls only. I went to Kent State University, am no longer a practicing Catholic, but I can say I received an unbelievable education. I don't know about charter vs regular public, but I'm sure it depends on the state. I lived in New Orleans for seven years and the Catholic schools are at least two years behind the Catholic schools up north. I find that parents who demand higher standards, will get them.

LeeWenzel's picture
LeeWenzel 10 years 37 weeks ago

Ignorance and illness are both real threats to our wellbeing. Teachers' income could match surgeons if they adopted the same financial model as medicine. They should sell ignorance insurance. They could use their assessment technologies in private clinics and make referrals to wherever they have staffing privileges (schools, not hospitals). They could then divide their day into 5-minute interventions, filing claims for each student in the classroom. Soon their income would match surgeons, and no one would have to pass a budget. All they would have to do is buy ignorance insurance. It would be negatively oriented rather than goal or learning oriented, but then medicine gets by focused on illness rather than health. It would relieve all the fuss about outcomes, since insuance is based on claims, not results. It would make teachers more professional, since a professional is someone who gets paid regardless of outcomes.

In both education and medicine, it is all about the financial paradigm.

historywriter's picture
historywriter 10 years 37 weeks ago

What's wrong with private schools? They are created to make money for their owners or managers, and they don't give diddly squat about the kids' education. They are making big bucks, subsidized by government, and not living up to their promises.

If your kids go to a private school sponsored and supported in part by Bill Gates or some large corporation, what do you think your kids will learn? Probably not much critical thinking and analysis (in Texas it's against the law anyway) but it probably wouldn't get a chance in a private school funded by big business and whose aim is to prepare kids for A JOB. Skip learning about being good citizens and having a full life full of intellectual exploration and learning.

ginger31's picture
ginger31 10 years 37 weeks ago

Has now Mayor Rahm Emanuel ever helped improve a deep division in the social fabric of a community, a community with a dire need to improving the education of the young boys and girls who live in Chicago? Perhaps walking around naked as he has in the past is an inadequate tool to solving a problem many of us face in our communities. Thom may be able to inform us how privatizing public schools will help Mayor Emanuel achieve his political objectives.

AlbertDylan 10 years 37 weeks ago

Did Thomas Jefferson or Horace Mann have to deal with teachers unions? Or the Educational-Industrial Complex? (Anything sounds more sinister when you say it like that. Huh Thom?)

AlbertDylan 10 years 37 weeks ago

And who is this Rham Emanuel fellow anyway? No doubt a Republican.....The Unions are getting in the way of honest and real reform that the Chicago School District desperately needs. They represent teachers/not kids!

AlbertDylan 10 years 37 weeks ago

And who is this Rham Emanuel fellow anyway? No doubt a Republican.....The Unions are getting in the way of honest and real reform that the Chicago School District desperately needs. They represent teachers/not kids!

AlbertDylan 10 years 37 weeks ago

Public Schools can work. This one isn't working. Change needs to occur. Hope and Change! Remember people?

AlbertDylan 10 years 37 weeks ago

Teachers Unions are standing in the way of Change/Reform. We all know teachers. Most are fantastic. A few are ineffective. Some have "checked out", are in it for the hours or summers, or waiting to retire. You know this . Don't enable it.

meemee 10 years 37 weeks ago

Can anyone say, "1984"??? Please, read again!!

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 10 years 37 weeks ago

Look at it for what it really is...... privatization of public schools is nothing more than a way to break a powerful union and enrich a few scoundrels by means of domestic outsourcing, so to speak. If these bastards, could bus the kids to Mexico to make an extra buck, by god they would. Hell, teachers there would probably work for a couple grand a year. How low can we go?

One reason vast amounts of wealth continue to flow into the greedy hands of a few is because people are buying into the rich man's lie that unions are to blame for many of our economic woes. The price of your new car isn't going to decrease because a union got busted..... likewise paying teachers less by privatizing isn't going to lower your property just means more profit for the few who already have most of everything anyway! Wake up and fight...unionize the whole damn country!

ken ware's picture
ken ware 10 years 37 weeks ago


I would like to say most of the comments made on this web page are inspiring. I am not a teacher, but my daughter is. These teachers are not on strike just because the mayor, Rham Emanuel decided he would be the over lord of the school system for more power and eventually more cash in his pockets once he is no longer the mayor. He was the chief of staff in the Obama Whitehouse. He resigned to pursue his career in politics. I think he left because of his inability to get along with others in the Whitehouse. The strike is not just about the 4 percent increase in pay the teachers were promised last year and not paid, it is about the inequality in the dispensing of city funds. This yoyo has decided it was better to give the money to the Hyatt Corporation and other corporations in Chicago versus buying more books for the students in the inner city schools. The urban schools receive 66% more in funds, then the inner city schools. This power hungry mayor feels he should have the right to fire any teacher, any time, when he feels the urge to do so. Note: the charter schools that are run for profit are actually doing a poorer job at educating the students then the public schools. In several incidences they have been caught cooking the books to show they were doing better than they actually were as far as student grades go! And, Mayor Emanuel is a Democrat, from the Obama administration. All these teachers want is what was promised to them last year and more money for student needs and a little job security. I know many of you think job security is a dirty word, yet isn't it what most workers want, when they go to work each day and bust their asses for the people they work for; in this case it is the students!!! This mayor is power hungry like most politicians, but even more so. He thinks privatizing the schools will improve the quality of education when actually it is a move to save more money that will be spent on projects that will benefit him. I am ashamed to call this loser a Democrat, when he smells like a corporate lackey, doing the bidding of big business. Power to the teachers, power for the students and long live the Republic.....Down with politicians who make decisions that are meant to benefit themselves and the corporations they represent in our society.

fransr's picture
fransr 10 years 37 weeks ago

Now we know why President Obama did not begin to enact the promises he made. He has been listening too much to his Chief of Staff.

js121's picture
js121 10 years 37 weeks ago

The privatization of schools is the philosophy of Paul Weyrich and his New Right Party (aka Republicans). He did not want children influenced by socialistic ideas and believed that children should be segregated out of "government" schools. I don't think he envisioned just how many corporations would sign up for his party. ALEC (founded by Weyrich) brought the New Right 600+ corporations that now make our laws. The list includes K-12, Kaplan and several more who will reap big profits from the design of privatization since it's they that are leading the takeover of our schools and they that own the private school systems. Zero Tolerance is their idea to segregate and remove our kids from the PS system. It works. So far, In Canada, (yes, the new right is in Canada, too) 1/4 million children have been adversely affected by these laws.

paranoid's picture
paranoid 10 years 37 weeks ago

There will be a lot of charter schools coming soon,because thats is where the money resides.

The education will still be less than adequate for our future Americans worker and citizens.

While crime goes up prisons will be buildt by non union workers who also sent their kids

to the same schools that refuse to teach finanical education to help them make good

decisions in the business of life. Just look forward for more simple people to arrive

for assistance and a job that pays nothing.

roro_22's picture
roro_22 10 years 37 weeks ago

MartyH's picture
MartyH 10 years 36 weeks ago

Hi Thom!

I just recently started watching RT and your show is outstanding. I live in Chicago and you helped shed more light on the ongoing union teacher labor disputes than ALL of our local media combined. Even in my own backyard I had not had a full picture of how the education privatization was affecting our community. Your show helped shed light on the non-union charter schools the backhanded way they are reducing teachers salary by kicking them out of the union by dubbing those schools as "underperforming". I am in love with your show. Its so refreshing for a news show to assume its viewership is comprised of intelligent people. I feel compelled to make a difference when I gain the information that helps expose hypocrisy and injustice and I want to thank you for your service to humanity.

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