CHICAGO – Union efforts last month to train teachers on creating student activists to fight for its cause seems to be paying off, as hundreds of Chicago Public Schools walked out of class Friday in protest.
Between 200 and 300 Lincoln Park High School students walked out of before their third period classes toting protest signs and chanting for more money for education as part of their “Fed-Up Friday” rally, CBS Chicago reports.
Their qualms echoed battle cries often heard from the Chicago Teachers Union, which held teacher training sessions late last month on how to “empower” students to “express purposeful dissent” and “engage in civic action to bring about desired social change,” according to CTU flier titled “Teachers Empowering Students for Social Change.”
“It’s time for a change, and that starts with, one, the unelected school board of Chicago; and, two, every elected official who doesn’t put us first, because we are the future, and if we don’t get it, shut it down,” Lincoln senior Nidalis Burgos said at the rally.
“Our governor is slashing our budget. Our board members are appointed by the mayor, who was elected; the mayor who hides things from our city, the mayor who sugarcoats things.”
Lincoln Park officials encouraged students to pen letters to state lawmakers, rather than skip class on Friday, but the students weren’t interested.
“We’ve done that I the past, and it clearly didn’t work,” junior Adia Njie told CBS Chicago.
Lincoln Park High School faced about $375,000 in budget cuts last week, a sliver of the $120 million district officials slashed to address a massive budget shortfall for the current school year, Progress Illinois reports.
CPS leaders opted for the budget cuts after officials with the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a contract offer that would have ensured teachers received raises, prevented layoffs, and capped the expansion of charter schools – the union’s direct competition.
The deal would also have required CTU members to pay their own portion of their pension costs, instead of the district paying both the employer and employee contributions, but union’s negotiation team shot down the offer, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
In response, CPS officials imposed the $120 million in budget cuts, and unilaterally ended the practice of covering the employees’ portion of their pensions, moves the CTU described as an “act of war.”
CPS has remained fixated on lawmakers in Springfield as the sole solution to the district’s chronic budget problems, and developed its current budget around a $480 million bailout from the General Assembly that never arrived. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers who control state government are locked in a stalemate with Gov. Bruce Rauner over the state budget.
As students walked out of class Friday, CPS officials continued to blame the budget situation on state lawmakers for not sending the district a half billion dollars. Rauner, meanwhile, continues to push for the state to take over the city’s beleaguered school system.
“No one wants to see the kinds of cuts we’re facing, but the reality is that the district loses out on $500 million we would get every year if Gov. Rauner and Springfield treated our students fairly,” according to a CPS statement about the walkout cited by ABC 7.
“Chicago students get 73 cents for every dollar that students in other districts get. In other words, despite being 20 percent of students in the state, they get less than 15 percent of what the state spends on education,” it continued. “We have a plan to put our fiscal house in order – starting with last month’s cuts to administrative positions – but the state needs to treat our children equally in order for us to address our $1 billion budget deficit.”