Several hundred Chicago Public Schools teachers and union supporters, clad in red t-shirts, picketed and marched in front of CPS headquarters this morning to call for a publicly elected school board and show solidarity with the union as contract talks continue.
A day after the union and CPS leaders brokered a deal to re-hire 477 laid-off teachers to support lengthening the CPS school day in the fall, union supporters were out in force.
They crowded Clark Street, forcing pedestrians off the sidewalk and into the street. Their chants drew honks of support from many passing motorists.
A couple dozen charter school supporters staked out ground on the other side of the street, holding their own signs and yelling across to union teachers, many of whom are critical of the millions of dollars CPS spends on charters instead of sending that money on traditional neighborhood schools.
The standoff prompted union supporters to chant: “We teach all kids” a remark aimed at charter schools’ reputation for removing low performing students or those with discipline problems from their classrooms.
Earlier this week, the school board postponed Wednesday’s scheduled vote on a $5.73 billion budget for next year that includes about $76 million for charter schools.
Charters are independently run schools that rely mostly on public funding. It’s teaching staffs are largely non-union workers and none are members of the Chicago Teachers Union.
As dialog between pro-union and pro-charter crowds intensified, union vice president Jesse Sharkey grabbed a microphone, crediting many of those on the street with helping change the momentum during contract talks in the union’s favor.
“We have fought back with widespread vocal opposition,” Sharkey yelled. “We have occupied schools, we have marched, we have spoken out, we have filled auditoriums and, yes, we have authorized a strike vote.
“(The board) can no longer bulldoze us, so now they want to talk to us.”
Sharkey continued: “But we are under no illusions that the tiger has changed his stripes and that the powers that be care about public education.”