By ALLISON MATYUS
Chicago teachers stayed out of their classrooms and took to the streets on April 1 protesting as part of a citywide “Day of Action”.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) began protesting outside of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) at 6:30 a.m. on Friday with organized protests and events that lasted throughout the day.
Locally, teachers were posted up on all corners and streets surrounding Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., wearing red CTU gear and holding “ON STRIKE” signs. Teachers congregated outside the main entrance of their respective schools to protest midyear budget cuts in schools and staff positions as well as their ongoing conflict with CPS for a fair contract.
Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St., had no teachers gathered outside of the school, but Principal Shenethe Parks said that the teachers were at other locations protesting.
Teachers were joined with other groups and organizations that stood in solidarity with their fight for quality, public education. At a panel discussion March 31 at Swift Hall, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., organizations like Black Youth Project 100, National Nurses United and University of Chicago (U. of C.) Graduate Students United spoke about why they would support CTU today.
Peter Malonis from U. of C. Graduate Students United said that the people that make up the university’s Board of Trustees are those same people backing Gov. Bruce Rauner and his agenda to privatize education.
“If the people that run this university are willing to destroy a vital public university just a couple miles away from us, then what is their actual commitment to higher education?” Malonis said.
Gabriel Sheridan, a teacher and CTU associate delegate at Ray Elementary School, 5361 S. Kimbark Ave., encouraged everyone to participate in the citywide events on April 1. Sheridan said that what is happening now is not new to CPS or its teachers.
“I’ve been teaching for 18 years in CPS and in that whole time it seems teachers have been struggling,” she said. “When I was a kid, teachers striked often, for the same things we are struggling for now.”
University students and groups gathered again on Friday in the quad during a 2 p.m. rally to show their solidarity with CTU teachers before heading to the 4 p.m. rally and march downtown at the JR Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph.
Community members showed that they support their teachers in a big way as well, by volunteering at a site during the day where CPS students could go during their day off of school.
At the United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St., the amount of volunteers to lend a hand for the day outnumbered the ten students who were signed up.
“I am a teacher myself and as a teacher in a privileged environment, I want to support teachers who are teaching essentially with one hand behind their back,” said volunteer Melissa Scott.
Organizer Lakeisha Hamilton said the volunteers were signing up online to help out as recent as last night.
“In situations like these you are usually outnumbered and have more students than you do people who can help, but we have been blessed with a great amount of help,” she said.