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CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union today led 5,000 teachers, students, parents and Chicago residents in the Rally for A Just Chicago and Fair Contract at the Thompson Center. The rally was followed by a march down LaSalle Street to the Chicago Board of Trade, where the crowd demanded that the city’s wealthy pay their fair share in taxes, and that elected and appointed leaders look for new revenue streams in lieu of repeating their tired mantras of “budget deficit” and “financial crisis.”   

The rally also provided an opportunity for teachers to let politicians and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education know the truth—that they are fed up with claims that the district cannot afford basic necessities for Chicago’s neighborhood schools, and that they remain embarrassed by scandals and privatization failures that have given hundreds of millions of dollars to well-connected businesses instead of schools. Learn more about the CTU fight for a fair contract and the city Chicago students deserve on the new contract website, A Just Chicago (http://www.ajustchicago.org).

“We have tried to provide solutions for them on so many different levels, but the one thing they don’t want to hear, the tough choices that people don’t want to make, is going where the money is,” CTU President Karen Lewis said to the crowd gathered at the Thompson Center.

The CTU was joined today by representatives of the Amalgamated Transit Union and a number of community organizations, including Action Now; Albany Park Neighborhood Council; Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Grassroots Collaborative; Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization; Parents 4 Teachers; Pilsen Alliance and others. Elected officials in attendance included Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, aldermen David Moore, Ricardo Munoz, Carlos Rosa and Nick Sposato, and longtime teacher and labor activist, Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza of the 10th Ward.

The demonstration comes after weeks of troubling revelations that have rocked the nation’s third-largest school district and led to the resignation of schools’ Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the reconstitution of the school board and counterproductive contract talks. The Board has rejected the bulk of CTU proposals—including those with no additional costs to the district—and countered with rescinding a 7 percent pension pickup and renegotiating health care premiums and co-pays with demands that would likely consume 3 percent of teacher and education support personnel salaries. It also refuses to bargain over key proposals such as removing costly police presence in schools where no written plan mandates their presence.

“You have to remember that what you’re fighting for is not just a fair contract, it is the history of fair contracts, and if we have a chance, this is it…this is the time where you have to stand up and tell them, ‘No, we’re not going to take that,’” Lewis said.

Among the CTU’s contract demands are a librarian and a nurse in every school; limits on standardized testing; enforced class size limits; and racial justice for students by way of restorative justice coordinators and more resources for vulnerable communities. The CTU continues to call on the Board to implement a full moratorium on school closings, turnarounds and reconstitutions, and for CPS to engage in joint lobbying in Springfield for an elected school board and responsible revenue sources that fairly tax the biggest profit takers in Illinois.

“When the wealthiest in our city tell us that our schools are broke, we say that our schools are broke on purpose,” said CTU VP Jesse Sharkey to the Thompson Center crowd. “Walk two blocks in any direction from where we stand now and you will see untold wealth…and yet we are told we don’t have the money for a nurse in every building.”

“We are here to deliver the message to the public of this city—that you will not sacrifice the public schools on the altars of their profit,” Sharkey said. 

 ILLUSTRATION: Rally for A Just Chicago