Parents, students support striking Chicago teachers

Chicago Teacher's Strike, September 10, 2012

Chicago Teacher's Strike, September 10, 2012 Photograph: Nicole Radja

Thousands of red-shirted teachers filled the streets around Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 125 S Clark St yesterday during a rally on day one of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. Those numbers swelled thanks to the support of many parents and students mixed in with them. 

Most teachers remained tight-lipped with media via union instructions, but Joe Dickinson, who teaches a resource class at New Field Elementary School in Rogers Park, opened up about his reasons for striking. He says the issue is really about equality between the schools. “You’ve got buildings that aren’t adequate for the kids.”

CPS parents and students had more to say. Arely Barrera, a 13-year-old student at James Monroe Elementary School in Logan Square, has no air conditioning in her classrooms. "It’s not easy to be working and doing standardized tests while in a really hot room," she says.

For supportive parents like Kristina Roque, class sizes are the biggest concern. Roque's two children, a boy in the fifth grade and a girl in high school, are in classes with upwards of 30 students, she says. "We want a fair contract for the teachers because their working conditions are our kids' learning conditions," Roque says. "If the teachers are happy then our kids will be happy, and who knows what’s better for the kids than the teachers?"

Patricia Sevedo and her two children came out to support their teachers with signs of their own. Angela, 10, and David, 6, are honor role students at their South Side school, their mother says proudly. Sevedo hopes the strike doesn’t last long for the sake of her children’s education; Angela and David have never missed a day of classes, she adds. "I want to support my teachers because they help me, so I want to help them," Angela says while displaying a crayon-written "Support our teachers" banner.

Erica Wrencher, who teaches history at a local charter school, came to stand with CPS teachers as a sign of solidarity over teacher evaluations. Student test scores shouldn’t decide a teacher’s salary because of all the outlying factors that affect the scores, she says. But she also says the strike provides students a teaching moment for all students. "What did all those kids who integrated into schools in the '50s and '60s do?" she asked. "They walked through the picket lines. This is a context where our students can learn the most."

Dickinson also hopes the strike will start a discourse among students. "To me, that’s the thing about a strike," he says. "You think about it as short term, but really it’s a long-term chance to talk about management and labor and how the two sides never come together."

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)