The #RedForEd movement swept America in 2018 and 2019 as teachers in both "red states" and "blue states" staged massive — sometimes illegal — strikes, demanding a fair deal for themselves, their students, and their colleagues who drive buses, clean classrooms, and do other related work.
The incredible, hard-won victories of the teachers' strikes are a harbringer of a profound shift in the American view of public services, after 40 years of Reagan-derived, neoliberal contempt of any state-provided service and a concerted effort by billionaires dilettantes to hollow out the public education system and replace it with underperforming charter schools that allow for public money to be funneled into the pockets of educational charlatans and religious maniacs.
Chicago's teachers have struck before, fighting pitched battles against austerity in a notionally Democratic stronghold that is dominated by a neoliberal, scheming, corrupt establishment epitomized by Rahm Emmanuel and Rod Blagojevich.
Now, Chicago's teachers are back on the line, 26,000 of them, striking alongside "special-ed classroom assistants, security guards, bus aides, custodians, and parent workers" and 2,500 parks workers — 45,000 workers in all.
Their demands: help housing 20,000 homeless students, a nurse in every school, smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools, better pay and benefits, and restorative justice.
"We feel it is our responsibility to figure out how to get the nearly 20,000 homeless students in our schools housed," says Stacy Davis Gates, a high school social studies teacher and the current vice president of the union. "There is no way in the world you can expect the students to keep it together in a classroom, to take a test in a classroom, to complete homework in a classroom, if they don't have what they need in terms of a stable home environment." Although Lightfoot likes to point out she's "not Rahm," she's actually retained the same chief contract negotiator as Rahm and many mayors before him. In fact, the current chief negotiator for the Chicago Public Schools, Jim Franczek (of the private law firm Franczek P.C.) has been the lead negotiator against front-line educators for decades. "I understood from an early age that it is management that makes things happen," Franczek said in a 2015 interview, "and I wanted to make things happen." Which just underlines the fact that it will be the mayor whose actions will ultimately determine whether the strike happens on the 17th.
Fighting for the Contract Chicago Deserves [Chicago Teachers Union]
Chicago's Teachers Are Making History. Again. [Jane McAlevey/The Nation]