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Chicago teachers' strike continues, leaving about 300,000 kids in limbo

About 300,000 students have no idea when they'll see their teachers again as members of the Chicago Teachers Union...

Posted: Oct 17, 2019 8:32 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2019 8:15 PM

Moselean Parker's 25 years of simmering frustration have boiled over.

'I don't have any reading books in my room! I don't have any science books in my room! ... We don't have computers in our classroom!' the elementary school teacher screamed.

Parker was one of 25,000 Chicago educators who went on strike Thursday, demanding what teachers across the country have been clamoring for: smaller class sizes, more support staff, higher raises and more school funding.

Teachers and staff held a spirited rally and marched in downtown Chicago. But negotiations ended without the two sides reaching a deal, meaning some 300,000 school children will remain in limbo. Classes are canceled on Friday as negotiations continue.

But a senior city official told CNN the two sides are 'still pretty far apart,' and the strike will likely extend through the weekend.

Jennifer Friedhart, a 5th and 6th grade science teacher at Beaubien Elementary, said teachers would rather be in the classroom than on the picket line.

'We should be in the classroom,' said Friedhart, a 15-year Chicago Public School veteran who brought her 7-year-old daughter, Zoe, with her. 'Striking for needs that every school needs, it's worth it.'

Unique challenges faces Chicago students

In Chicago, the dynamics are different -- and in some cases, dire.

About 75% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In some neighborhoods, gangs and violence permeate the streets.

'The violence is because the kids can't read,' Parker said. She's spent her own money buying supplies for her classrooms, but says it's not enough.

'Please, give us the books. Give us the psychologists. Give us the social workers. Give us the nurses,' she said.

School social worker Emily Penn fought back tears when describing how badly students need more support staff.

'Our students suffer from trauma. They suffer from so many things they need help coping with,' Penn said.

Many child deaths are 'by suicide and by guns. This is a fact in Chicago,' she said.

The school district has offered hundreds more support staff and 16% raises for teachers -- an average of about $19,000.

But teachers say those concessions aren't enough. That means about 300,000 students now have no idea when they'll see their teachers again.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city has already offered the most generous proposal in the union's history and called for an end to the strike.

'We need to get our kids back in school,' the mayor said Thursday. 'Every day we are out, that hurts our children.'

What's happening to the kids?

Even though classes are canceled, schools will stay open and will provide 'breakfast, lunch, and supper' during the strike, CPS Superintendent Dr. Janice Jackson said.

The campuses are staffed by administrators and employees who aren't part of the union.

But school buses will not be running, and students are not required to go to school.

Dozens of community centers will be open for students, including YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.

While many striking teachers are also CPS parents, not all Chicago parents support the strike.

'To me, it's a whole distraction and interruption to the school year,' said Liam Boyd, the father of a 4th-grade son at Blaine Elementary.

Boyd said he's worried about the lost productivity during the strike.

'I don't support the union,' he said. 'I think the school district and the city has been more fair this time and (are) trying to be more fair.'

What the teachers want

'Our students deserve smaller class sizes. They deserve nurses. They deserve social workers. They deserve bilingual educators,' special education teacher Linda Perales said.

The union listed more than a dozen demands for the school district, including firm limits on class sizes, hiring more teachers' assistants and raises for all school employees.

Willie Cousins has worked as a teacher's assistant at Bond Elementary School for the past five years.

'In those five years, I have been working with a salary of less than $30,000 a year,' he said.

'And to make ends meet, I've had to pick up an extra job at Walmart, Food 4 Less, it all depends because of my salary. But I have a family of four that I have to provide for.'

He said the cost of living in Chicago makes it especially difficult to live on an educator's salary.

'We are required to live in the city. So how can I live off of that when skyrocketing rent is unbelievable?' he said. 'Please, we deserve a fair wage in this city.'

Then there's the lack of librarians, bilingual teachers and other support staff.

Nine of 10 majority-black schools have no teacher librarians, and there aren't enough teachers for English language learners in the district, which the union said is 'nearly half Latinx,' the union said.

What the city and school district have offered

Chicago Public Schools has proposed a series of offers, including 16% raises for teachers, or an average of about $19,000.

'In five years, the average teacher will make about $100,000,' CPS said in its proposed plan.

Chicago's Board of Education released a 71-page counteroffer to the union's demands.

'We have tried to provide the best deal that's fiscally responsible -- that's fair to teacher and fair to taxpayers,' Mayor Lightfoot said.

'It provides a 16% pay raise for all employees. It would lift up lowest-paid workers immediately. On average, support staff will see a 38% pay raise over the life of the (five-year) contract under the current offer.'

The mayor said an additional $400,000 per year will be earmarked 'toward a pipeline for nurses, counselors and case managers.'

The offer also includes:

-- An additional $1 million to reduce class sizes in classrooms from grades 4 through 12

-- A 'school community rep' at every school with a significant homeless population

-- Improved health insurance coverage for physical therapy and mental health services

'Without question, the deal that we put on the table is the best in the Chicago Teachers Union's history,' Mayor Lightfoot said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 327477

Reported Deaths: 3751
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin688981130
Ramsey28948512
Anoka23196232
Dakota23102194
Washington14590120
Stearns14314121
St. Louis9280117
Scott881056
Wright827145
Olmsted702536
Sherburne608243
Clay521359
Carver501315
Kandiyohi432024
Rice427738
Blue Earth426617
Crow Wing376237
Otter Tail332725
Chisago326914
Benton317253
Nobles313731
Winona292031
Douglas278439
Mower270623
Polk266226
Morrison241730
Lyon228712
Beltrami227518
McLeod226517
Becker217619
Goodhue216930
Steele20568
Itasca202223
Isanti199517
Carlton198417
Todd187414
Nicollet169426
Mille Lacs161231
Freeborn15966
Le Sueur153511
Brown151015
Cass149910
Pine14298
Waseca141811
Meeker139011
Roseau12475
Martin121221
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Wabasha11041
Redwood101720
Chippewa9508
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Renville92729
Dodge9110
Watonwan8824
Wadena8537
Sibley8194
Rock8019
Aitkin79530
Houston7694
Fillmore7480
Pipestone74718
Kanabec67714
Yellow Medicine67612
Pennington6758
Swift6149
Murray6064
Faribault5902
Pope5641
Clearwater5389
Stevens5333
Marshall5289
Jackson5181
Lake4437
Wilkin4115
Koochiching4106
Lac qui Parle3984
Unassigned38259
Lincoln3721
Norman3638
Big Stone3332
Mahnomen3164
Grant2956
Kittson2408
Red Lake2283
Traverse1521
Lake of the Woods1021
Cook790

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 234817

Reported Deaths: 2486
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34631341
Linn14655168
Scott1166189
Black Hawk11194139
Woodbury10622133
Johnson979337
Dubuque941594
Story698323
Pottawattamie664871
Dallas657159
Sioux380529
Webster371639
Cerro Gordo367649
Marshall357647
Clinton341444
Buena Vista313114
Des Moines298621
Muscatine298271
Warren291714
Plymouth284444
Wapello263772
Jones235917
Jasper229746
Lee225617
Marion210222
Carroll203624
Bremer200212
Henry19137
Crawford181016
Benton174023
Tama156641
Washington149715
Jackson148814
Delaware147021
Dickinson143811
Boone142412
Mahaska133328
Wright13007
Clay12254
Buchanan122010
Hardin121011
Hamilton117713
Page11664
Kossuth11608
Clayton11399
Cedar112513
Harrison110832
Floyd110219
Calhoun10907
Fayette108712
Mills10858
Lyon10619
Butler10576
Winneshiek102713
Poweshiek102013
Iowa100213
Winnebago94825
Cherokee9474
Chickasaw9084
Hancock9008
Sac8978
Louisa89321
Grundy88911
Allamakee87013
Mitchell8369
Cass83524
Union8166
Appanoose80713
Humboldt8015
Shelby79511
Emmet78626
Guthrie77115
Franklin76021
Jefferson7512
Madison7174
Unassigned7050
Palo Alto6734
Keokuk6477
Pocahontas5984
Howard5809
Osceola5411
Greene5401
Ida53013
Clarke5004
Montgomery49311
Davis4819
Taylor4773
Monona4516
Monroe45113
Adair4489
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