By Will Foster ’20, Niko Vasilopoulos ’21, & Chris Zrazik ’21
Striking public school teachers took to the streets of downtown Chicago Wednesday morning, marking day five of cancelled classes with a massive rally designed to pressure Mayor Lori Lightfoot as she delivered her first budget address at City Hall.
Thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members and supporters descended upon Daley Plaza and the surrounding streets before the start of Lightfoot’s 10 a.m. speech, forcing road closures in the Loop. CTU has set forth many demands, ranging from higher pay to smaller class sizes, and from more nurses and counselors to a ban on charter school expansion.
At the same time, Lightfoot confronted a bleak financial picture as she delivered her first city budget address Wednesday morning. She attempted to lay out a plan for how Chicago can close an $838 million budget gap for this year. The school district’s budget is separate from the city’s, but the former is also in poor shape, with CPS facing $8.2 billion of outstanding long-term debt and $600 million of outstanding short-term debt.
Although Lightfoot has said she agrees with the union that many schools are under-resourced, she has said the union’s demands would cost an extra $2.4 billion annually, increasing CPS’ budget by 40 percent. That, she argues, is something the district and Chicago taxpayers cannot afford.
Assuming the strike continues, teachers will be back to picketing at their schools at 6:30 a.m. Thursday.