Solidarity with Chicago Teachers

Their fight is our fight!

Chicago has been the focus of corporate school “reform,” but Chicago is now the epicenter of the push back against it. On June 11, 2012, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leaders announced that 89.73% of CTU members—98% of those who cast ballots—voted to give the union authority to call a strike if contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools fail (Chicago Teachers Union). This astounding vote was about much more than a contract. It tapped into teachers’ deep anger at 17 years of neoliberal education “reforms” that have demoralized and blamed teachers and belittled their knowledge, taken the joy out of classrooms, and decimated public education. After 17 years of the tyranny of high stakes tests, business-like management of public schools, school closings and turnarounds by private operators, disinvestment of resources from neighborhood public schools, and moves to pay teachers based on competitive performance measures, teachers have had enough. A new revitalized teachers union, along with parents, students and community members of Chicago are standing up to the assault on public education.

On July 16, 2012, a mandatory fact finder—tasked with making recommendations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board) and CTU—shocked Mayor Rahm Emanuel by finding largely in favor of the CTU. Quickly, the Mayor and his appointed Board backed down on extending the school day without paying teachers for their extra time and agreed to rehire laid off teachers to add more art, music, and physical education classes to the school day. This was a victory for students, community members, and the CTU who have been fighting for a “better school day,” not just a longer day. But the struggle is far from finished. Teachers do not want a strike, but CTU leadership rejected the report noting that it left many key issues unresolved, including smaller class sizes, fair compensation for paraprofessionals, a rehire pool for laid-off teachers, and fair systems for teacher evaluation and compensation. Further, issues of charter school expansion and hiring more nurses and social workers are also at stake.

As a national Network of Teacher Activist Groups (TAG), we believe Chicago teachers are in a crucial battle to defend public education and make schools more equitable and just. The outcome of this struggle will not only impact the people of Chicago, but also set the tone for promoting educational equity across the nation. Their fight is our fight. We are asking educators, school social workers, parents, students, youth workers, and any concerned community members to join us in support and solidarity for the CTU teachers as they stand up to the powerful forces aligned to dismantle public education.
Read more…

CTU President Karen GJ Lewis Speech May 23 Rally

Donate to the Solidarity Fund →

Relevant Pages:


Chicago Teachers Union Vs. Astroturf Billionaires

CTU members and supporters take their case to the streets

Recent Pledges

Chiara Iacomelli
University of Siena
Jordan Kivitz
Center for Inspired Teaching
Washington D.C.
Joe Vincdnte
East Side Community High School
New York
John McCrann
Bronx Lab School/teacher
Bronx, NY
Candy Halikas
Washington Irving High School Campus
New York City
Sangeeta Kamat
Associate Professor Education University of Massachusetts Amherst
Priscilla Peterson
Westfield Middle School/reading teacher

More pledges →


Images from Chicago

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On August 8th, 2013 at 6p.m., a Bullied Teachers’ Forum & Protest Art Exhibit will be held at The Keith House in Chicago. The venue is located at 1900 South Prairie Avenue. The work of art called, DYING TO TEACH, will be unveiled at the event, and is a collaborative project made by concerned parents in dedication to bullied teachers – living and dead. Mary Eve Thorson’s family will be in attendance for this special night. Their daughter’s self-sacrifice for bullied teachers and children was the subject of the documentary, DYING TO TEACH: The Killing of Mary Eve Thorson, “Educators Who Bully.” The film was requested by the Save Our Schools organization for their convention in Washington, DC last August. On April 5th, CBS 2 Chicago aired an interview with John and Shari Thorson about the continued impact of their daughter’s tragic death on teachers across the country. Mary’s documentary was also a topic of discussion. If you’ve been bullied by an administrator or know of a colleague being bullied, then please attend and make your voices heard. Teachers are dying figuratively and now literally. This is an opportunity to stand together and show the world that we refuse to be treated inhumanely. If we don’t act now, more teachers will kill themselves and the students who love them will suffer as a consequence.

Thank you.

Myra Richardson

My school Brentano Elementary is 1 of the 129 schools left on the school closure list. We are fighting to save our school! We have a final community meeting on Feb. 28th at Armitage Baptist Church – 7:00 pm 2451 N Kedzie Blvd. Please bring your support!
Here a link to our blog:

Rakhee Dodia

“Let’s concede that we have decided to let our children grow up in two separate nations, and lead two separate kinds of lives. If, on the other hand, we have the courage to rise to this challenge to name what’s happening . . .then we also need the courage to be activist and go out and fight like hell to change it.”

The aforementioned quote was written by Jonathan Kozol, a long time writer about the inequalities of the American school system. Today, as I stand as a Chicago Public School [CPS] teacher on the strike lines in front of my home school and while marching the streets of Chicago, his words ring more true than they did when I first read them at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as an undergraduate preparing to become a public school teacher. Throughout my life, I have had the amazing opportunity of being able to grow up in a suburb that was fortunate enough to have more than enough money to provide me with everything that was needed so that I cold receive a “world class” education. I thank my parents and my community everyday that I was afforded that opportunity, because it has helped me to become the person that I am today. But, what has become more and more evident with each passing year, and even while I knew that this was true when I read Kozol for the first time, is that this is not the education that every child in this nation receives. It is also most definitely not the case of what every child receives here in the city of Chicago. This is why the Chicago’s teachers are taking to the streets of Chicago and going on strike.

Education, from the birth of this nation, was to be a public good that was supposed to be provided to *all* the nation’s children. While it has been provided, it has certainly not been done so in an equitable fashion. With each passing year, and the latest reforms that have hit hard and fast in the city of Chicago, we see our education system become more and more intensely privatized, and children in the public school system continually losing out. Many argue that our fight is strictly a labor dispute and that the children should not have to be taken out of school so that the teachers can ensure a fairer wage, and this is far from the truth. This fight, while it is about labor, is first and foremost about Chicago students’ education. In the Chicago Public School system we see a continual disinterest and disinvestment of the public education system. On a micro level we’re seeing class sizes of thirty-five students which research has shown is not considered good learning conditions; schools go with not enough school psychologists/social workers/nurses, or none at all; there are schools without air conditioners that are in session during the hot summer months; there are classrooms without textbooks; school curriculum is seeing the removal of physical education and arts classes; etc. The same things that Kozol wrote about in Savage Inequalities in 1991, we are still experiencing to some extent more than two decades later. If the system continues to go on as is, our students will have nothing left, except an overcrowded room with a teacher that is completely stressed out and unable to meet the needs of his or her students, let alone get them to pass a high-stakes test.

On a more macro level the disinvestment continues with the evolution of the school into the business model, as neoliberals push through their agenda and make strides to privatize our system: CEOs instead of superintendents, competition to get into the very best schools in the city, big investment bankers and corporations giving money to the schools that claim they can obtain the very best test scores, etc. Charter schools are becoming the go to model, even though in most cases they perform no better than public schools. More importantly, they are an entity that pushes children out of the education system, and are schools that while they are public in name, seem to more closely align themselves with the mandates of a private school. We are beginning to see the start of an educational apartheid in the city of Chicago. Within the Chicago Public System there are schools that receive more money than others, and the schools with lower amounts of money seem to be our same schools that are dominated by minority and students of lower socio-economic status. Tax Increment Financing [TIF] monies that could have been distributed to some of our most blighted schools and communities have instead been put elsewhere to build up the already well-to-do area, or areas that the city has deemed ready to be gentrified as they push families and historically rooted communities outside of the city’s limits. Meanwhile, it seems the only way to get what it is that you want is to take a serious stance as the teachers of Chicago Public Schools are doing now, or go as far as a host of Latina mothers did back in 2001 and on a starvation run to receive a much needed school that they were told they would receive. The children of Chicago deserve to receive as good of and education as any other child in this nation without question, and that is what the Chicago Teacher’s Union [CTU] is fighting for.

I am a Social Studies teacher who teaches my children to stand up for themselves, their people, and their community. In my classroom my students learn about people who fight for their rights and what they deserve. The names of Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama,
Paulo Freire and Martin Luther King Jr. are regular and ever-present faces and names in my classroom. If I did not stand on the lines with my fellow teachers day in and day out, and march through the Loop and to Buckingham fountain to laud the students of the Chicago Public School system and fight for what it is that they deserve, I would be a hypocrite and going against my craft and what I it is that I fiercely believe in. History class is most certainly in session right now. I see red, everywhere, I see my students marching with me and beating drums, I see smiles and friendly acknowledgement and encouragement from my fellow brothers and sisters that what we are doing right now is not only the right thing to do, but what is just. You can yell at me to go back to work, but I am working . . . I’m working harder than I ever have. This is for every student I have had in my class, those that I have only met for a week and who I miss so badly it drives me to tears each night, and for every child that ever sits down in a Chicago Public School classroom. You are tomorrow’s future, and I will fight to make sure you get the best education that you deserve!

Amanda Brode
Chicago Public School Teacher National Board Certified Teacher Curie Metro High school Social Studies Department

Our Board of Education lost in the NJ Supreme Court for changing our health benefits without negotiating. Public workers are a last bastion of organized labor and the middle class (not coincidentally!), and I support your strong stand!

NJ teacher

Typo in previous message. The CTU solidarity meeting in Providence RI was on 8-30-12, not 8-23-12 as written.

Paul Hubbard
ISO, Occupy Providence

On 8-23-12, at the Providence RI public library, 40 people attended a public meeting to support the CTU. We heard from local teachers, members of the TDU (Teachers for a Democratic Union) in Providence, from the teacher solidarity network, and a member (via SKYPE) of CORE in the CTU. It was sponsored by the Providence International Socialist Organization, Coalition to Defend Public Education, and Teachers for a Democratic Union.

Paul Hubbard
ISO, Occupy Providence

Yesterday evening (8/30/12) I attended a solidarity event organized by the Coalition to Defend Public Education and ISO in Providence, RI. Forty people gathered to learn more about what’s happening in Chicago and the ways in which what the CTU is fighting against are similar to what teachers and communities face in Rhode Island. Many spoke and shared their stories and perspectives. We heard from teachers, parents, and concerned community members. It was clear that, like in Chicago, there is a well-orchestrated attack on public education in RI. The attack comes in the form of a lack of democracy and transparency when making local policy decisions, the hiring of corporate oriented administrators and consultants assigned to manage “portfolios” of schools, the disrespect shown to classroom teachers when they bear the brunt of the blame for school failure, the support for alternative teacher certification at the expense of already qualified and trained teachers, the narrowing of curriculum, and the peddling of school reform models aimed at raising test scores, but without any holistic focus on what children and communities want and need from their schools. I know we will watch closely what happens in Chicago and I’m excited that the CTU is inspiring more teachers and other community members to believe in their power to stand up for the kinds of schools and classrooms we know our young people deserve. In solidarity.

Keith Catone
Education for Liberation Network

I am a teacher in Melbourne Australia. I was teaching in the Vocational Education sector , our State govt. has a neo-liberal agenda and ripped $300 million out of funding.

I am a member of the Australian Education Union at the moment. I am not working in the sector in the future, but you have my support. Solidarity!

Lauren Howe
RMIT University Melbourne Australia

In New York a range of groups working around educational justice, and lead by the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the emerging social justice caucus of the local union is proud to be having a discussion featuring a presentation by Kim Bowsky, a CORE activist and member of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Info below:

SOLIDARITY with Chicago Teachers
Thursday, August 23rd
6:30 p.m.
at The Murphy Institute
25 West 43rd Street, between 5th and 6th avenues
18th Floor, Room C/D

Please also support Chicago Teachers by donating to the CTU Solidarity Fund at

Public schools, teachers and their unions are under attack throughout the country. The drive to privatize our public schools and strip away teacher protections is only accelerating. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled a promised 4% pay raise to Chicago teachers and proposed lengthening the school day by 20% with only a 2% raise. In addition, Emanuel proposes implementing a merit pay system for teachers–a similar system in Baltimore has led to 60% of teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings. In response, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has refused to back down and has shown the power of solidarity, holding large rallies and forging alliances with community members. The CTU is demanding smaller class sizes, fair pay and a diverse and fulfilling curriculum for Chicago students. This spring, 90% of all CTU members voted to authorize a strike. 98% of those voting authorized a strike.

The CTU’s campaign has met with some initial success. Emanuel recently agreed to hire almost 500 teachers, mostly arts, PE and enrichment teachers. These teachers will be hired from a pool of laid-off, experienced teachers. The result is that a longer school day will not force teachers to work longer and harder with no compensation.

While this victory is inspiring, the CTU’s strike preparations continue, as there has been no agreement on teacher pay, class sizes, merit pay and other important issues. It is urgent that teachers, parents and community members show our solidarity with CTU. We also have a lot to learn from CTU’s struggle.

Come hear a presentation by a CTU member and help organize solidarity for the Chicago teachers here in NYC!

Stand with CTU!
Sponsored by (list in formation): Movement of Rank and File Educators, Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence, Coalition for Public Education, Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), Labor Notes, New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE), New York City Labor Against the War, OWS Labor Outreach Committee, Independent Community of Educators (ICE), Teachers Unite

Contact to help organize the event or to co-sponsor

Edwin Mayorga

More testimonials →


Recent Posts in "Chicago Teachers" category

We Won So Much More Than A Contract

From Rico on the ground with TSJ…

We won so much more than a contract!
In this strike, so much more was won than a contract. After 17 punishing years of corporate, neoliberal policies, Chicago teachers stood up, and they stood up for the whole country. This courageous strike was born of a new kind of teacher unionism – democratic, activist, allied with parents, and fighting not only for fair compensation but for a richer, more humane and just education. What has been accomplished in Chicago in the last few weeks has reverberated nationally. It powerfully demonstrated an alternative to business unionism and the whole corporate education agenda. There are new solidarities, forged on picket lines, among teachers and between teachers and students, parents, and community members. Through this strike, teachers have emerged as activists and organizers, and there is a deeper consciousness about the system we are confronting.  We have felt a new sense of our power to shift the education agenda. These gains are deeper and more enduring than any contract provisions. We are so much stronger due to the strength and unity of the CTU and the outpouring of public support.
We will need our new strength and unity for the battles ahead. Rahm plans to close 100-200 schools, expand charters to half the district, and essentially dismantle public education in African American communities, ushering in a new education apartheid, causing massive devastation to these neighborhoods. If this plan succeeds, there will be few African American teachers and a much smaller CTU. The confrontation in front of us may be decisive for public education in Chicago.
Deep respect to all the TSJers who picketed, marched and rallied, organized flyering in communities, talked to their friends and family, and organized community meetings. Looking ahead, we will take a minute to reflect on the lessons of the past couple weeks and continue strengthening our teacher-community alliance to prepare for the next battle.
Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago)

Strike Ends

September 18, 2012

From CTUnet

On Tuesday, September 18th, the CTU House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike and send the contract to all 26,000 CTU members for a ratification vote. Teachers, clinicians and PSRPs will return to school on the morning of Wednesday, September 19th.

Lewis: People don’t always get everything they want in a contract

Teachers union head says teachers have made gains, and concessions.

“We do take democracy seriously. I know that’s frustrating for people, but it’s ultimately a better way to run a union.”

From WBEZ September 18, 2012

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meets Tuesday afternoon to vote on whether to end the teachers strike, now in its seventh day.

Teachers have been scrutinizing the 180 pages of a new contract, under increasing pressure from parents and city leaders to return to the classroom.  More than 350,000 students have been out of school since last Monday.

CTU president Karen Lewis shared some of her thoughts on how how delegate discussions are progressing, in a phone call with WBEZ’s Morning Shift.  

Lewis addressed criticisms that, as the union’s leader, it is her responsibility to get teachers back to work as soon as possible. Calling the CTU a “member-driven union,” Lewis said, “We do take democracy seriously. I know that’s frustrating for people, but it’s ultimately a better way to run a union.”

Lewis also said she believes teachers have made some gains, but she recogonizes that in tough times concessions have to be made.

“This is an austerity contract. This is not a contract of we can get all that we want.”

‘We stand with our teachers’

From Chicago Sun-Times
By Emma Leff and Katya Mazon (Two CPS students) September 13, 2012 1:44PM

The rhetoric in the media surrounding the motives behind the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike has been malicious, misguided and misrepresentative.

Many a journalist has said that the teachers are striking against students and that their actions are doing more harm than good. This assertion could not be more wrong. In reality, the Chicago Public Schools teachers are striking on behalf of us, the students, who support them wholeheartedly in their endeavor for better schools.

The notion that teachers are ignoring our needs is absurd. The entire motive behind the strike is to create better schools and learning environments for Chicago students. Teachers have only our best interests in mind.

For complete article click here

Judge punts on forcing teachers back; no school likely Tuesday

From the Sun-Times
BY LISA DONOVAN, LAUREN FITZPATRICK and FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters September 17, 2012 8:08AM

From Labor Notes Twitter

Chicago Public School students appeared less likely to be heading back to school Tuesday after a Cook County judge punted on a legal request by CPS to end the teachers strike immediately.

In a brief hearing, Cook County Judge Peter Flynn told a city attorney he preferred to schedule a hearing on CPS’ request for a temporary restraining order against the teachers union for Wednesday, a city law department spokesman said. The spokesman could not immediately provide a reason for the delay — which, of course, is too late to get students into school Tuesday.

Later in the morning, in a brief interview with reporters, Flynn said he couldn’t say much because it was a “short hearing” to determine logistics including setting a time to hear arguments. That could be Wednesday or Thursday.

“I left it in their hands,” the judge said.

For the complete article click here