CHICAGO — Some 175 members of the Chicago Teachers Union hit the picket lines at four schools here operated by Chicago International Charter School network Feb. 5. “The most important issues are class size and full staffing, as well as pay,” math teacher Melissa Olsen told the Militant on the picket line at Northtown High School.
Ellison High School “doesn’t even have a foreign language teacher. Students are learning from Rosetta Stone all year,” Olsen said. “Wrightwood only has one special education teacher” for an entire K-8 school.
“I’m supporting our teachers,” said Jorge Mejia, a freshman at Northtown, as he joined the picket line. “We need supplies, new computers, a better heating and cooling system.” The union says Chicago International Charter School management is sitting on $36 million in public funds and refusing to put them to use in the schools.
“We can’t give the kids what they need because we’re not given the resources,” Austin Mallory, the physical education teacher at ChicagoQuest High School, said at a rally of 200 strikers and supporters outside the downtown headquarters of the charter school network the same day. “In the four years I’ve been there we’ve had no gymnasium. A portion of the library is used for PE class, but there’s no equipment and it’s not adequate.”
“Family health benefits are unaffordable,” said Mashanda Scott, a third grade teacher at Wrightwood. “I’m paying $400 every two weeks, for a family of four.” Scott said she was moved by the support from parents that morning. “Some refused to cross our picket line, or joined us on the line. One took her kids in, came out and talked to us, then went back in and took them home.”
“The news reported that they offered us all of our demands,” said Ryan Walzer, a science teacher at Northtown. “This is not accurate. The press makes the union look bad.”
This fight follows a successful strike by Chicago Teachers Union members at 15 schools in the Acero charter network in December.