There is a disconnect between City Hall and the people of Chicago. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel throws millions into pet projects, 3,000 Chicago educators are being laid off. The announcement of these firings was not only devastating to the teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals and the families they serve, but to Chicago residents at large. This weekend, the following status messages appeared on my Facebook timeline:
Teachers, you are so loved. I walked out of my apartment in my red CTU shirt this morning, and some random guy breezing by on the sidewalk nodded, with a very serious look on his face, and said, "CTU," before throwing me a high five. People know you're getting screwed, and they want to see you win. #solidarityforever
People walking up to you handing you free tickets to Pitchfork is why you should never leave home unless you are wearing a CTU t-shirt!
A public education supporter wrote the first message, and a Chicago teacher the second.
We don't have to rely on anecdotes posted to social media to gauge the public's support of its teachers, polling shows that both before and during the historic 2012 Chicago Teachers Strike, the public was on the side of the teachers, not Mayor Rahm Emanuel's.
This mass firing will cause irreparable damage to the Chicago students who've established relationships with their educators. Class sizes will likely swell and there will be fewer program offerings available.
Chicago Public Schools claims that there's a massive shortfall that forced these firings. Whether or not this is true, it's clear that there is a need for new revenue to fund our schools. The mayor will not touch TIFs, the Board of Education will not renegotiate toxic swap deals, and corporations continue shirking the responsibility of paying their fair share. If the public supports teachers, why isn't City government?
In order to make the city bend to the will of the people, the people will need to make their voices louder. We need to turn righteous anger into organization. This summer, Chicago Teachers Union is training supporters and members on how to organize communities. In this four-minute video, organizing interns explain the overwhelming support they encountered in the communities.