On Wednesday I covered another in a seemingly never ending series of protests outside the Chicago Public School board of education building in Chicago. Students, parents, concerned community members and teachers have been demonstrating against nearly everything CPS has done for a year. From the Chicago Teachers Union strike to the fight to stop the district from moving forward with the largest school closing in American history; to fighting budget cuts that force teachers to buy supplies as basic as toilet paper for their classrooms, the Chicago community wants a better future for its children. Sadly, the City and CPS administration seem to only see budget cuts, massive layoffs and shutting the doors on dozens of schools as the solution, even though plenty of others exist.
Still, community members soldier on, fighting on every front to save Chicago schools for the children. At Wednesday’s rally, I noticed an increasing amount of signs which read “I Am A Teacher.” It’s a simple but powerful message. During the CTU strike, a favorite tactic of its opponents was to demonize the teachers – call them greedy, lazy or overpaid. But those opponents missed the point of the strike, which was to bargain for a better position in fighting to keep their schools open and fully funded.
Last Friday CPS laid off more than 3,000 employees, including 2,100 teachers. For these dedicated public servants, the protest isn’t only about their jobs, it’s about their student. After hundreds of demonstrators filled the Thompson Center, to demand Illinois Governor Pat Quinn use TIF funds to save public schools rather than fund a stadium for a private stadium, Sean Diller, a teacher, spoke:
“I was a teacher to 120 awesome students at Kelly High School. I was the only orchestra teacher they had on staff. This affects my program, my students. It’s a rough transition, especially in a program where students are there for four years, going from one teacher to another.”
Sean’s is the voice of someone who cares about the lives of his students, silenced by the push to privatize the city’s school system which would line the pockets of already powerful people. In a system which demonizes dedicated hard working people to protect the bottom line of a small few, that simultaneously sells out its children, we are all teachers.