Chicago teachers protest across Loop to demand school funding

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Protesters filled a City Hall hallway as they were denied access to council chambers, where the council was meeting. (WLS)

Chicago Public Schools teachers protested Wednesday in the Chicago Loop about the district's financial crisis, suggesting that tax hikes for corporations and the rich could fill the school district's vast budget deficit.

The Chicago Teachers Union dubbed the event "Fight Back Day" and targeted major corporations at sites including at the Thompson Center, Citadel and Willis Tower.

"They're demonstrations to call out and call attention to the amount of money that is being siphoned away from the public coffers which is going to benefit corporations and the politically connected in the city," said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

At City Hall, protesters filled the second-floor hallway as they were denied access to council chambers, where the council held their monthly meeting.

Hundreds of Chicago teachers and parents joined the protests to demand a long-term solution to fund a district in financial crisis.

"We're here to fight for a fair and equitable budget for our city but we can't do that unless we have a fair and representative school board," Rhoda Gutierrez, a CPS parent, said.

They want Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS to come up with their own revenue solutions instead of asking for state funding.

"He doesn't really know what's going on in our community, in our schools. These are our schools and we need to take them back," Etta Davis, a CPS grandparent, said.

CPS has been threatening 25-30 percent cuts for every school, if the state does not come up with equitable funding. The teachers union is threatening to strike if those cuts become reality.

"We are public servants not indentured servants," said teacher Ben Coyle.

Meantime, a couple blocks away at the CPS board meeting, CEO Forrest Claypool said CTU is letting Gov. Bruce Rauner off the hook by focusing on taxes.

"A half billion dollars in new taxes for Chicago taxpayers is not the answer," Claypool said. "The answer is Gov. Rauner living up to his obligation and duty to fully fund education."

The city says teachers should focus their attention on Gov. Bruce Rauner, who they say is "an obstacle" to the process.

Rauner said he has a temporary education bill that he's urging Democrats to sign on to put a bandage on the budget.

As teachers made their way to the Thompson Center, teachers said that before Gov. Rauner does his job, the city needs a revenue plan that does not include any more cuts from teachers.

"We've seen $1.2 billion taken from pension funds over last five years," Sharkey said. "We've seen contractually promised pay raises rescinded at a $500 million cuts to teachers."
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educationcpschicago public schoolsschool fundingillinois budgetchicago teachers unionChicago - Loop
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