Baltimore educators to rally in support of Chicago teacher strike

Baltimore City educators are planning to rally in solidarity with their Chicago Public Schools counterparts, who made national news Monday by executing their first teacher strike in 25 years.

About 25,000 Chicago unionized educators fulfilled their vow to walk off the job, after the district and union heads failed to reach an agreement by Sunday on details of a new contract the two entities have attempted to iron out for months, according to The Sun's sister paper, the Chicago Tribune. 

According to the Tribune, despite negotiating well into the night Sunday, the district and the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement specifically on: raises, a recall policy for laid-off teachers and a plan for implementing a new state-mandated teacher evaluation system.

You can read continual coverage of the strike from the Tribune's education reporters here.

Baltimore teachers have organized a rally for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 3:10 p.m. outside of Polytechnic Institute to support the Chicago teacher walk-out, barring any agreement is reached in Chicago, as is being urged by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  

Local teachers are planning to picket with signs, and there are planned speakers who will be connecting Chicago's issues with Baltimore's. It is against the law to strike in Maryland, but teachers are allowed to hold demonstrations in support of strikes, according to the Baltimore Teachers union.

Bill Bleich, the teacher who organized the local rally, said that the Chicago strike is important because the issues driving it are felt across the nation, and the players involved are prominent in the current  public education discourse.

Chicago, the third largest school district in the nation, is the hometown of President Barack Obama and its schools were run by now- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for years. Emanuel, whose appointed school board and superintendent were on the other side of the negotiating table, served as Obama's Chief of Staff before returning to Chicago to run for mayor.

Bleich also said the Chicago strike is not just about raises, but also large class sizes, segregation, and doing away with job security that empowers  educators.

"This strike is very pro-student, and many things ring true here" Bleich said. "In many areas of [Baltimore] city, students don’t have what they should, aren't getting what they deserve."

The American Federation of Teachers, the parent organization of the Chicago and Baltimore Teachers unions--and whose executive leadership (longtime city educator and BTU leader Lorretta Johnson is secretary and treasurer of the AFT) was instrumental in helping to negotiate and ratify the recent Baltimore union contract--said that all of its unions stand firmly behind the Chicago teachers.

While Chicago teachers are taking heat for the strike, which is reported to affect hundreds of thousands of students, in a statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten said that the strike came on the "heels of numerous steps that left CTU members feeling disrespected," and "only after long and intense negotiations failed to lead to an agreement that would give CTU members the tools they need to help all their students succeed."


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