On Saturday, August 25, approximately fifty people attended a forum in support of the struggles of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) against the actions of the mayor and the Board of Education that he appoints. They are fighting against the closing of mainly black and Latino neighborhood schools based on testing performance, the stripping of schools of resources that they previously had such as social workers, music classes, and physical education, and the increase of class sizes, sometimes up to 60 students in the public schools. The Board is also creating charter schools to replace the closed schools. In the normal public schools, Local School Councils of made up of teachers and elected parents and community members wielded major power, including over the retention or release of principals. In the charter schools they become merely advisory bodies.
The Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which gained the leadership of the CTU in the last elections, is thus fighting to empower not just teachers, with whom the Board of Education will not bargain over class size, curricular and service reduction, or restructuring issues, but also to empower the students, parents, and communities which the schools are supposed to serve. The CTU sees its struggle as one for both democracy and preservation of the public sector in the face of unrelenting attacks on, and reduction of, public services-even in Democratic-controlled Chicago. In June they won overwhelming support (98%) of the members for a strike. They expect that they may have to do just that, probably in September. They ask supporters in the Champaign-Urbana area to support them by their presence in Chicago. More information is available on their website, ctunet.com.