Teachers march, protest against greedy banks, Board of Education taking back pay raises in final year of five-year contract

Enraged by the vote of the Chicago Board of Education to take back the four percent pay raises in the final year of the unions' five-year contract, more than 1,200 Chicago teachers, other school workers, their families and supporters marched outside the Chicago Board of Education's headquarters on the morning of June 22, 2011. Inside, beginning at 10:30 a.m., the seven members of the school board ignored the protests, voted to raise the pay of the newly hired top executives of the schools system, and then voted on a policy that will further undermine union rights by changing the rules for layoffs every time the Board wants to reduce the number of classroom teachers, again.

Calculating the size of the marches and rallies was difficult, because the numbers grew as the morning wore on. Above, on Clark St. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.[Editor's note: Additional articles covering the June 22, 2011 Chicago Board of Education meeting are being posted at and will appear in the print editions of Substance. This article covers the march and protests.]

After the marchers circled the block they marched down Clark St. from Monroe St. to Adams St. until police were ordered to re-open the street. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The march, which was organized primarily by the Chicago Teachers Union, began at 9:00 a.m.

The Chicago Teachers Union had its report on the event on the CTU website ( by early evening on June 22. The report also included photographs.

CTU organizers and members of CORE like Sarah Chambers and Alix Guevara Gonzales helped lead the chants. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.There was a small bit of media coverage, although both the Sun-Times and Tribune largely ignored the huge event.

The CTU report said:

Over a Thousand Take It to the Streets to Protest Education Cuts 06/22/2011

Over 1,000 CTU members, parents, students, and allies from labor and the community marched at the Chicago Board of Education Headquarters this morning. They were not targeting the newly-installed Board, but rather the large financial institutions that take money from Chicago’s schools. The march later moved on to the Bank of America branch at LaSalle and Adams Streets and ended at the Chicago Board of Trade, two institutions that have benefited from public dollars and continue to thrive as teachers are laid off and class sizes increase. The demand was “be responsible corporate citizens and pay your fair share.”

Teachers noted the vicious attacks and hypocrisy of the Emanuel administration in their signs. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.Protesters held signs that said, “Students before bankers,” which referred to the toxic interest swap deals between CPS and banks like Bank of America which take $36 million a year from schools. Another read “Wasn’t the bailout enough?”

From NBC Chicago:

Marchers noted that the Bank of America flag on the bank building across the street from Chicago Board of Education headquarters is larger than the American flag. But some noted that the ranking of flags is appropriate, since Bank of America and the other banks that were bailed out have more power than millions of people in Washington. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."There needs to be funding for schools," said Greg Difrancesco, a teacher at Northside College Prep High School. "A lot of it has been shifted to bailing out corporations. This is terrible for our children and the future of the school system, and we will fight it."

The task of taking on the corporations and banks may seem daunting but CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey offered these words to the crowd outside the Board of Trade, “If we don’t fight, we can’t win and we are stronger than greed.”

Marching with his brother Joshua Schmidt and friends from the neighborhood, Sam Schmidt (above center) carried a sign he had made which provided a multiple choice test on the waste in the CPS testing programs. Sam Schmidt has been boycotting all CPS tests except the ISAT for the past two years as he went through third and fourth grades at O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy in Chicago. Josh Schmidt (partially obscured behind his sign, which read "I love my teacher") just graduated from kindergarten at Thorp. Substance photo by Howard Heath.Some of the protestors attended the monthly Board of Education meeting immediately after the protest. CTU members asked the new Board members to sign a pledge to work with CTU to renegotiate the swap deals and take CPS out of the TIF program. They were given a deadline of one week.

To weigh in on issues like TIFs, attend the People’s City Council Meeting on July 7th at the UIC forum.


June 24, 2011 at 7:43 PM

By: Kathy Jacobs

Everything Old Is New Again

A $250,000 idea from CPS CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard, is that teachers should make home visits. That’s money well-spent. Oh, wait a minute. Teachers have been making home visits forever. They go by themselves; they go in pairs; they go with counselors; they go with assistant principals or principals. Teachers go to their kids’ birthday parties; they go to sporting events; they go to confirmations and quinceañeras. And sadly, they go to their students’ wakes.

The teacher-student-parent relationship is what teaching is all about. Teachers know that and act accordingly. Data-driven numbers-crunchers keep replaying “Groundhog Day” every time they discover something from the Affective Domain. They get all giddy and hold press conferences. They can’t understand why teachers aren’t impressed with the ham-fisted approaches they take to changing the system.

Most amazing are the lengths that leaders will go to in order to avoid talking with those who are the boots on the ground. They just keep reinventing the wheel. Recently, a retired public school teacher, now in her 80s, spoke to a group of her former students. She said she was so gratified to look at the audience because everyone looked happy. She spoke about her concern throughout her career that she help everyone become successful.

Not one former student, all grown men and women, pulled out a standardized test score and waved it around. Instead they stood in line to thank her for the love she gave them while she taught them.

June 25, 2011 at 1:47 PM

By: Nick M.

Home Visits

This guy is insane if he expects teachers to do home visits and extend the school day/year without extra pay AND cut out automatic step raises or raises for advanced degrees. We're in a battle now and need to stick together in these union busting times. I never thought I'd actually miss Daley and Huberman (well sort of)...

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