A Day Off Or A Day To Make A Point? Student and Teacher Voices At Chicago Strike

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As Chicago’s teacher strike heads into its fourth day, with more than 350,000 students out of school, parents scrambling to find alternatives and presidential election pressures weighing on both sides, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and union leaders are under great pressure to find a solution. Much movement in the talks was cited late Wednesday by both sides – with some hope of classes resuming Friday. But for Thursday, it was expected to be another missed school day filled with passion and protest as teachers and the administration press their cases to a public eager to see the strike end and the children back in their seats.

Both sides claim to be acting in the students’ best interests, but sometimes the young voices of CPS students are left out of the public debate. We spoke with three students from Northside College Prep who joined their teachers at the CPS strike and express support for the CTU’s cause, saying this strike is “all about us (students) in the first place.”



Meanwhile, at Curie High School, a mix of teacher and student voices hoping to be heard on class size, the need for more counselors and respect for the 29,000 CTU workers who have walked out and are striking Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools team as a nation looks on – perhaps to see what direction school reform is headed. More than 3,000 students attend Marie Sklodowska Curie Metro High School, one of the Chicago Public School’s struggling Southwest Side schools. Nearly 83 percent of Curie students are Hispanic, 10 percent are black and an overwhelming number – 91.2 percent – of the 9th through 12th graders at Curie qualify as low income. The school is currently on probation and is in Level 3 Low Academic Standing with CPS.


The message was much the same even as the issues would seem far different at Walter Payton College Prep, a selective enrollment high school on the North Side. One of the highest achieving schools in the city, Payton boasts a diverse student body – including 37 percent white and 25 percent Hispanic – as well as a much smaller share (31 percent) of low income students. At the same time, the school has higher than average test scores, and its daily attendance rates and graduates enrolled in college exceed city averages. The school is currently in Level 1 Excellent Standing with CPS.


Lorraine Ma, Natalie Krebs, Audrey Cheng, and Jennifer Starrs are reporters for The Chicago Bureau.

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