Lifestyle & Belief

Striking teachers in Chicago rally, fear wave of school closures


Striking Chicago teachers and their supporters attend a rally at Union Park September 15, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. An estimated 25,000 people gathered in the park in a show of solidarity as negotiations on a labor contract continue.


Scott Olson

Thousands of striking Chicago public school teachers packed a city park Saturday as union leaders and the district tried to work out the details of a tentative agreement that would end a weeklong walkout.

According to the Associated Press, months of contract negotiations came down to the two main issues of job security and union opposition to a new teacher evaluation process it felt depended too much on student test scores. The dispute in one of the country's largest school districts is being closely watched across the United States because of its implications for other labor disputes at a time when unions have been losing ground.

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Teachers also fear that once a new contract is approved with the school district and their strike comes to an end, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will move forward with dozens of school closures because of falling enrollment and poor academic performance, reported Reuters. The closing of schools and what will happen to teachers working in them has been a major issue during the strike, although the new teacher evaluation process has overshadowed it.

"If they fire us, we're done," Rhonda McLeod, a special education teacher at Gresham Elementary and one of the union delegates expected to vote on Sunday whether to end the strike, told Reuters. "We're terrified. We don't need to be dumped to the wayside. We're not trash, we're teachers."