The Chicago Teachers Union strike is a big deal. This is what you should know.

Chicago teachers want change. Now.

Chicago teachers have had enough.

"We are frustrated; we are angry," Anna Stevens, a third-grade teacher on the city's north side, told Upworthy. "And our students deserve better."


Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Teachers in Chicago are striking for one day to send a strong message to city and state officials.

Stevens is one of the Windy City's roughly 27,000 public school teachers taking part in the April 1, 2016, strike — an "unprecedented" move by educators in the third-largest school district in America.


"We know that students need so much more than what we’re offering them," she said.

The Chicago Teachers Union's "day of action" is in direct response to abysmal state education funding and a local failure to manage what many would consider a school district in crisis.

Budget cuts have left schools grappling to make ends meet — particularly on the city's impoverished west and south sides — and teachers are fed up with seeing their students carry the brunt of the inequality.

The strike on April 1 included protests across the city, followed by a rally at City Hall, and a "shut it down" march in the bustling Chicago Loop area downtown intended to draw as much attention as possible to the education crisis.


Union representative Ed Dziedzic told DNA Info about a west-side school where students were forced to sit at desks with sharp edges that could have been from the 1930s. That school, like so many others in recent years, has since closed.

"What message are we sending to those kids?" he said. "That they are not worthy."

Art programs have been slashed, physical education curriculums have been tossed aside, and shrinking budgets have left educators like Gloria Fallon, a swimming instructor, teaching in unsafe conditions — there have been days where she's been in charge of 30 children in a pool all by herself, she explained to CBS News.

Teachers have been largely affected by budget cuts and labor disputes too.

They're currently working without a contract. After the previous one between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — not quite a hometown hero amongst Chicago's teachers — expired last summer, a new agreement has yet to be reached, leaving educators working with little security as the 2016-2017 school year looms ahead.

There have been unfair changes to rules regarding teacher salary pay increases, and teachers have been forced to take multiple furlough days in order for the district to save money.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The situation facing Chicago's students and teachers is tough. But it's part of a much larger problem when it comes to public education in America.

School districts across the country are "fundamentally separate and unequal," former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last March — a reality that disproportionately affects communities of color.


Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The stats back up the former secretary's claim. Across the U.S., districts in more affluent areas are funded by state and local governments at substantially higher rates than in impoverished communities. This funding gap is the worst in Pennsylvania, where the wealthiest districts receive, on average, 33% more funding than the poorest.

Disparities in Chicago are not the exception.

We should all be rallying around Chicago's educators right now because this is a problem that goes far beyond the Windy City.

And the good news is, it sounds like Chicagoans have their teachers' backs.

Stevens, who rallied alongside dozens of other teachers and parents, told Upworthy that it's been wonderful hearing input from community members outside the system.

"It was lovely," she said of the passing honking cars and outspoken supporters who want what's best for students and teachers. "Almost everyone was very supportive."

Bravo, Chicago teachers, for standing up for kids who deserve better.

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As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

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via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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