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

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.

Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
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