If we care enough about Chicago’s children, the money is there for the schools they deserve

This teachers strike isn’t solely about wages — it’s a fight for basic rights that every child and family deserves.

SHARE If we care enough about Chicago’s children, the money is there for the schools they deserve
Striking Chicago Teachers Union members march outside City Hall in 2019.

Striking Chicago Teachers Union members marching outside City Hall on Wednesday morning.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

As a candidate, Mayor Lori Lightfoot ran on a platform that looks remarkably similar to the core demands of the striking Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU: smaller class sizes, support staff in every school and a living wage for all employees.

But these workers do not yet have a contract that grants their demands. Instead, the mayor has responded by pushing CTU to go back to work before getting a contract, misplacing the blame for students’ hardship on the striking teachers. She has called funding the schools a “bailout” and insisted that “there is no more money.”

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The teachers and school staff are standing up for what they and their students need. This fight isn’t solely about wages — it’s a fight for basic rights that every child and family deserves. 

In this strike, teachers are standing shoulder to shoulder with custodians, bus aides, security guards and special education classroom assistants — the workers who are our schools’ unsung champions. CTU and SEIU Local 73, two unions that represent different CPS workers, are uniting their members, as well as students and parents, around a common cause.

In the process they are building a multiracial, multigenerational working-class movement, with 35,000 school workers on the picket line alongside parents and students, 90% of whom are black and brown. This is a historic moment in Chicago. When workers fight together, we can win.

On Wednesday, the mayor unveiled a budget that attempts to address Chicago’s funding gap, which includes new revenue sources and reform to departmental budgets and expenses. We, too, want to raise more money for the public sector — and we see opportunities to go further to fund the schools our children deserve. 

As socialist aldermen, we have put forward proposals that ask massively profitable corporations and the very wealthy to pay their fair share. It’s more than possible for the city to provide the resources our teachers and students need. By ending corporate handouts and taxing the rich, we can raise new revenue to close the budget gap and fund the public good.

We should incorporate new and truly progressive revenue sources such as: a corporate head tax (which Chicago had for many decades until it was removed under Rahm Emanuel); commercial lease, luxury service and vacancy taxes; payments in lieu of taxes from multimillion-dollar “non-profits”; and the elimination of for-profit TIF subsidies like the Lincoln Yards and 78 developments. 

We support our courageous striking public school workers. Since the start of the strike, we’ve joined workers on the picket line, spoken publicly in support, and distributed food to students through the Democratic Socialists of America’s Bread for Ed program. We will continue to stand with the teachers and school staff, because their fight is our fight.

Mayor Lightfoot, we invite you to join us at City Hall in fighting for progressive revenue and a truly forward-looking budget that meets all Chicagoans’ needs, and we urge you to say yes to justice for our teachers, and equity for the families they serve. Our schools and communities can’t wait any longer.

The authors are all members of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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