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CTU plans May Day rally calling for more school funding

Chicago Teachers Union members march in June 2016. | Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Teachers Union members will join dozens of labor and immigrants’ rights organizations in a May Day march and rally downtown next week, renewing their call for more education funding.

The union initially floated the idea of a one-day strike on May 1 to protest declining financial conditions at Chicago Public Schools, which is facing a $129 million budget gap and could lop as many as three weeks off the end of this school year.

But earlier this month, members opted against striking unless the district imposes more than the four unpaid furlough days that already have been ordered for teachers.

Still, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board voted on Wednesday for an injunction requested by the district that blocks the union from promoting any potential work stoppage, or encouraging members to use personal or sick days to take part in May 1 activities.

“CPS will fight for its students, even when that means we must take action to prevent Union bosses from violating the law,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement. “No one — including [Gov. Bruce Rauner] and the union bosses — can break the law as they pursue their own political agendas at the expense of our students.”

On its website, the union says it “vigorously defends the right of any member” to use personal or unpaid days to join the rally, while advising that “using a sick day for a non-designated purpose can be grounds for discipline.”

The CTU is among more than 100 organizations in the Chicago May Day Coalition planning events for International Workers Day across the city. Rallies at various schools are planned in the morning, followed by an 11 a.m. “March for Youth Justice” at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, and a 1 p.m. “Rally for Immigration Justice” at Union Park.

A downtown march is scheduled for 2 p.m., with a 4 p.m. rally at Daley Plaza.

“We’ve asked the mayor to provide true sanctuary by using TIF and corporate head tax monies to keep schools open in June, and we’re joining these organizations today to defend and protect our students and their families, and launch a massive mobilization for May 1,” CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey said in a statement.

When the Board of Education passed its budget, it counted on $215 million from the state that Rauner hinged on “pension reform.” In December, Rauner vetoed the legislation containing that money, saying that the conditions hadn’t been met.

Meanwhile, district leaders have chipped at the gap with furloughs and cuts, and filed a civil rights lawsuit against Rauner that’s a long shot to promptly deliver more funding for the city’s minority students.