- Around 25,000 teachers and educational staff members in Chicago began striking Thursday, leaving 300,000 kids out of class.
- The Chicago Teachers Union is demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, as well as more nurses, social workers, counselors, and librarians.
- The city’s mayor and Chicago Public Schools have announced plans that include these demands, but the Union says the contract language does not hold CPS accountable enough for these terms.
- While the strike continues, schools will be open even though classes are canceled. Principals and associate principals will still on campuses, and breakfast and lunch will sill be served.
Chicago Public School’s Plan
Around 25,000 teachers and educational employees in Chicago began striking Thursday morning, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more efficient staffing.
The strike was announced Wednesday night when Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers’ Union failed to reach a deal. Chicago is home to the third-largest school district in the country, which means close to 300,000 students have been left without classes to attend.
CPS’s announced a plan that would, among other things, raise teachers’ salaries by 16% over the course of five years. According to Fox Business, the starting salary for Chicago teachers is already the highest in the state of Illinois, coming close to $53,000 a year. By the end of this five-year time period, that salary would increase to $72,000. CPS Says that the average salary would be close to $100,000.
Their plan also included adding a nurse to every school by 2024 and doubling the number of social workers.
What the Union Wants
CTU was not satisfied with the offer. First, they thought that CPS’s numbers were wrong and that the average salary would only get to $85,000. Raises were also not the only issue at stake for them.
CTU is asking for a hard cap on class sizes and for teachers to receive a stipend if that cap is ever exceeded. They want support for hiring social workers, counselors, nurses and other positions at recommended ratios, as well as a librarian and restorative justice coordinator in every school.
Another priority for them is to make sure these positions, social workers in particular, have an appropriate workload. Some schools have counselors that only come in a couple of days a week but have around 100 cases to work on. So, when they are unavailable, teachers find that they end up acting as counselors themselves.
While CPS’s plan did include increases for nurses and social workers, the CTU says it is not enough. They say that CPS is not putting the exact terms in the contract language allowing them to not be held explicitly accountable for these terms. Even when CPS added more to their plan in regards to these demands earlier this month, CTU still criticized the contract language.
Mayor Lightfoot’s Role
On Thursday morning, Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot held a press conference regarding the strike. She maintained that the union was being offered a good package and that she hoped for a deal to be reached.
“We don’t have unlimited resources, but having said that, we put very generous offers on the table both for teachers and support personnel,” she said. “And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bring them back to the table and resolve all the open issues.”
Lightfoot is new to the role. She took office in May, making this one of the first hurdles she has had to face as mayor.
The CTU is accusing her of not fulfilling campaign promises As far as staffing, they claim she fully supported hiring full-time nurses, social workers, and librarians, but that she has rejected contract language that would hold CPS accountable for this.
The Union also claimed that she supported additional counselors. Now, however, she and CPS “want to issue tentative assignments for next year by June 15 instead of May 15, creating more uncertainty for educators.”
What Is Being Said at the Strike
Frustrations with Lightfoot were made clear during the strike, with reports saying participants chanted things like “Lightfoot Lightfoot, get on the right foot.”
A Chicago Sun-Times reporter spoke to a teacher who mentioned Lightfoot. He said he was not looking forward to striking but added, “We’re teachers. Sometimes we’ve got to teach the mayor.”
CTU’s President, Jesse Sharkey, attended a strike outside of an elementary school and defended their demands.
“Our demands are significant, and we have real demands, but that’s because the needs are significant,” he said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. We ask for a lot because we give a lot. All of our schools here deal with real traumas, and we need support.”
Options for Students
Because of the strike, Chicago has to find something to do for the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have classes to attend. Lightfoot said that while classes are off, the schools will be open during their normal hours. Principals and Associate Principals will be on hand, and breakfast and lunch will still be served.
Other camps and the YMCA are also offering programs, though unlike the schools, they will not be free.
But not all students are taking the day off. Some are supporting their teachers and attending the strike. The Chicago Sun-Times spoke to Senior Jude Greneir who went to hand out snacks and beverages.
“My teachers are striking so everyone has equal resources,” she told them. “I hope the city understands. My school is very lucky, but every school needs a nurse and proper resources for their children.”
Another senior, Anthony Jordan, joined his teachers in a picket line.
“I want to support my teachers because they taught me everything I know,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Our class sizes are too large. We really do need more nurses. It’s worth being out here because it’s for a good cause. It will help us all in the end.”
Right now, it is unclear how long the strike will last. Lightfoot said a deal could be struck as early as today, but members of CTU do not anticipate that soon of an end. Schools will remain closed for class until further notice.
See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (Chicago Sun-Times) (Fox Business)
Ohio Police Fatally Shoot Black Teenage Girl
- Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, was fatally shot by a Columbus police officer Tuesday afternoon.
- Police released body camera footage that appears to show Bryant lunging at two other women with a knife before the officer opened fire.
- Members of Bryant’s family disputed parts of the police department’s version of events, including Bryant’s aunt, who said the teen called police and was trying to defend herself from people who had come to her foster and threatened her with physical assault.
- The incident came just before a Minnesota jury convicted former officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, exacerbating frustrations over repeated police killings of Black people in America.
Ma’Khia Bryant Shot by Police
Columbus police shot and killed a Black teenage girl Tuesday, shortly before the verdict against Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, adding tension to existing conversations about excessive use of force from police against Black people.
The girl was identified as 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant by a spokesperson for Franklin County Children’s Services, who said she had been in foster care.
During a news conference late Tuesday night, Columbus police said the shooting happened after they received a 911 call around 4:30 from someone who said that women were trying to stab them before hanging up.
The law enforcement officials also played segments of body camera footage from the officer who fired the shots, which they said showed the victim lunging at two others with a knife.
In the graphic video, the officer is seen getting out of his car as Bryant appears to chase someone who falls onto the sidewalk. She then lunges at another person, and the officer yells “get down” three times before quickly firing at least four shots at the teenager.
Bryant collapses on the ground, and the bodycam video shows a knife next to her as officers attempt CPR. People at the scene immediately start screaming, and one man can be heard yelling, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”
“She had a knife,” the officer responds. “She just went at her.”
Police officials said Bryant was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Notably, they did not identify the officer who shot her, though they did say he would be pulled off patrol duty while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducts an inquiry.
Some of Bryant’s family members contradicted elements of the police report. Her aunt, Hazel Bryant, told The Daily Beast that adult women had come to the foster home and started an altercation with her niece, who called the police.
Hazel claimed that Ma’Khia grabbed the knife to defend herself and was fending off a physical assault when the police arrived. She also told a local outlet that the teenager had dropped the knife before she was shot, but the slow-motion capture of the video shown by the police appears to show the knife in her hand at the time.
Protests & Response
According to local reports, shortly after the shooting, a group of roughly 60 people gathered at the site to demonstrate but dispersed around 10 p.m. Others protesters also took the streets of downtown, with many gathering in front of the Columbus Police Department headquarters.
The shooting quickly sparked a widespread response on social media and #MKhiaBryant became a trending Twitter hashtag. Many argued that the shooting, which coincided so closely with the Chauvin verdict, shows that single instances of police accountability do not change systemic problems.
“The emotional contrast between the #DerekChauvinVerdict and the killing of #MaKhiaBryant is exactly why we must not use small wins to justify the end of large fights!” tweeted Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “We must stay steadfast in our pursuit of #PoliceAccountability WE NEED #PoliceReformNOW”
Other users also condemned the officer for immediately shooting Bryant instead of trying to de-escalate the situation or use other tactics like a Taser. Some asserted that if police can arrest white men who commit mass shootings without killing them, they can do the same for a Black teenager with a knife.
“In a world where the police can safely apprehend white male mass shooters. I would really like to know why a trained police officer assumed that the only way to deescalate a fight, where a 16 year old black girl had a knife, was to immediately shoot her dead,” one user wrote.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Daily Beast) (The Columbus Dispatch)
USDA Extends Free Meals for All Students Through June 2022
- The U.S Department of Agriculture will extend free meals for kids at schools and daycare facilities through the 2021-2022 school year.
- The move will bring much-needed relief to families across the country as an estimated 12 million children are experiencing food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- The extension also gives schools time to prepare and improve their current meal distribution systems without having to scramble to process a massive influx of free lunch applications at the start of the year.
USDA Call for Free Lunch Extension
The U.S Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will extend free meals for children at schools and daycare facilities through the 2021-2022 school year.
In the early days of COVID-19 last March, the USDA implemented Child Nutrition waivers that cut through barriers to allow kids to eat free even outside of normal school settings and meal times.
Those waivers also allowed schools the flexibility to adapt their own programs to better meet the needs of their families. For instance, they allowed parents to do a curbside pickup of multiple days of food at once for students learning from home, even without the student being present. In many cases, they allowed for meals to be dropped off at a student’s home if they continue to learn virtually part- or full-time.
The USDA even increased the school’s meal reimbursement budgets to allow for healthier options and cover bigger costs that came due to added transportation and labor, as well as pandemic-related supply shortages for to-go boxes, Personal Protective Equipment, and more.
These waivers were only supposed to last until Sept. 30, which left a ton of families uncertain about what to do after that as many continue to struggle financially.
Helps Remove Extra Burdens
Now, the extension will bring much-needed relief to families across the country because according to the USDA, an estimated 12 million kids are experiencing food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While celebrating more free meals for students, school nutrition groups have also pointed to the fact that this gives schools time to prepare and improve their current meal distribution systems after the surge in need this current school term.
Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for the School Nutrition Association, the trade group for school food-service manufacturers and professionals, told The Washington Post, “Schools aren’t going to have to scramble to collect applications from families that are eligible.
“At the start of every school year, this is a huge task for administrators to collect and process the applications, a task made bigger because during the pandemic there are more families eligible who may never have applied before.”
It also means fewer “touch points” like keypads that take pin numbers to prove free meal eligibility.
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (The Washington Post) (EdSource)
Chauvin Trial Judge Says Rep. Waters Comments Could Be Grounds for Appeal
- Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, said on Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-Ca.) suggestion that protesters “get more confrontational” if the jury does not return a guilty verdict could be grounds for the case to be appealed.
- Cahill’s remarks came after Chauvin’s lawyer moved for a mistrial, arguing that Waters’ comments, made this weekend, amounted to threats and intimidation. Cahill rejected the motion.
- Republican politicians quickly condemned Waters and claimed she was inciting violence, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who proposed a measure to censure her.
- Democrats defended the Congresswoman, arguing she was not encouraging unrest and accused McCarthy of hypocrisy. Others slammed Cahill, arguing he was undermining free speech and pointing to incidents where similar remarks were not considered grounds to appeal a case.
Judge Cahill Admonishes Rep. Waters
The judge overseeing the trial against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, said Monday that comments made by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) over the weekend could be grounds for the entire case to be appealed.
While speaking in Minneapolis on Saturday, Waters said that protesters should “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted.
Following closing arguments Monday afternoon, Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, asked for a mistrial, arguing that the Congresswomen’s remarks amounted to threats and intimidation against the jury.
Judge Peter Cahill, who ended every day of testimony by telling jurors “have a good night and don’t watch the news,” dismissed the request, arguing that he believed her remarks would not prejudice the jury, but adding a key caveat.
“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” he said. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”
Response & Backlash
Immediately, numerous Republicans seized on Cahill’s comments, condemning Waters and accusing her of inciting violence.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), announced on Twitter that he was introducing a resolution to censure Waters.
Many also defended Waters, claiming she was not inciting violence. That includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) who said her colleague was talking “about confrontation in the manner of the civil rights movement.”
Others who took to Twitter echoed that, arguing that McCarthy was being a hypocrite because he himself spread false election claims promoted by former President Donald Trump. Those claims would later incite the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Some additionally accused the minority leader of censuring a Black woman for speaking out against violence in her community but refusing to take any action against members of his party. Many specifically flagged Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), who is being investigated for sex trafficking a minor, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who previously posted racist and antisemitic comments on social media and liked posts calling for Pelosi to be assassinated.
Others took direct aim at Judge Cahill, arguing that he was undermining Waters’ right to free speech and that he was the one who warned the jury not to pay attention to the news but did not sequester them from the get-go.
That point was bolstered by some who pointed out previous incidents where similar remarks were not considered grounds to appeal a case.
“If a statement from Maxine Waters can be used as justification to overturn a guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin on appeal, then courts are gonna have to go back and revisit every single case where Donald Trump made a comment about pending trials for 4 years when he was in office,” CNN commentator Keith Boykin wrote.