On Friday, thousands of Chicago teachers went on strike because the governor and state have yet to create and approve a budget for the public schools. Now, I understand that the teachers going on strike and not being in the classroom with their students can disrupt students' learning and parents' daily routines, but these strikes represent a much larger problem. The Chicago Public Schools and city officials do agree that their state is facing a fiscal crisis, but many do not see this problem as a justification for the strike.
The Union's strike was not legal, as teachers are not legally allowed to go on strike any earlier than mid-May, but the public schools cannot wait until mid-May for the Springfield lawmakers to resolve the crisis.
I am in no way justifying the strike of the Chicago Teachers Union, but I am trying to explain the situation and why states not having a budget for their public schools should be something we talk about more often.
For nine months, the Chicago education budget has been nonexistent. According to the Washington Post, Governor Bruce Rauner has been in a standoff with the Democratic legislature, which is why an education budget for the state has not been created or approved. The Chicago Teachers Union hopes that their strike will draw attention to the dire financial situation of the city's public schools and colleges.
It may seem like another political issue to you, but it is not. There are thousands of children who depend on the funding from the state for scholarships as well as some meals. Without a proper education budget, the schools are desperately trying to accommodate and provide for students, but making ends meet is difficult.
As an education major, I know that schools are funded based on property taxes, and therefore students who live in more affluent neighborhoods will most likely attend public schools that are better funded. According to an analysis by the national advocacy group Education Trust, the highest-poverty schools get roughly 20 percent fewer state and local funds per student than more affluent schools. So, students in lower-income neighborhoods are attending schools that get the least amount of funds from the government even though often, these schools need the funding the most.
The larger issue is the fact that these schools have been without a budget for nine months. Nine months is a long time, and I am surprised the issue has not been resolved yet. The fact that a budget has not been made due to what seems to be a petty political partisanship argument is baffling to me. How can these politicians sit there and preach about providing a better education for all children when they are the root of the problem?
Illinois is not the first state I have heard of that has yet to establish a state education budget. The issue here is not that teachers are going on illegal strikes, it is that these teachers are fighting for education and the future generations, and no one is paying attention. If more people knew what was going on, then maybe a solution would be created. And that is exactly why I wrote this article, to make you all more aware of the issue that spreads across the nation.
I hope the governor and legislature establish a budget soon, for the sake of the children's learning. Schools rely on funds from the state to provide resources in the classroom, and without these resources, how can we expect our children to learn? It is not entirely the fault of the teachers, so do not blame them for standing up for what they believe in, and for our future leaders.
"If you can't solve things through the normal processes, if you have exhausted every advocacy avenue in a democracy, you then step it up – and that's what they're doing." -- Randi Weingarten