Henna and I watched as the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, jumped up and down while defending public education. The thousand plus crowd, a mix of college student, CPS educators, and service union members, cheered her every word and it felt good to be a part of something bigger than us. Earlier Henna and I had mingled with my friends outside the school that on most Fridays I would have been inside. That also felt good as well as the cars honking in support of our Day of Action.
Later Corey joined us (she was protesting outside of Henna’s school) and the three of us hopped a train to join a larger rally downtown. Along the way more red shirts joined us and by the time we reached our station it felt like the CTU Express. Among the people we met were a couple of CPS high school sweethearts who now teach together at a different CPS high school. He showed off his marching drum while she explained how a teacher at Schurz inspired her to become a teacher herself. She later got teary eyed when talking about how classroom cuts have hurt her students. Downtown it was a mass of teachers, parents, children, and protestors from every walk of life. The rain was intermittent but the crowd kept expanding until finally we marched with umbrellas and posters held over our head to keep us dry. Eventually the three of us made it home cold, wet, and exhausted.
Governor Rauner called the one day strike the “height of arrogance.” The Mayor, who cancelled school the previous Friday, also expressed his disappointment. What they fail to understand is that we do not work for them but for the families devastated by their ill-conceived educational policies. While Bruce insists that unions practically disband before raising the state income tax back to what it was under his predecessor (a rate that would keep Illinois paying one of the lowest income taxes in the country), our safety net is being disassembled. Shelters are being closed by the dozen and many families have no idea where their next meal will come from. Meanwhile Rahm sits on hundreds of millions of TIF Surplus funds while Henna sits in a classroom with thirty students. Arrogance is too nice a word to describe those jokers.
For us, along with the thousands of like minded people who converged downtown, yesterday was far from a day off from work. After yesterday I believe more than ever that real change, the type that scares the establishment, is possible. But it might take a few more calls to action to make that happen.