Throughout Wednesday, the Chicago Teachers Union is protesting the Chicago Public School district's decision to lay off thousands of employees and enact steep budget cuts that the union says will decimate programs like art, music and language -- all while the city moves forward with plans to fund a new basketball arena for the private DePaul University.
The CTU and other protesters formed a picket line outside of the district's headquarters Wednesday morning, the same day as the Board of Education's monthly meeting. WGN reports the group will march from district headquarters to the Thompson Center for a rally of teachers, parents, students and other community members.
The latest round of layoffs, among the district's largest-ever, trimmed more than 2,100 employees from CPS' ranks last Friday, included more than 1,000 teachers -- or roughly 4 percent of the entire teaching staff.
In June, the district shed more than 800 jobs, bringing the total for CPS layoffs since May to more than 3,500, per WGN.
While district leaders and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have blamed the cuts on lawmakers' inaction over pension reform, those angry over the CPS cuts say the city has no business authorizing financing for the construction of a 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul.
WBEZ reports the cuts are so severe, principals can't afford enough teachers for their schools, meaning classes like art, music, Spanish, social studies, and even gym will be somehow taught online.
“I signed up for a public school to be taught by a teacher, not by a computer,” senior Diamond McCullough told WBEZ.
With fewer teachers and a longer school day in store, CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter told CBS Chicago that ballooning class sizes are more than a likelihood come fall.
On Tuesday, Ald. Bob Fioritte (2nd) took to Twitter to decry the cuts:
Chicago's children deserve a 21st Century education. The "Full School Day" can't be empty of Art Music World Language #StopCPSCuts
— Ald. Bob Fioretti (@Fioretti2ndWard) July 24, 2013
The lack of pension reform in Springfield leaves CPS on the hook for an extra $400 million this year in pension obligations, according to the Sun-Times; the district had been granted pension holidays in years past. Additionally, CPS has maintained it's facing a deficit of $1 billion.
Wendy Katten, co-founder of parent group Raise Your Hand, told the Tribune last week: "There's going to be an exodus of middle-class families, and progress made over the last decade to improve many of these schools will be erased in one fell swoop by these decisions."
On Tuesday, The Tribune's editorial board wrote "[Katten's] words should chill CPS and CTU officials, lawmakers in Springfield, every citizen in this state. Chicago's schools help drive this region's prosperity. When they thrive, Chicago thrives, Illinois prospers. When they don't ..."