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Parents steam as strike rolls on

By Bridget Doyle, Ellen Jean Hirst and Naomi Nix

(From Chicago Tribune, September 18th, 2012)

As Chicago children missed yet another day of school Monday, residents throughout the city chanted, cheered and waved signs to let their feelings about the ongoing teachers strike be known.

Parents and other community members donning bright orange shirts rallied in Heritage Green Park with a message to end the strike. Some expressed support for Mayor Rahm Emanuel while others took a more neutral stance, but the underlying message of the group was clear: Get the children back in school.

"These two giants are stepping all over our children instead of keeping them out of harm's way. Either way this goes, the kids should be in school," said Larry Leaks, a South Side resident who said his grandchildren attend CPS schools.

Event sponsors, Education Reform Now and parent group Power of Parents, bused in residents from South and West side neighborhoods to the downtown park.

Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, executive director of Education Reform Now, said the two groups are concerned about the safety of children, noting that many attending the rally were from the "more dangerous neighborhoods."

"Teachers can be in classrooms while negotiations are going on, especially since they say they're close to a deal," Nieves-Huffman said.

Education Reform Now, which also goes by the name Democrats for Education Reform, is an organization started by Wall Street hedge fund managers and has supported many CPS initiatives.

Matthew Johnson, whose five children all either went through or are attending CPS schools, said the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools need to put their egos down and focus on the children. Johnson said parents' voices are being overshadowed in the whole mater.

"Both sides have turned this strike into the issue of 'choice,' but the only choice is children," Johnson said.

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