Chicago teachers walked picket lines early Friday morning as part of a one-day strike to push for better funding for public education.
The school system is facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit, but state legislators and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner have been unable to reach a budget agreement, WLS-TV reports. Teachers hope closing down schools for a day will get lawmakers to act.
"We have a funding crisis in this state," says Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey. "It's being driven by a governor who's making the choice not to pass a budget because he's trying to help out his billionaire friends. They have to pay their share. We need social services and we need public schools."
"It's shameful that Chicago's children are the victims in this raw display of political power," Rauner says. "Walking out on kids in the classroom, leaving parents in the lurch and thumbing their nose at taxpayers—it's the height of arrogance from those we've entrusted with our children's futures. By breaking the law in Chicago and forcing passage of a bad law in Springfield, powerful bosses are proving they have an unfair advantage over Illinois families.
"When we lose the balance between taxpayers and special interests, property taxes go up and the quality of education goes down. I stand ready to work with members of the General Assembly to pass a budget that increases state support for all Illinois schools alongside much-needed reforms that put taxpayers back in control of their local governments and school districts."
The school district says the strike is illegal and had urged teachers to cross the picket lines and go to work Friday. Those that didn't will not be penalized, but they will not be paid.
"We hope the teachers will join with us, finally, finally join with us in going arm-in-arm to Springfield," says Chicago Schools CEO Forrest Claypool. "To point out that a discriminatory funding system that provides three quarters of the resources to our kids that the rest of the state receives on average, even though our kids are overwhelmingly minority and poor, is a system that cannot withstand any political, legal or moral test."
A series of large-scale demonstrations are planned at schools across the city Friday.
More than 340,000 children were out of the classroom Friday as a result of the walkout. The district opened 250 contingency sites for students during the one-day strike, including schools, libraries and park facilities, which will offer free activities and lunch for those who need it.
Video from WLS-TV: