Understaffed and overcrowded: Chicago teachers on strike


Ryan Gilroy / The DePaulia

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union walk past the Loop’s DePaul Center on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Chicago Public School teachers are currently on strike since Thursday for what they say are necessary school resources.

Chicago Teachers Union moved forward with the strike after not coming to an agreement with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

Curt Maslanka, 59, English teacher and CTU delegate, has been teaching at Lane Tech College Prep for 21 years. 

He said teachers citywide are striking for a better contract that’ll provide more nurses, social workers and a cap in classroom size in CPS. 

This is the second time in seven years CPS teachers have gone on strike and classes were canceled. Chicago is the third-largest school district in the country and more than 300,000 students are not attending classes. 

“This is a city-wide issue,” Maslanka said. “Schools are under staff, there are not enough nurses and social workers to meet the needs of our students.”

Lane Tech College Prep, located in the west side of Chicago, is the largest high school in the city. 

“We have about 4,500 students, two social workers and one nurse,” Maslanka said. “We are better resourced than most schools; some schools don’t provide these positions or have a nurse one day a week.” 

A cap in classroom size is an issue CTU is also striking for. 

“Chicago Public schools currently do not have a limit on classroom sizes,” Maslanka said. “Whereas most suburban districts do, Chicago doesn’t and that affects everybody. A class is more successful with 25 students opposed to 35 students. Any student and teacher can tell the difference.”

Sophie Lloyd, an education student at DePaul, said she is in full support of the strike.

“The CPS staff is currently fighting for a cause much bigger than themselves,” Lloyd said. “This change can positively impact thousands of students and teachers. Much more learning is done when teachers and students are in more comfortable classrooms.”

Lloyd said the CTU strike is relevant to her as a future teacher. 

“Whether it is in CPS or not, this is a relevant topic for me as an education major,” she said. “I respect these brave men and women fighting for what is right. It empowers me to act for the greater good before, during, and after I am an educator.”

She hopes that a positive change is inspired by this strike. 

Veronica Thomas of Hyde Park and fourth grade math teacher of Langston Hughes Elementary, hopes this strike will keep public schools alive. 

“I personally didn’t go through public school, but I definitely believe in the strength of neighborhood schools and making sure underprivileged students have the brightest future as possible,” Thomas said.

South Side neighborhood school Langston Hughes is one of many schools lacking the necessary resources. 

“At least 15 percent of my salary goes towards supplies for my classroom and making sure my students have the right manipulatives that they need,” Thomas said. “I teach math and my students need math manipulatives that CPS can’t provide.”

Thomas has been teaching in CPS for 15 years and hopes to continue to teach with CPS for her entire career. 

She encourages future educators to have their heart on the profession. 

“It’s definitely hard work but it’s heart work,” Thomas said. “I don’t think I could do this if my heart wasn’t in it.”

Maslanka from Lane Tech College Prep said the fight for proper education does not end after the contract is settled.

“We all become teachers because we believe in things and you need to bring your beliefs and commitments to your teaching jobs, and you need to be ready to fight,” Maslanka said. “This country has been defunding schools for over 40 years. You need to bring your willingness to stand up and fight.”