DOWNTOWN — The Chicago Teachers Union has started counting the thousands of ballots that will determine if it can authorize a strike.
The counting started hours after school let out on Wednesday, the first of three days of voting. Speaking at Merchandise Mart, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the city could fund Chicago Public School's budget with new financial regulations. The city isn't broke, he said — it just doesn't want to spend money on schools.
"We need to be asking why we're spending on things like river walks ... when our schools aren't funded," Sharkey said.
Boxes upon boxes of ballots were brought into a room during a news conference at the Merchandise Mart Wednesday night. They will be counted during a process that will be supervised by members of the clergy, to ensure impartiality. The results aren't expected until Monday.
In the halls around the ballot room, members of the union giddily talked about the vote and wondered what schools — if any — would come away with all "yes" votes. They proudly wore "Chicago Teachers Union" shirts and told passersby about the vote.
Michael Brunson, the union's recording secretary, said the union has brought concrete revenue-raising iniatives to the table, but the city seems uninterested. He mentioned ideas like closing corporate tax loopholes, tax incremental financing reform and a more progressive income tax, some of which were endorsed in a recent op-ed that was signed by 167 CPS principals.
Rather than advocate for those ideas with Springfield leaders, Brunson said CPS brass wants teachers to do their bidding.
"Our members know what's at stake," Brunson said. CPS officials "need to know they're not just talking to seven people at the table — that we represent a unified voice of over 30,000 members."
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has said teachers should focus on lobbying for a better budget in Springfield rather than organizing a strike. Earlier Wednesday, Claypool was met by a student protest at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. Students told Claypool they didn't want budget cuts.
“It’s sad the teachers are more interested in a strike than a solution,” Claypool said. “The solution lies in Springfield and that’s where we need their voices. A strike is not a solution."
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