Teachers Strike Ends at Chicago Schools

Ava-Kelly (left) outside a Chicago school with striking teachers and students who supported them

“We want justice for our students, and we’ll stay out here until we get it,” said Margaret Hoover, one of the 32,000 Chicago Public School (CPS) educators who went on strike on October 17.

The teachers, who represent the third-largest school district in the country, stayed out of the classroom for 11 days. Among their demands were smaller class sizes, higher wages, and staffing each school with a nurse and social worker. 

Teachers protested in cold weather, sometimes in rain or snow, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city officials negotiated with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The two sides finally struck a deal on October 31.

“Did we accomplish every single, little thing,” CTU president Jesse Sharkey said at a press conference that afternoon. “No. But I can say that we moved the needle on educational justice in the city.” 

It was one of the longest strikes in the school district’s history. In the end, teachers won a 16% salary increase over the next five years, as well as more nurses, social workers, and librarians in schools. The city also promised to spend millions of dollars to reduce class sizes.  


Ava-Kelly with Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers Union


Many families and organizations in Chicago, a city of more than 2.7 million, were affected by the strike. With more than 300,000 students out of school, many in low-income communities, parents had to scramble for child-care solutions. High school seniors were unable to take their college entrance exams, while some student athletes missed playoff games.

“I’d absolutely prefer to be in class with my students,” teacher and parent Erika Goldsborough said during the strike. “It’s going to affect me more when it’s time for a pay period because I won’t have any money.” 

Chicago is known for having a strong union that supports its teachers. “All we want to do is take care of this and get back to work,” union leader Sharkey told me during the strike. Students and teachers returned to the classroom on November 1.


Teachers and their supporters braved cold temperatures during the 11-day strike. 







Photos courtesy of the author