The third-largest school district in the U.S. was shut down Monday by its teachers union and thousands of students will be on the unsafe streets when they should be in classrooms preparing for their future.
What's today's lesson? Stay home, students, teachers of Chicago are out playing hooky with their union leaders as police scramble to control a record number of drive-by shootings in the windy city.
The teachers strike leaves about 400,000 students, many unsupervised, to wander neighborhoods, many controlled by gangs and where shooting deaths are an everyday event.
The union-sponsored walkout may prove a dicey issue for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who claimed he would end the strike quickly, according to a Fox News report.
The union teachers strike is the first in 25 years and comes as the number of shootings and gun crimes have sky rocketed under Mr. Emanuel’s governance.
"This is not a strike I wanted," Emanuel said Sunday night, not long after the union announced the action. "It was a strike of choice ... it's unnecessary, it's avoidable and it's wrong."
Emanuel, once a top aide under President Obama, is historically a union supporter, and the massive walkout midway through his term puts him on the other side for a change.
Despite schools not being open for education, officials said some 140 schools would be open between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. so the children who rely on free meals provided by the school district can eat breakfast and lunch, according to school administrators.
Monday, at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School on Chicago's South Side, eighth-grade teacher Michael Williams said he wanted a “quick contract resolution.”
"We hoped that it wouldn't happen. We all want to get back to teaching," Williams said, adding that wages and classroom conditions need to be improved.
"We will make sure our kids are safe, we will see our way through these issues and our kids will be back in the classroom where they belong," Emanuel said.
In reality, gang-related shootings have plagued the city in record numbers all year as police work overtime to curb Chicago street violence.
Evaluation of teachers is a core grievance and union leaders and teachers say evaluations rely too heavily on students' standardized test scores and “does not take into account external factors that affect performance, including poverty, violence and homelessness.” It is unclear what, other than standardized tests, the unions and teachers wish to implement in there place.
"This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could have avoided," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. "We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve."
Meanwhile, parents spent Sunday concerned about what to do with their children now that school is cancelled indefinitely.