More than 25,000 educators and their supporters began picketing at their local schools Thursday morning. They will unite in the afternoon for a mass rally.
But in Chicago, the dynamics are different – and sometimes bad.
About 75% of students are entitled to a free or reduced lunch. In some neighborhoods, gangs and violence are pervading the streets.
Emily Penn, a school social worker, fought tears as she described how urgently students need more helpers.
"Our students suffer from trauma and suffer from so many things that need help with coping," Penn said.
Many child deaths are "suicide and guns, which is a fact in Chicago," she said.
The school district has offered hundreds more support staff and 1
Teachers, however, say that these concessions are not enough.
What Teachers Want
"Our students earn smaller classes, they earn nurses, they make social workers, they have bilingual educators," Special Education Pedagogue Linda Perales said The union listed more than a dozen demands for the school district, including fixed limits on class size, recruitment of more teacher assistants and salary increases for all school employees.
Willie Cousins has been working as an Assistant to the Teacher at Bond Elementary School for the past five years.
"Over these five years, I've worked at less than $ 30,000 a year," he said.
"And to make ends meet I had to take on an extra job at Walmart, eating 4 less, it all depends on my salary, but I have a family of four that I have to take care of."
He said the cost of living in Chicago makes it particularly difficult to live off the salary of an educator.
"We have to live in the city, how can I live on it when the exploding rent is unbelievable?" he said. "Please, we deserve a fair wage in this city."
Then librarians, bilingual teachers and other assistants are missing.
Nine out of ten majority black schools have no teacher librarians, and there are not enough teachers for English learners in the district who, according to the union, are "almost half of Latin Americans".
Lori Torres is the mother of three children at Chicago Public Schools.
"My youngest son … never knew what it means to have a librarian," she said.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey said a lack of support staff hampers students' learning ability significantly.
"Our schools have no (librarians), and we try to teach children to perform well in reading tests," he said.
City and School District Offer
Chicago Public Schools has proposed a range of offers, including 16% increases for teachers or an average of about $ 19,000.
"We have tried to make the best offer that is taxable – that's fair to teachers and fair to taxpayers," said Mayor Lightfoot.
"Without question, the deal we put on the table is the best in the history of the Chicago Teachers Union," she said.
"It provides for a 16% salary increase for all employees, which would immediately push up workers with the lowest pay: On average, assistants will receive a 38% salary increase over the life of the (five-year) contract List current offer . "
The mayor said another $ 400,000 a year would be provided" for a pipeline for nurses, counselors, and case managers. "
The offer also includes:
– A "community representative" at each school with a significant homeless population  – Improved Health Insurance for Physiotherapy and Mental Health Services
What will happen to the children?
The first priority The city is safety "We want to make sure that their ability to eat healthy daily is not interrupted," said Lightfoot.
CPS Superintendent Janice Jackson said the schools will be open during the strike and offer "breakfast, lunch and dinner".
But school buses do not drive, and students do not have to go to school.
Yet, the school district encourages families to send their children to school, where administrators and union staff will work.