The Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates turned down the Chicago Public School District’s latest contract offer Wednesday, and, as promised, an estimated 32,500 educators and school staff have walked out of the classroom in protest of unjust and inequitable school conditions for their students, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS officials canceled classes for Thursday in advance of the strike.

As ESSENCE previously reported, Lightfoot blamed teachers for stalling contract negotiations because they refused to take affordable housing off the table.

In response, the CTU continued to advocate for the city’s nearly 17,000 homeless and unhoused students, saying Lightfoot knew that was always a part of the deal.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) reported serving 17,894 homeless and unhoused students during the 2017-18 school year. Of that number, 11.4 percent (2,041) were “unaccompanied youth,” defined as teens who are homeless and living on their own, without a parent or guardian; 10.7 percent, or 1,918 students, lived in shelters; 23.4 percent of students were diagnosed with disabilities or developmental delays.

An overwhelming 98.3 percent of homeless or unhoused students are students of color, with 81.2 percent being Black students and 15.6 percent being Latinx students.

Speaking to how layered the structural inequities are, Stacy Davis Gates, the Chicago Teachers Union executive vice president, told ESSENCE, “If you want to know if white supremacy is real, try negotiating a school contract where you are actually fighting for equity—class size, nurses, social workers and counselors, and school buildings. We have to have an answer that meets the needs of our students on a daily basis, and our leadership has failed us continuously.”

As the Sun-Times reports, this is Chicago’s first teachers strike in seven years and only the second in more than 30 years, leaving “parents scrambling to find childcare and puts nearly 300,000 public school students out of classrooms for the foreseeable future.”

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson insists that school buildings will remain open for parents and that students will be offered a meal and “productive activity.”

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