On September 10, thousands of public school teachers in Chicago went on strike, opposing education reforms proposed by the city's mayor, which have been endorsed by the Obama government. Nearly 29,000 teachers were reported to be on strike. The strike was called by the teachers' union after months of negotiations between the union and school district failed to resolve major disagreements over public education reforms.
The mayor has proposed that teachers be evaluated partly on student performance on standardized tests, and more authority for school principals. However, the teachers are opposed to this. The president of the teachers' union, Karen Lewis, has criticized these proposals, explaining that standardized tests do not take into account the actual conditions of poverty, hunger and violence that most of their students grow up in. More than 80% of Chicago students come from low-income households and according to the striking teachers, Chicago students have performed poorly compared with national averages on most reading, math and science tests. More than a quarter of Chicago public school teachers fear they could lose their jobs if students are evaluated based on the standardized tests. The demands of the teachers have been supported by a majority of the parents.
An estimated 10,000 striking teachers in red T-shirts, carrying huge placards bearing slogans opposing the reforms, rallied in downtown Chicago on September 10. About 20 teachers picketed in front of Overton Elementary School on Chicago's South Side, wearing red T-shirts, carrying strike signs and singing popular rock band protest songs. Passing cars honked in support. Chicago's South Side, often mentioned by first lady Michele Obama in reference to her humble roots, is one of the city's poorest districts and has a large African-American population.
Chicago has the third largest public school system in the US, and the strike is estimated to affect nearly 350,000 students between kindergarten and high school age as well as their families.