Esme Borrero is one of the lucky ones. Borrero is able to take care of her two children, a third grader and an eighth grader at Burley Elementary School, while Chicago teachers strike for the first time in 25 years.
“Fortunately for me I am able to be at home with my children and provide care for them here. I know there are parents who are wondering what am I going to do,” explains Borrero.
Nearly 400,000 students are being affected by the Chicago Teachers Union strike and some of the hardest hit are Latino students and their parents.
At Burley Elementary School, Latinos make up 27.4 percent of the enrollment. Borrero, who is also President of the Parent Teacher Association at Burley, says she’s seen many parents struggling to find a way to take care of their kids while they are out of school. Although the strike is one day old, it is already causing financial strain on some Latino families.
“A lot of Latino families are struggling just to make it, the last thing they need is to pay for childcare,” says Borrero.
However, there are some free resources for parents:
- 144 CPS schools will be open as “Children First Sites” between the hours of 8:30am and 12:30 Monday through Friday. They will provide breakfast, lunch and independent activities throughout the day. A full list can be found here
- The Safe Haven church program, originally designed to run through the summer, will continue throughout the strike. Fifty-nine faith-based organizations will open their doors to give CPS students a safe environment while they are out of school.
- 78 Chicago Public libraries are maintaining their operating hours and offering students access to books, magazines, and online learning activities.
- 78 Chicago Park Districts are providing half day and full day programming through the Chicago Cares volunteer program. Students will have to bring their own food to the program. (link to:
While Borrero says that the school and PTA ensured that at least 90- 97 percent of parents at Burley Elementary were aware of other childcare options, the contingency plans just may not be enough. Some Safety First locations were simply overwhelmed by the demand.
“Teachers are also striking there, what I’ve heard is that a lot of parents that have been turned away. Some parents just don’t feel comfortable walking into school with teachers striking outside,” says Borrero. “They have to try to find somewhere else to go.”
According to Borrero, at one point 311 also became flooded with calls with parents trying to figure out their options for childcare.
“A lot of parents were able to take care of today by calling out.” But, Borrero added, “It’s just the first day of the strike.”
But childcare is not the only issue at the forefront for some parents.
Santa Patricia Garcia has two children out of school from the strike. Her daughter is a freshman at Jones College Prep and her son is a senior at George Westinghouse College Prep.
Garcia says her son needs recommendations from teachers for college applications, which are just around the corner. He is going through Chicago Scholars, a program that helps under-resourced Chicago students get into college, but that means he has earlier deadlines than other students.
“We’re at a standstill for recommendations letters from teachers and counselors,” says Garcia. “This stuff is due Wednesday so were kind of nervous about that going through. He got a couple of recommendations Sunday night before the strike.”
Yet despite the inconvenience for college applications, Garcia says she stands by the teachers. She plans to go out to the picket lines Tuesday morning to show her support.
“We’re pro-union and we support what the teachers are doing. We’re getting a group together to take them coffee and water and doughnuts.”
At issue is the failure for union and district officials to reach a contract agreement. Two main issues in the agreement are health benefits and a new teacher evaluation system partly based on students’ standardized test scores.
Parents are bracing themselves for the long run. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the negotiations could be resolved if the two sides kept talking, “given how close we are.” But Borrero says she thinks “there’s a lot more at stake.”
One thing that’s certain is that both teachers and parents have a lot riding on just how long the strike lasts.