A Chicago Teachers Union action. (Photo credit: Flickr user JeanPaulHolmes)

Chicago's 29,000 public school teachers and support staff aren't just on strike to defend their own wages and benefits. They're also fighting for better schools for the communities they live in. Click here to learn about why Chicago's teachers are on strike.

Here's five facts -- from a well-researched early 2012 CTU report -- that you need to know about the abominable state of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system -- facts that Mayor Rahm Emanuel would rather you didn't know:

  1. Class Sizes Are Among The Largest In The State: Chicago's kindergarten class sizes in particular are larger than 95 percent of classes across the state. Sometimes kids are sitting in classrooms with 40 students for months as the city drags its feet on lowering class sizes. Right outside of Chicago, in the Matteson School District, the average class size is between 16 and 23 for most of a child's education.
  2. Students Lack Access To Arts And Music Education: Instruction in the arts and music is essential to educating gifted and responsible children. But only 25 percent of Chicago public elementary schools have both art and music instructors.
  3. There Is A Severe Lack Of Social Workers And Counselors: Over 15,000 homeless children attend Chicago public schools. Yet there are only 370 social workers for the entire district. You do the math. Each social worker, if dedicated totally to homeless children, would have a caseload of 42 kids. Meanwhile, each school has only one counselor, meaning that schools with up to 1,200 kids have only one adult offering intensive counseling services.
  4. 160 Schools Don't Even Have Libraries: Libraries give kids, especially impoverished kids, access to information that they'd never otherwise be able to attain. But CPS is leaving thousands of kids without access to a safe school library.
  5. Chicago Doesn't Even Provide Free Public Transportation For Students: Imagine if your child had to pay extra just to get to school. CPS is one of the few major school systems in the country that does not provide fully subsidized transportation to and from school. One high school was so desperate that it created its own system using discretionary funds to help needy children get to school. This isn't how a 21st century school system should work.

All of this has been taking place, as labor journalist James Cersonsky notes, under a climate where CPS has been pushing for more and more funding for charter schools, many of which are operated by for-profit corporations.

In the coming days, you'll be bombarded with propaganda -- largely emanating from the corporate-funded school privatization and anti-union movement -- that says that CTU is striking out of pure selfish self-interest. But these teachers in the streets aren't just there for themselves and their families. They want their kids to be in schools with arts and education, to have access to libraries and guidance counselors, and to be able to get to school without straining their family budgets. That's a fight we here at PCCC want to help them win. Join the fight with the PCCC by signing up to stay in the loop with our bold progressive activism at the top of this page.