Thousands Rally Downtown Thursday for Chicago Teachers Union

Teachers have been working without a contract since June

At least 16 people were arrested as Chicago teachers held a rally downtown Thursday against proposed Chicago Public Schools layoffs and millions of dollars in budget cuts.

The rally began at the Bank of America headquarters in the city’s West Loop at 4:30 p.m. and is travelling to City Hall to take a united stand against the school district.

“We know our work is not finished, and we are committed to building a mutually respectful relationship with the CTU and working at the bargaining table around the clock so Chicago children can remain in the classroom," CPS said in a statement. "In the meantime, because of our dire financial circumstances, we must proceed forward with painful cuts in the absence of an agreement.”

During an Illinois Department of Transportation meeting, Governor Bruce Rauner blasted CPS for borrowing nearly $800 million at a very high interest rate through a bond sale, a move designed to help the district deal with its financial troubles.

"Right now the mayor is kicking the can and delaying he is forestalling the inevitable either massive tax hikes or probably a reorganization under court protection," Rauner said.

Wednesday night, one teacher from each Chicago public school met with union leadership during the House of Delegates meeting.

The gathering took place hours after the CTU closed a near $1 million account with the Bank of America in response to what they’re calling Chicago Public Schools’ “act of war” in the form of millions of dollars of proposed school budget cuts.

"We will be transferring the funds to a bank that is not profiting off of toxic interest rates swaps," CTU's recording secretary Michael Brunson said. "How can anyone believe that students or teachers should give up one cent when they won't even make a good faith effort to win back effort from these banks."

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool has announced a $100 million cut from school budgets to help decrease CPS’ deficit.

“This is something I’d hoped to avoid at all costs,” Claypool said during a Tuesday news conference.

Governor Bruce Rauner favors CPS declaring bankruptcy and starting over.

"I don't see how CPS gets through their current financial condition without completely unaffordable tax hikes that would devastate the city or through a bankruptcy," Rauner said.

Solving the CPS crisis is a statewide concern. CTU President Karen Lewis has met privately with both House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

Signs Wednesday night pointed to chaos within the CTU, as Lewis faces a revolt.

Some union members are unhappy and feel Lewis has become an ally with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to get a new contract that they believe is unfair. Lewis had admitted she was surprised the larger bargaining unit did not agree to the most recent contract offer.

Lewis told NBC Chicago that tension within CTU happens at contract time.

On Monday, the union's 40-member team said the proposal "does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the longer-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city." Members said they have "legitimate distrust" of the district and decided not to send the proposal to the full union for a vote.

Teachers have been working without a contract since June. For months the union has been threatening a walkout. Rejecting the offer means negotiations will move into the "fact-finding" phase, which must go on for about four months before a strike can take place.

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