Fresh Hopes for End to Chicago Strike by Weekend

Now it its fourth day, the teacher strike in Chicago has turned life upside down for hundreds of thousands of families.

On Wednesday, students could be found in contingency programs at schools, in churches and in costly day care centers. Some slept late, stayed home alone, then wandered their neighborhoods as if there were one more chapter of summer.

Others found themselves headed to their parents’ jobs at laundromats, restaurants, libraries and offices. A Chicago alderman, Roberto Maldonado, arrived at City Hall on Wednesday with his 11-year-old son, Rene, in tow. Elsewhere, relatives — grandparents, especially, it seemed — were suddenly being pressed into baby-sitting duty.

So far, many Chicago families have expressed a degree of patience with their new, topsy-turvy circumstances. Some parents — their children beside them — have even joined the teachers’ picket lines.

But, for some families, particularly those without extra money for day care and without job flexibility, the strike was creating serious financial strains. In Chicago public schools, 87 percent of students come from low-income families. More than 80 percent of public school students are African-American or Latino.

“I’m just worried about paying the bills now,” said Sandra Gonzalez, 28 and a single mother, who said she had recently begun cleaning apartments after people moved out, but feared she could not work as much as she needed to now with her three children out of school. “I can understand how the teachers are feeling frustrated,” she said. “But I’m also counting my hours these days, and I’m definitely on the edge to cover my bills.”

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(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)