The Chicago Teachers Union and its allies launched demonstrations at schools citywide Thursday, joining a national effort organized by education labor unions and left-leaning advocacy groups to repudiate President-elect Donald Trump and his pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education.
The CTU used the demonstrations to try to link the incoming presidential administration with the union's local political opponents, targeting Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools officials who last week ordered district employees to give up four days of pay to help patch a $215 million budget hole.
"Our mayor has failed us," CTU financial secretary Maria Moreno told dozens of students, teachers, officials and parents who crowded outside Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy in Little Village. "He is now public enemy No. 1 against public education."
"We have our own Trump: Bruce Rauner," Moreno said. "He has devastated our state, holding us hostage to strip labor of their rights to decent wages and good working environments."
Emanuel and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool have blamed the need for district budget cuts on the Republican governor, a charter school proponent who has praised Trump's education secretary pick Betsy DeVos, who also backs privately run charters, as "a very talented and very passionate education advocate."
Emanuel, asked Wednesday about why the city imposed furlough days on district employees, pivoted to criticize Rauner's December veto of a measure that would have sent $215 million to the district's coffers.
"I think that was the wrong choice," Emanuel said of the veto. "And now we have to look at making some cuts and reforms and things that save money."
"The way to look at this is if the state had followed through on their commitment, to make sure every teacher, every student, every taxpayer across the state was treated fairly, we wouldn't be in this situation," Emanuel said. "The state was supposed to be a partner."
Rauner has said Democrats went back on a deal that tied the school aid measure to broader changes to the state's highly indebted employee retirement system. The administration is open to reconsidering the bill if lawmakers approve statewide pension reforms, according to his office.
A sweeping Senate budget proposal billed as a framework to end the state's ongoing budget impasse includes a $215 million grant for the school system. The legislation must still overcome many hurdles before it becomes law.
Demonstrations on Thursday at CPS schools came a day before Trump's inauguration and followed a contentious Senate hearing for DeVos.
Trump's comments about border security and immigration policy drew considerable attention from demonstrators outside the Little Village campus, where about 97 percent of students are Latino and live in low-income households.
Eighth-grader Daisy Vazquez trembled slightly as she stood on the school's front steps and prepared to read a speech written on a sheet of ruled notebook paper.
"My father and mother were one of the millions who migrated here," Vazquez told the crowd. "They left everything behind so me and my sisters, we could have a better life here. They have worked hard since Day One. And hearing that someone had campaigned on hatred, they were terrified that everything would be taken away from us."
Fellow eighth-grader Emily Salgado, who also spoke into a bullhorn held by a CTU delegate, said she worried children would live in fear of being checked for their papers, or of claiming their heritage for fear of being labeled as a terrorist.
"Now they will be afraid of the person guiding this country, and because of that, they will never feel safe anywhere," Salgado said. "We need to protect our students with differences that people might not accept."
Students at a Pilsen charter high school also walked out of classes to protest a series of proposed layoffs. Organizers said students from more than a half-dozen other high schools planned to rally along a major thoroughfare later Thursday.
Chicago Tribune's Bill Ruthhart and Monique Garcia contributed.