Irritable Teachers (3-22-1933)

Chicago’s public school teachers had not been regularly paid in two years.  Today they decided to do something about it.

The Chicago school system had been a financial mess since the late 1920s.  The Depression hit, and the Board of Education ran out of money.  In 1931 the Board started paying teachers in scrip—which was basically an IOU.

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When the teachers tried to pay their own bills, many businesses refused to accept the scrip.  Other places were glad to take the Board’s paper, but only at a discount.  The teachers’ union got a court injunction to halt the scrip.  The Board responded with the occasional payless payday.

So today over 200 teachers descended on the regular Board meeting at the Builders Building on La Salle Street.  The teachers carried signs with slogans like “Irritable Teachers Are Not Fair To Children.”  A bill was pending in Springfield that would allow teachers to strike if their pay was more than six months in arrears.  The Board was discussing that bill.

One Board member spoke out against it.  He painted a doomsday picture.  If the bill became law, the schools would have to shut down.  Then the public would question the whole value of a formal education.  There would be demands to end schooling at the 8th grade.

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The teachers in the audience thought this was pure bullsh—er, balderdash.  They hooted and booed.  The presiding officer was not pleased.  “If you have no more control over your pupils than you have over yourselves, I question whether you are worthy of your calling,” he snapped.

The teachers next marched to City Hall, where the City Council was in session.  They filled the gallery and started chanting “We want our pay!”  Acting Mayor Corr gaveled for order.  He decided to let three teachers address the Council.

One by one, the teachers stated their case.  The Council listened.  The aldermen agreed to move forward with a plan to raise cash by selling tax anticipation warrants.  That ended the day’s protest.

But that was not the end of the trouble.  There were more missed paydays and more demonstrations.  The Board of Education’s financial problems were finally resolved in 1934 by a $22 million loan from the federal government.

—30—

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