Everything I know about grassroots organizing I learned from the Chicago Public School system! As the mother of two CPS students, I’ve got more than 12 years of hard won experience, from fighting for bilingual education at my kids’ elementary school to the struggle for a permanent home for my daughter’s award winning arts high school. Sometimes it feels like being an engaged CPS parent requires being an organizer, fundraiser and lobbyist all in one!Even by those standards, this year is shaping up to be a doozy. With just days left before the first day of school, a strike by the Chicago Teachers’ Union seems inevitable. While the Mayor’s office is trying to present the contract negotiations as a fight between greedy teachers and a city in financial crisis, the situation is a lot more complicated.When Mayor Emanuel unilaterally decided to extend the school day during a budget crisis, he apparently didn’t think that when you ask people to work more hours, you should probably pay them for the extra time they are working. Instead, he offered a paltry 2% raise, which barely covers an increasing cost of living. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that a longer school day will be a better school day. While pushing for more hours in school, neither the Mayor’s office nor the board of education will discuss what will be taught during that extra time. Teachers are asking for the resources to reinstate art, music, and even recess, which have been cut from many Chicago public schools. The teachers’ union is also fighting for other basic improvements to our children’s education, including smaller class sizes and improved facilities–a pressing need given the number of neighborhood schools without libraries or adequate heat and air conditioning.I know from my children’s experience that when teachers are appreciated and supported, they can make an incredible difference in the lives of their students. And I believe that every child deserves a well equipped, well funded public school in their neighborhood. That’s why I’ve been hitting the streets over the last few months, in support of our public school teachers and our schools. I’ve been joined in my organizing by a number of Crossroads Fund grantees, both past and present, including Blocks Together and Community Organizing and Family Issues, as well as other organizations like Parents 4 Teachers and Teachers for Social Justice.Even when this contract is settled, our work won’t be over. Over the summer many community organizations joined together to form C.O.D.E. (Communities Organized for Democracy in Education) to get a referendum on the ballot, in almost 200 precincts, calling for an elected school board. As long as the Board of Education is a rubber stamp stacked with wealthy friends of the Mayor, we’re never going to be able to win the long term, sustained changes we need to insure quality education for all students in Chicago.