For the first time in 25 years, Chicago school teachers are on strike! (Represent Chi City!) Teachers are striking after months of ineffective negotiating with the city regarding two main issues. The first is over a new teacher evaluation system. Many teachers believe that the evaluations over-emphasize standardized test scores and do not take into account outside factors such as student homelessness and poverty. The other major issue is the fate of laid-off teachers– specifically, whether or not they will have special priorities for job openings. According to the Chicago Teacher’s Union, as reported by the New York Times, other points of conflict include “compensation, teacher training, health benefits and a schedule for air conditioning in all schools.”
As with any action involving teachers unions and public education, the strike has sparked a great deal of national political attention. The New York Times reports:
The strike, only a few hours old, had already found its way into the presidential campaign, with the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, releasing a statement saying that “teachers’ unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet.” He blamed President Obama for supporting teachers’ unions.
This is insane. Teachers work day in and day out to educate our children and improve our neighborhoods. In an open leader to Chicago Public School CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, Public School Teacher Xian B asserts another opinion: that the policies of the school district directly conflict with the interests of students. He says:
When you make me cram 30-50 kids in my classroom with no air conditioning so that temperatures hit 96 degrees, that hurts our kids. When you lock down our schools with metal detectors and arrest brothers for play fighting in the halls, that hurts our kids. When you take 18-25 days out of the school year for high stakes testing that is not even scientifically applicable for many of our students, that hurts our kids. When you spend millions on your pet programs, but there’s no money for school level repairs, so the roof leaks on my students at their desks when it rains, that hurts our kids.
Xian B. reminds us that Chicago has a storied history in the Labor Movement and has long been a city with a vibrant and powerful working class.
What is up with this ongoing teacher-bashing and union-hating from the political right? Let’s not relive Wisconsin, 2011. As organizers, we believe that schools will be better and children will benefit from organized and unionized teachers. We hope that today students all over Chicago are admiring their teachers – not because they are enjoying an extra day of summer- but because their teachers are exercising civic engagement. We stand with the Chicago Teacher’s Union as they assert their rights to improve working conditions!
If you are interested in showing solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union, Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) and the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee are sponsoring a march today at Union Square. The Facebook event page reads:
On September 10th, the Chicago Teachers Union will strike against mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the corporate education reform agenda. This is a major national strike that could turn begin to turn the tide against the corporate education reform agenda. Come show solidarity in Union Square and then march on Democrats for Education Reform, a corporate “reform” organization that has lobbied aggressively against the CTU.