Walking the Line

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers strike is nationwide news.

My best friend since middle school is one of those thousands of red T-shirted teachers on the picket line. She does not want to be there. She wants to be in her fourth grade classroom. She met her students and then the following week was called to strike.

Last week Sunday night at 9pm my time (8pm her time) we sat texting back and forth as she received updates about the negotiations and warnings from her delegate to make sure finances were secure and to possibly get a postponement with the bank on any mortgage payments or loan payments since a strike means no pay check.

My best friend is not one to freak out. Ever. But she was freaking out.

But last week, she proudly picketed. Why? Because the union and the administration in the Chicago Public Schools couldn’t come to an agreement.

Friends, this strike is not about teacher pay.

Let me say that again.

THIS STRIKE IS NOT ABOUT TEACHER PAY.

The laws (SB7) that dictate negotiations between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) state that the ONLY THING that can be negotiated is teacher compensation. Other things like class sizes, standardized testing, etc. can be brought up by CPS or not. So the ONLY WAY for CTU to get CPS to talk about those things if CPS doesn’t bring them up, is to get to them via compensation.

Screwed up? Yes.

Sends the wrong message? Most definitely.

But it is the only way to get to the stuff that matters most for student learning and well-being — by throwing their own appearance under the {school} bus.

To get to the stuff that matters for students, teachers have to complain about their wage.

Teachers basically want to have a say in education. Shocking, I know.

The Mayor’s policy makers (whom he chose), want the teachers to shut up, so they can save money.

The demands of the teachers are many…smaller class sizes (There are currently kindergarten classes with 37 kids and one teacher. ONE. That is unacceptable.), revamping of teacher evaluations (I could write and entire post about why merit pay and evaluating teachers on standardized testing is completely unfair), better social work support in schools for the at-risk population, and the list goes on.

So if the teachers are “all about the students”, why leave the classrooms to get what they want?

There is not a complete contract in place.

CPS broke the last contract with CTU when they threw their hands up and said there were no funds for the raises that had been agreed upon and that CTU needed to work longer hours for ZERO compensation. Later, at an FOIA request, CTU found out that the $70 million that was supposed to be put toward teacher pay was handed over to pay the police department funds owed to them RIGHT BEFORE THE CONTRACT WAS BROKEN.

Other funds that the Mayor had access to were not used to pay the teachers either. CPS hired an arbitrator, the arbitrator found in favor of the teachers, and CPS again broke its pledge.

Why on EARTH would the teachers go back to work on NO contract when their last contract was broken?

Of course they are going to hold out for something completely rock solid so CPS can’t go back on their word and hurt students and teachers all over again.

At the time this is written, (Monday) a Judge Peter Flynn has declined to hold a hearing on the city’s injunction to get the students back to school “immediately” since tomorrow (Tuesday) the CTU delegates are set to meet to decide whether to suspend the strike or go back to negotiations. The judge didn’t see a point in hearing the injunction when the strike could resolve itself by Tuesday and students could be back on Wednesday.

Why are the City of Chicago and CPS fighting so hard against their teachers and, in turn, their students? These children are Chicago’s future. Why are they trying to shortchange them?

For the latest on the Chicago Teacher’s Union news on the strike, check out Catalyst Chicago

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Photo Credit: The Chicago Tribune