On the Strike Notice
The CTU filed a strike notice yesterday but it’s important to note a few things: no date has been set for a strike, the CPS and CTU are meeting today, tomorrow and all weekend long to work on contract negotiations, and in my opinion, there’s a bit of a blurring right now of what can be won in this contract versus the long-term battles that need to be fought to improve public education in Chicago and nationally. There’s confusion on the part of some parents about what the goals are of the CTU –as they have been broadly described over the past few months from everything to addressing class size, increasing positions for arts, seeking fair compensation that doesn’t include merit pay, ensuring teacher recall, to staffing a full-time nurse, social worker, psychologist, etc. in every school, obtaining air-conditioning for all, to shutting down Astroturf groups and freezing the expansion of the privatization of our schools..
I have been asking myself a lot this summer, what can be accomplished in a contract and what are the struggles over public education that can’t be solved by a work stoppage. These issues are very complicated and there’s a lot at stake right now for so many parties. A potential strike symbolizes something different for many and I have heard very different views from teachers, community leaders and parents on what it means for them – from finally addressing class size issues, to ending school closings to changing the tide in general for how public school teachers have been treated over the past few years in this country to panic about not having their kids in school and having no means of providing childcare for an unknown amount of time.
As I said in a speech last night at a meeting with the Chicago Teachers Solidarity campaign, there is no consensus on how parents feel about a strike but most parents know that teachers didn’t create the problems we have in public education right now for which they are often being blamed. Can it be both ways? Can parents be supportive of teachers and not happy about a strike? So often in our current political climate, we are made to b split in two camps of “for or against” without much room to have an opinion in the middle. Sadly, the discourse around education policy has become so divisive that sometimes parents are made to feel they can only pick one camp, and that’s not productive. If the Board of Education compromises on many of the initiatives that they have proposed that teachers don’t like – does a strike make sense? Is retribution a good reason to have a work stoppage? How do you measure when you have received the respect you deserve?
After hearing the story of two veteran English teachers from Social Justice High school (and talking on the phone with one), who are highly credentialed and beloved by the community but were recently fired for “economic reasons” and replaced with substitutes, I can understand the ire of teachers who feel a strike is a necessary step to help save their profession from going down the drain, but I also think it’s incumbent upon us as parents, citizens, community to stay aware of these issues and inform the public about what’s happening in our system, and so we all have a role in fixing some of the long-term issues that might not be able to be resolved right now, or by Tuesday.
Our teachers need us, our parents need us, our communities need us, and our students across the city really need us, and we all have to do a better job of ensuring that this system improves. I’m uncertain how that’s going to get figured out by Tuesday but I do know we’re going to do our part to get through no matter what.