Sorry, but CTA buses and trains won't be running tomorrow.
You'll have to fend for yourself because bus drivers and train operators will spend the day in "professional development," learning how to run equipment they are supposed to know how to run already.
If that's not the most preposterous thing you've ever heard, (it's not true) then think about Chicago Public Schools actually doing much the same thing: Closing the classrooms to students because teachers and staff are engaged in "professional development" days.
The issue came to light when new school CEO Jean-Claude Brizard recently said: "We have 193 days of schools open, but only 170 days that kids can attend school. I'm not sure what happens in those 23 days the kids are not there, but we've got to change that."
Not sure of what happens in those 23 days? I'll I bet the lines of teachers, principals, administrators and union sachems have formed outside Brizard's office, eager to enlighten him about why professional development days, staff development days, teacher institute days and such are essential for the "good of the children."
I don't know; maybe it makes for better teaching. But the fact remains, it's taking time away from classroom instruction, in a school district that has one of, if not the, shortest schools year in America.
If there are any benefits, I doubt that they are "measurable." If someone has numbers showing that development days benefit the children, he must prove that the benefits outweigh the damage done to the children by keeping them out of the classroom for more than a month.
Professional development days are so ingrained that they have become an unchallenged part of standard education schema. Off hand, though, I can't think of any other professional enterprise that shuts down its entire operation to train or retrain its practitioners in things they should already know or learn on their own time. In more than 40 years in the newspaper business, we didn't miss a single day of publication because editors and reporters were off somewhere learning how to write. Sure, every professional needs to keep current with advances in research and "best practices." But you don't see hospitals, for example, close their emergency rooms for doctor and nurse training.
Brizard is turning out to be what was promised: not afraid to challenge the givens. Canceling a 4 per cent negotiated teacher raise for a lack of money was gutsy and the right thing. Even more is his suggestion that the step increases for experience and improved credentials be replaced by a pay system that "rewards excellence and really elevates the profession."
(In this, Brizard made a major public relations blunder by accepting an 8 percent salary bump for himself. Sure, maybe that's competitive with similar positions and maybe he deserves it, but it's two-faced while hacking away at underlings' pay for economic reasons. More important, by making his calls for sacrifice harder to sell, it's not helping the children.)
Super-gusty was his suggestion that teachers visit their students at their homes, perhaps up to twice a year. Actually, it's not such a revolutionary idea; as an 8-year-old, nothing struck more as more out-of-place that seeing a nun in our living room. Of course, she didn't have to fight her way there through gangs, guns and drugs to get there, and teachers have a point when they say that putting their lives in danger isn't a part of their job description (even though some may do it just by showing up in the classroom every day.)
Equally to the point, though is Brizard's response: "Our kids go [home] every single day, so why not?...If our kids go there every single day, why shouldn't our adults be there too?" Predictably, the Chicago Teachers Union dismissed the idea as "half baked." Funny we should hear this from the same group that often blames parents for failures of the school system.
With every contract negotiation we hear the same argument from the union: "We have to (get more money) (reduce class size) (shorten the school day) for "for the good of the kids." If the argument is that everything they do is for "the good of the kids," then maybe then home visits aren't such a bad idea.