Chicago Teachers' Strike Continues & Parents Are Unhappy

Teachers in the nation’s third largest school system will continue to strike this week, after Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) delegates refused to call an end to the walkout. If you’ve been following the negotiations, like most of us here in Chicago have been, this development is likely to come as a surprise. All weekend there’d been talk that a tentative deal had been reached, one that led Huffington Post’s Joy Resmovits and Emmeline Zhao to state, “Emanuel is giving away the farm.”

From the reaction I’m seeing on Facebook, parents – most of whom were quietly supportive of their teachers this past week – are unhappy their children will not be in class tomorrow. “I'd put my union/labor support/background up vs. most anyones,” says CPS parent Eric H. “However, I do not support the CTU's decision today. They no longer have my support.”

Many parents are likely to echo Holst’s sentiments, especially after hearing more about the reasons teachers are continuing the strike. "Our members are not happy," CTU leader Karen Lewis was quoted as saying. "They want to know if there is anything more they can get.” She added, "They feel rushed."

There are still parents, however, who continue to support the teachers despite the challenges and inconveniences posed by the strike. A comment was recently posted below (after I originally published this piece) that conveys how many other Chicago moms and dads are feeling.

"Although the teachers are continuing to strike, I stand in support of my teachers! There is never going to be a perfect resolution, but I trust that the people who are on the front lines in our overcrowded classrooms with ever stretched resources are making the right decisions for not only their students but also for their careers. It is not a great situation for anyone, but sometimes you need to stand up for change. I may not agree with everything either side is arguing, but I support the people who educate my child. Sometimes standing up for your beliefs is not pretty or convenient for anyone, but fortunately we live in a democracy where we have the freedom to exercise our rights."

What seems to be at heart of the conflict, at least according to CPS, are teacher evaluations and layoff/recall policies. CPS’s Chief Communications Officer, Becky Carroll, says the teacher evaluation system has not been updated in decades and does not currently do enough to hold teachers accountable. Chicago teachers seem to know that a new system is needed but believe that tying their performance too much to students’ standardized test scores is unfair. (At least that’s how I understand it.  If I’m wrong, please feel free to disagree below.)

The news coming out now is that Emanuel will file suit against the CTU to force an end to the strike. Ladies and Gentlemen, the you-know-what is about to hit the fan around here. And it’s too bad. Because the feeling at the end of last week was that Chicago had shed light on the problems in our nation's education system in a way that didn’t demonize administrators, teachers, politicians, or parents. CTU teachers, who may have turned down a proposed contract that included substantial compromises from CPS, are in for a really tough week. Or year. Or longer.

Good night, all, and get some sleep. It’s going to be another long week in Chicago.

~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop

Here are a few articles I’ve found about the strike and teacher evaluations, which is one of the main points of contention.

Why Chicago Teachers Hate Rahm: "In short, after Daley took away teachers' tenure, Emanuel increased their hours, cut their pay, portrayed them as money-grubbers, closed unionized schools, and opened more nonunion charters, thus depleting the union's power through attrition. And I haven't even gotten into the merit pay issue, which he's also tried to shove down their throats."

What research really says on teacher evaluation: info and background on teacher evaluations and whether they are fair, objective and accurately measure performance.

A Watershed for Democrats and Unions: this is by Joel Klein, the former chancellor of NYC public schools and now the executive vice president of News Corp., which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.  In this article he discusses the strike reflects how school reform is no longer a partisan issue.

I’ll post more articles that are highlight the issues from both CPS’s and CTU’s perspectives as often as I can.  I always like to hear both sides of the story.

This article was updated at 9:45 PM, with the addition of a comment below by Chicago mom Shayna Hardy.

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