Raising Hell: Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools battling it out on the backs of school children
Raising Them Well: Putting children first in public education
In this corner, Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union; In that corner, Mayor Emmanuel and the Chicago Public Schools. And in the crowd, the students and parents looking on as they watched both opponents duke it out in the ring. In the beginning of the Chicago Teachers Strike, some parents took sides. From my view, the parents whose children had experienced caring effective teachers seemed to side with the teachers. They felt the Chicago Teachers Union were long overdue for fairer changes in their contract. Many parents used this civil act as a teachable moment; speaking publically on the teachers’ behalf, visiting the striking teachers on the picket lines; Picketing side by side with their children beside them. The strike inspired teachers in the suburb of Lake Forest to strike. The supporters got a lot of play in the news. Striking teachers drew thousands of supporters from across the country to rally downtown on their behalf. The huge crowds stopped traffic. It recieved media play around the world. It was solidarity at its finest.
Then there were the parents who resented the strike. They knew teachers needed an upgrade, but not on the backs of their children. The Chicago strike was a huge burden on the average working parent. Many felt it wasn't necessary. Some have jobs that aren’t as lenient and flexible. Some parents work minimum wage or are paid hourly. If they had to take time off to find a safe haven for their children, they wouldn’t get paid. One lawyer mom I know felt she couldn’t afford the high fees the afternoon programs in her neighborhood charged. She felt fortunate her parents were home to look after her first grader. Other parents felt they may lose their jobs over the strike. They didn’t anticipate the strike lasting past Sunday. The opponents were so close to a signed contract. But the CTU delegates needed more time to review it. Come Monday the strike was still on. Hell hath no fury like a teacher scorn.
At this point one could argue that it became more about the teachers and less about the kids. Do you think so?
A very involved dad shared with me that he felt teachers didn’t care that his children were collateral damage. His kids go to, as he puts it, “A neighborhood school with a few burnt-out, apathetic teachers biding their time until retirement.” Those teachers, he said, deserve a pink slip – not a new contract.
Many parents concur, and feel teachers should be made more accountable for their students’ academic growth, and principals should have the right to hire and fire teachers in their school, just as teachers deserve better pay, health care and job security. Parents don’t want ineffective teachers recycled into their schools any more than teachers want to teach uncooperative students. But the CTU wanted to prove to the Mayor that they had kahunas too. But did the CTU’s kahunas shrink a little when the strike rolled into the next week?
The bell rings. The two opponents, sweaty and bruised, flank the referee in the ring. The fight is now over. The crowd is hushed. Lights blare, cameras flash. The referee pulls the microphone close and belts, “And the winner...” Who raised the most hell, and will it all be well?
You tell me.
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