This week Chicago classrooms are overflowing with excited kids, apprehensive parents and committed teachers. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in Charlotte at The Democratic National Convention with fifty Chicago police officers.
The teachers are dedicating long hours to set up their classrooms in an organized rhythm for the year ahead. They haven't spoken out on how this impending strike affects their classrooms, school year and personal life. I reached out to many teachers in the Chicago Public School system and they surprisingly were very quiet. A teacher and parent confessed she has a lot to say on the subject of the impending strike but was told by her boss she absolutely cannot talk to any media outlets.
CEO Brizard effectively communicated a contingency plan to provide half day supervised time for the children. This effort will cost millions of dollars that should be used to negotiate with the teachers union. I have received mailings equaling thousands in postage and calls and emails costing hours of staff time. Sadly, none of these communications have told us much more than a plan is in place and the children come first.
A 15-year employee and parent who wishes to remain anonymous said, "No! I am not hoping to strike on Monday! I think it is necessary, I voted to do so, but I don't want my kids to be out of school when school just started. Do I want to make up the days and be in school in July next summer...absolutely not. But, I did vote in favor of a strike if it is deemed necessary, and it does seem that we've been backed into a corner and have no choice but to strike in order to get a fair contract."
She added that they should receive more than a 2% raise, "We will all be working 2 additional weeks this year, and for now 15 extra minutes per day, so in the 40 weeks of school, that is another additional 40 hours of work...and let's not forget all that teachers do at home. In what other sector do people work more for less money?"
Other issues this passionate teacher brought up were teacher evaluations and class size.
I briefly heard from another employee, both he and his wife graduated from CPS, have been teachers for over a decade and both of their children are in the system. He said, "The longer day is a joke - not better. At my school kids and teachers both now start at 8:00 so kids can't play outside in the morning. If kids get there early they must come in and sit. Teachers get a 45-minute free lunch period that they don't want, and the school had to spend $80K to hire a company to watch the kids during lunch and recess. All of this equals 14 minutes of additional instructional time."
Not only our are teachers teaching, but they are being silenced from having a voice in this strike. On Monday they might have a voice because the Union is planning a strike on Monday morning at 6:30 a.m.
I'm beginning to think I need to figure out how to explain to my children why they can't go to school on Monday.