A Response to a CTU Teacher

This is a response to a fellow Chicago Now blogger Ray Salazar's recent post on his blog "The White Rhino: A Chicago Latino English Teacher."

The post can be read in it's entirety here http://www.chicagonow.com/white-rhino/2012/08/with-the-chicago-teachers-union-i-will-defend-my-profession/

I want start by thanking Mr. Salazar for his nearly 17 years in CPS classrooms. On behalf of all young Republicans, we thank you and all hard working teachers for taking up the call to teach the youth of our city.

I agree that teachers are taken for granted in our society. Teaching is a unique profession that requires the full hearts and souls of its practitioners. In Chicago, teachers are often dealt a particularly difficult hand because of inefficient bureaucracies that exist in both the Chicago Public Schools system and the Chicago Teachers Union system. These organizations offer little flexibility to good teachers and little support to those that struggle. In the end, both students and teachers are at a disadvantage due to the lack of innovation that comes out of the system as it is currently structured.

I also agree that the Mayor and CPS CEO Brizard have not done a great job negotiating a new contract.

However, Mr. Salazar's post said nothing about students. Not a word.

These negotiations are not about students. They never are. It's about money. It always is.

If it were about the students, CTU would start every press conference saying the average percentage of CPS students who meet or exceed state standards is 66%. The percentage of CPS 11th graders who meet college readiness benchmarks is 21% in Reading, 19% in Math, 11% in Science and 38% in English. If it were not all about the money, these would be the only numbers that would matter.

The CTU never explains why decades of increased compensation have failed to increase the educational outcomes for CPS students. They fail to offer a proposal that fundamentally changes the education system in Chicago for the betterment of both students and teachers. They fail to propose a transparent method of teacher evaluations to see if students are getting access to good educators.

Mr. Salazar states he is defending his profession in joining the CTU's call to strike. However, isn't every teacher's moral crusade to defend the right of students to learn from good teachers? And if so, how does a strike advance that cause?

It seems the CTU has completely given up on improving the educational outcomes of CPS students. They have proposed very few new ideas in this contract process aimed at aiding student outcomes. Their inevitable line is "if the kids can't learn it's not our fault. Blame the kids and blame the parents. Don't look at us."

I am pleading with Mr. Salazar and the teachers union not to strike. Please do not hold Chicago's youth hostage. Please do not demand a ransom.

If you want to protest outside CPS headquarters or pick a few members to picket outside schools, that's all fine. If you want to start a Super PAC and run TV ads, fine. But for the love of God, please do not punish students by turning your back on them. That is not defending your profession, its bullying those who have no one to represent them. It harms the most vulnerable in society. It is wrong.

I know this appeal will fall on deaf ears to the CTU leadership. However, Mr. Salazar seems dedicated to his profession and his students. My appeal is to him. From one citizen to one teacher. We all need to work together to bring our school system up to a high standard where every student graduates high school with an acceptance letter to college in hand. Walking out of a classroom that should be filled with young minds in a dispute about money is not the way to do that and it sends the wrong message to students.

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  • A Response to The Windy City YR of Belmont Terrace;

    It's obvious that you don't have children in the CPS system. The teachers know the numbers; the City of Chicago touts them to the media regularly to support their position. When the City and CPS need positive news they give all the Selective Enrollment school statistics and when they need negative news they lump all non-selective enrollment schools in their statistics.

    I agree with you that this should be about the children, so let's reduce the class sizes. Try teaching 30 plus kids who are all at different education levels. Try teaching kids who come to school after being up late assisting their parents in collecting scrap to help ends meet. Kid's who live in a house full of siblings who have to carve out a small area to do homework. Kid's who have emotional problems with no one they can talk to. These things are brushed under the rug and not spoken of. YR of Belmont Terrace, I ask that you spend a day with a teacher in a neighborhood school in Englewood, Austin, or Belmont Cragin. Then you can tell the readers whether the salary they get paid is enough for the job they do.

    I am not a teacher and not a supporter of Union's, but I'm tired of hearing the City's side and folks who are uninformed jumping on the band wagon.

    The solution is to reduce class sizes at the existing Schools, then teachers could work one-on-one with students. Why put aside $25 million dollars just in case there is a strike? Use this money to avoid the strike.

  • Independent Voter,

    Your solution not only suggests that CPS add teachers to help solve the problem but also that the existing teachers are underpaid. You accuse people of being uninformed, but guessing from your solution, I would say that you are very uninformed regarding the state of the economy, the fiscal crisis with the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois and specifically the CPS.

    I am not going to get into how well paid teachers are, or how much they work, or how much time they have off, or benefits of having a fixed retirement package. Most have survived the last 5 years without having to worry about being laid off and the effects that can have on a household. Most have not had their retirement plans blown up.

    The costs of education in this country continue to rise expotentially compared to the increase in household wages. And what is the public getting out of it? What are the results?

    Where was the teachers' representation when State and City budget shortfalls were plugged by not funding teacher's pensions at that time of budgeting? To go back and ask the public again for more money to help fund these shortfalls seems to shortsided.

  • You realize that - as per labor laws - the Chicago Teacher's Union can only bargain on their salaries? And that's why contract negotiations are solely about salaries whereas public demands are about funding for education?

  • I am so frustrated when you say its always about money. Most members I know will forgoe raises if CPS would provide approapriate learning conditions for students. Do you think it is effective to have 40 students in a class? Do you think there should be a longer day with less staff supervision? Do you think our children should not have gym, music, art or languages? Do you want your tax dollars to go to Charter schools that do not perform any better than other schools? These are all things that CPS and the state legislature will not allow us to bargain about. The only thing left is money. The problem is that Chicago public schools and the city have squandered our (citizens of Chicago) money. Talk about coming down to money. That is all the are looking at. That is fine that there is no money but again and again the children lose. They go to continually unsafe schools, have insufficient classes, insufficient books and other resources. Who will push to get these things and how? We are pushing how we can. We are only allowed to push so much. Once again, I will admit that the CTU is not perfect and has many flawed pursuits too but no one can steamroll over anyone. Thisis the same mess it has always been. It will never be fixed. Chicago children will never have schools funded properly. Nevermind. I want to give up.

  • Thank you for continuing the conversation. I just realized this was published a few minutes ago. Glad I saw it.

    I do not mention students. I'll be honest again--I dont' like it when the CTU brings in arguments about how they are advocating for students. This is going to sound harsh, but it's not a union's job to advocate for students. It's a union's job to advocate for its members.

    However, by advocating fairly for those members, the union can help students.

    We have undependable A/C at my school. It sucks to teach in a hot building on a day like today. If the union helps us improve working conditions for us, students benefit.

    On my blog, I gave the example in a response of how I went all last year with only one outlet working in my room. We had 30 brand new computers in boxes that students could not access because we could not plug them in. It took three of my school's administrators to hoot and holler to get someone at central office to get this fixed. My room is now getting wired but I have to have class in a public space all week. If the union helps us with this structural problem, students benefit.

    I'm going to say something shocking--I believe in merit pay as AN OPTION in our evaluation system. It's not for everyone and there have been some work situations where I would not agree to it because of so many factors outside of my control (I started teaching 7th grade in the middle of the year a couple of years ago and the test students took did not explicity measure writing skills). But the CTU works on a one size fits all approach. I don't agree with it, but, right now, that's the option we have. I'll suport it. Merit pay is not going to be an option. I get it.

    We're not turning our backs on our students. If we don't speak up, students will continue to work in hot rooms without electricity. I know the CTU needs focus. I write about that in a previous commentary. But the demands on us are tough. If we don't defend ourselves, the mayor is going to run us like a factory. That does not benefit students.

  • Thanks for continuing the conversation. I just realized this was published. Glad I saw it.

    (I tried commenting a little while ago. I hit comment but the comment disappeared. If you see two, go with the first one please.)

    You're right. I don't mention students. Honestly, I don't like it when the union uses "advocating for students" in its arguments. A union's job is to advocate for its members, not students.

    However, by advocating for its members, students will benefit.

    I gave the example on my blog in one response about how I had to go all last year with only one outlet working in my room. We had 30 brand new computers that students could not use because we could not plug them in. Three administrators had to yell constantly before central office fixed it--this week--the week that school starts. I have to have class in a public space because they didn't fix it this summer.

    We have undependable A/C at my school. If the union helps us fix that, students benefit. It sucks to teach and learn in a hot room.

    I also believe in merit pay AS AN OPTION. It's not for everyone because some of us work in situations outside of our control. For example, I started teaching 7th grade in the middle of the year one time. The test those students took did not explicitly measure writing skills. Another teacher taught reading; I taught writing. Merit pay was not a good fit for me there.

    I know the union right now, and arguably always, works in a one size fits all approach. I can't change that.

    I do believe in our fight to get the mayor to recognize that if we are given the recognition, the respect, and liberty, many--many--of us can make professional decisions to help students. Some of us might not be able to. And there needs to be a more efficient process to get them out of our profession. If the union helps up advocate for that, good teachers benefit, and more students will succeed. That's how we can help students.

  • Since CPS has about a $650 million plus deficit and no reserve fund, maybe someone can explain to me where CPS gets the extra money for a pay raise in any amount. Is the plan to first commit to spend the extra money and find that taxes have to be raised again? Does CPS have a secret stash of dollars that no one knows about? Is the paln to borrow more money and take advanage of the City and State's stellar credit rating? unless someone can explain it to me , all the arguments about how we need to spend more on education are worthless, including the argument that teachers deserve it

  • In reply to ejhickey:

    I'll attempt to explain it to you. Yes, the money is there. Every year the state and federal government send money to CPS, however some of those monies are siphoned off by City of Chicago and is squirreled away in the Tax Incremental Fund (TIF). There is currently billions in TIF and the mayor then uses it for pet projects. Daley used hundreds of millions, earmarked for the schools and other social services, to create Milenium Park. Emanuel, while running for office,complained about the city's "hidden money" however he has only released 800 million, of the countless billions, to actually help the people that the money was meant for in the first place. So if you want to know why Johnny doesn't have books in the classroom look no further than the "bean". Maybe those forever griping teachers should stop complaining about the lack of A/C and take their 30+ students on a field trip to Maggie Patk, because our children are the ones who are ultimately paying for it.

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    I would like to add that Rahm and JCB promised the schools $50,000 to spend on the children if they liked your longer school day schedule. They even used my school's plan as an example to other schools. Then, pretty much said, "psych...just kidding" and went back on his promise. Thats $50,000 from YOUR children. These are the kind of things we are fighting.

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    We spend a trillion dollars on defense so we can be lied into war. We invade and destroy other nations on false pretense and then pay to rebuild them. We spend as much on Homeland security and out new intelligence-police state complex than France does on its entire military budget. We give billions of dollars to Israel so it can conduct ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity and Rahm never says a peep. We gave bankers $14 trillion dollars after they deployed economic weapons of mass destruction in the form of CDOs and CDSs.

    Rahm is a corporatist who wants to destroy teaching so nobody can or will stay in the profession. This is being done so corporations can hire hugely under-qualified and underpaid new teachers who will leave the profession and never collect a pension. And, Rahm wants this because he and his corporate friends want to profit from education like they profit from war.

    Once corporations take over schools there will never be a mention of test scores again. The schools will have as much accountability for humane treatment as our prison system.

    Think I am kidding? Google "Halliburton Gang Rape Protection Act" and see how powerful corporations wrote laws to protect themselves from the gang rapes of their employees.

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