fresh voices from the front lines of change







Teachers in Chicago are on strike. You will hear from the usual anti-government, anti-union crowd that this is another instance of greedy public employees trying to get more money, but that is just wrong and here’s why.

The teachers say they are fighting for smaller class sizes, investments in neighborhood schools and additional services for students — fighting for the tools they need to succeed. For so long school districts have been cutting budgets and then blaming the teachers when the students don’t do as well.

Chicago teachers have been in negotiations since late 2011, fighting for many important things including art and music classes, playgrounds, libraries (160 schools in Chicago have no libraries and the city has cut back on Chicago Public Library hours, preventing students from internet access to do homework), maintaining a manageable class size, not closing inner city schools, among other very important issues.

Chicago is currently planning to close 60 local community schools (mostly in the inner city) and then open up 100 mostly non-union schools.

On money: Last year the city said they didn’t have money and took away a 4% raise teachers were scheduled to receive. Later it was discovered the money was shifted to the Chicago Police.

Tools To Succeed

Many cities have been cutting budgets, increasing class size, cutting back on services for students and then blaming the teachers when the students don’t do as well. The problem is that the teachers do not have the tools to succeed.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) writes in Treat teachers as equal partners at USA Today,

Mayor Rahm Emanuel came into office wanting to make major changes in Chicago’s schools, and he wanted to do it quickly. For reform to work, changes must be done collaboratively and correctly, not just quickly. Chicago’s teachers want to be treated as equal partners in this effort.

… Today, 42% of neighborhood elementary schools are not funded for a full-time art or music teacher; 160 Chicago elementary schools don’t have libraries. Teachers report classes of more than 43 students and not even enough chairs for them all. And teachers often lack textbooks and other materials up to six weeks after the start of school.

Chicago teachers are calling for a better day, not just a longer day, by investing in art, music and libraries. They are calling for smaller class sizes, investments in neighborhood schools and health care, social workers, meal services and additional services for students.

They want to focus on teaching and learning, and have legitimately objected to the district’s fixation on high-stakes testing that is narrowing the curriculum and being used to sanction teachers. And they are calling for a fair evaluation process and additional professional development to help all teachers improve.

Astroturf Billionaires

The next problem is the huge Wall Street-backed effort to privatize schools, for profit. The billionaires are able to pay for high-end PR campaigns, blaming teachers and diverting attention away form what they are really up to. Kenzo Shibata, a Chicago teacher, writes at HuffPo in The Battle of Chicago Teachers Union Vs. Out-of-Town Billionaires, hilites the following video:

Stop Hurting Kids

“Teacher X” writes Why I’m Striking,

When you make me cram 30-50 kids in my classroom with no air conditioning so that temperatures hit 96 degrees, that hurts our kids.

When you lock down our schools with metal detectors and arrest brothers for play fighting in the halls, that hurts our kids.

When you take 18-25 days out of the school year for high stakes testing that is not even scientifically applicable for many of our students, that hurts our kids.

When you spend millions on your pet programs, but there’s no money for school level repairs, so the roof leaks on my students at their desks when it rains, that hurts our kids.

When you unilaterally institute a longer school day, insult us by calling it a “full school day” and then provide no implementation support, throwing our schools into chaos, that hurts our kids.

Read the rest. it’s good.

Sign Up

A SignOn petition started by a local parent: Stand with Chicago teachers,

To be delivered to: The Chicago Teachers’ Union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel

I stand with the Chicago Teachers Union in their fight against school privatization, closures, and stagnant wages.
On Sunday, the Chicago Teachers Union announced the first Chicago teacher’s strike in almost 25 years. They are fighting against school privatization, closures, and stagnant wages.

Ninety-eight of our Chicago schools don’t have playgrounds, and 160 schools don’t have libraries at all. Forty percent of our schools do not have full time art and music programs, and the entire system is desperately lacking support staff, including counselors and school nurses.

The lack of investment in schools is bad for teachers—but it’s devastating for our children. As the parent of two children in the Chicago Public Schools, I stand with the Chicago public school teachers.

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