The Chicago Teachers Union is currently on the front lines of a fight to defend public education. On one side the 30,000 members of the CTU have called for a contract that includes fair compensation, meaningful job security for qualified teachers, smaller class sizes and a better school day with Art, Music, World Language and appropriate staffing levels to help our neediest students.
On the other side, the Chicago Board of Education—which is managed by out of town reformers and Broad Foundation hires with little or no Chicago public school experience—has pushed to add two weeks to the school year and 85 minutes to the school day, eliminate pay increases for seniority, evaluate teachers based on student test scores, and slash many other rights.
Teachers, parents and community supporters in Chicago have fought valiantly—marching, filling auditoriums at hearings and parent meetings, even occupying a school and taking over a school board meeting. Most recently, 98 percent of our members voted to authorize a strike. But now we find ourselves facing new opponents—national education privatizers, backed by some of the nation’s wealthiest people. They are running radio ads, increasing press attacks, and mounting a PR campaign to discredit the CTU and the benefits of public education.
We are asking you to support our struggle for educational justice.
In terms of support from organizations and individuals, from Diane Ravitch’s blog:
A comment from a reader:
Stay strong. In Madison we’re organizing a couple busloads to come down Saturday and show our solidarity. You came to us when we needed it most; now it’s our turn to come to you. Stay out there and stay strong.
Also from Diane Ravitch’s blog:
From a small union local:
We are a small local of about 300 members and have become fascinated with what you are doing not just for yourselves, but for ALL of us. A million thank you’s are not enough for what you are doing for every teacher in America…. the informed, the uninformed, the unionized, the non-unionized. You are fighting to restore a sense of dignity to our profession. You are telling the word that we are tired of being kicked around and you are making people take notice! At no point in the last several years have important education issues been discussed in the MSM the way you have made them this week. In my decade as an educator your fight is the most inspiring, moving, heartening, and important thing that has happened to public education. You’ve been the main topic of talk of the faculty room this week. Our local donated to your solidarity fund. Individual members of ours have donated to it. We wore red on Monday. We wore red again today. We sent pictures of us in red to the AFT and NYSUT. We have tweeted them out. Our local’s blog (thepjsta.org) has been updating our members on your fight for several weeks now and the blog has had a record number of hits. We will support you in every way we possibly can. We can not possibly repay the debt of gratitude that we owe you. Whatever you need from us, name it. Your fight truly is our fight and there couldn’t be a better, more courageous group of educators in America to fight it. Stay strong CTU!
From Mike Klonsky’s blog:
Striking. teachers are hanging tough. So far, they’ve won overwhelming community support. Latest polls show 47% support CTU and only 39% for the mayor.
It appears this morning that our autocrat mayor has decided to stonewall the negotiations. While he’s moved on compensation issues, he’s refusing to even discuss teacher evaluation and the power of principals to hire and fire teachers at will.
Rahm is operating here without the benefit of knowing much about education. He’s that just-right combination of street-thug ward politician and Wall St. hustler who thinks that because he believes something to be true, he has the right (power) to force it on the public. First case in point was his notion that more seat time in school necessarily produces better results. It doesn’t. Now he’s convinced that you can evaluate a teacher based wholly or largely on their student’s score on a standardized test. You can’t.
Yesterday Rahm hauled a few of his pet principals, (including Ethan Netterstrom, principal at Skinner North) in front of the TV cameras, to claim that in order to be “successful” they need the unchecked power to hire and fire whoever they choose, regardless of qualifications and experience and without any due process. This is a recipe for City Hall-style patronage and going back to the days when teachers (and principals) worked at the pleasure of ward politicians. It is also a recipe for principals getting rid of teachers who may be the wrong color or political persuasion. It’s interesting to note here that principals already have lots of authority over faculty hiring and that black and Latino teachers have been the victims of these kinds of hiring practices. Today, just 19 % of the teaching force in Chicago is African American, down from 45 % in 1995.
To read this post in full, go to Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog.
From Fair Test:
The Chicago teacher strike is the latest example of the growing national resistance to failed, top-down, test-driven educational policies. Parents, teachers, and school leaders across the nation are rising up to say “Enough is enough” to so-called reforms based on the misuse of standardized exams. From Texas to Long Island and Washington State to Florida, people with first-hand knowledge of the damage being done to academic quality and equity, particularly in communities serving the nation’s neediest children, are pushing back against the out-of-touch politicians and their funders who insist on doubling down on strategies that have not worked.
Student academic progress can be one of several factors considered in evaluating teachers, but not the sole or primary one. Consistent with the guidance of the testing profession itself and the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council, FairTest favors the use of multiple measures to make high-stakes educational decisions about students, educators, schools and districts. The current over-emphasis on test scores to assess teachers mandated under Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers is a demonstrably flawed approach for improving student learning.
From a Parents Across America member and representative of the 19th Ward Parents Organization in Chicago:
My name is Becky Malone from the 19th Ward Parents Organization representing Mt. Greenwood, Beverly and Morgan Park. I am here today to say how much it saddens me that we have reached a point where our teachers are on the brink of their first strike in more than 25 years because the city where they live and work does not respect them as the hard working professionals they are.
I, and my fellow parents and community members, are beyond tired of hearing that these negotiations are about money; that teachers will strike because they are greedy, that anyone believes that people become educators to make a lot of money! This strike will happen because our city, despite all its rhetoric that our children couldn’t wait any longer for education reform, failed to see the forest through the trees! To implement a longer school day without considering how to fund it was beyond irresponsible!
There is no plan to compensate teachers for working longer hours. There is no funding for the arts, drama, world languages and hands-on learning opportunities we were promised. And even if some of these programs were added this year, the board has depleted any funds to be used in the future so there is no long-term sustainability for a quality school day.
The irony of the contingency plan that has been set in place in the event of a strike cannot be lost. $25 million dollars to keep 144 sites open for babysitting? Where was that money when our teachers needed it for their classrooms? All contingency sites must have libraries, lunch rooms, gyms, computer labs and air conditioning, and the classroom ratio is capped at 1adult for 25children? If the city had made these same standards a priority for all of the city’s schools from the beginning we would not be in this situation today!
Finally, why is it that the union had to threaten a strike to get sweeping concessions such as desks for school psychologists so they would have a place to keep private student files and meet with parents and children, or textbooks for every student on the first day of school so that learning could begin on day 1?
The city has not put children first because they have put their teachers last, and that is what has brought us to a point where none of them will be where they should be on Monday morning– in the classroom teaching and learning.
And for more background on why teachers are striking today, check out:
In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won’t use her name–who’d been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn’t do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year. Under Chicago’s new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.
In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire. No teachers’ union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field – for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.
You’ve guessed it by now: It’s the same teacher.
It’s Back to School Time! Time for the editorialists, the Tea Party, the GOP and Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan to rip into the people who dare teach in public schools.
And in Chicago, Arne’s old stomping grounds, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is stomping on the teachers and pushing them into the street.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This is what Mitt Romney and Obama and Arne Duncan and Paul Ryan have in mind when they promote charter schools and the right to fire teachers with tenure: slash teachers salaries and bust their unions.
They’ve almost stopped pretending, too. Both the Right Wing-nuts and the Obama Administration laud the “progress” of New Orleans’ schools–a deeply sick joke. The poorest students, who struggle most with standardized tests, were drowned or washed away. One thing both Democrat Emanuel and Republican Romney demand of Chicago teachers is that their pay, their jobs, depend on “standardized tests.” Yes, but whose standard?
Here is an actual question from the standardized test that were given third graders here in NYC by the nation’s biggest test-for-profit company:
“…Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs. In this sentence a private club is….” Then you have some choices in which the right answer is “Country Club – place where people meet.”
Now not many of the “people [who] meet” at country clubs are from the South Side of Chicago–unless their parents are caddies. A teacher on the South Side whose students are puzzled by the question will lose their pay or job. Students on the lakefront Gold Coast all know that mommy plays tennis at the Country Club with Raul on Wednesdays. So their teacher gets a raise and their school has high marks.
And while Mayor Rahm promises kids in “bad” schools new teachers (the same ones at lower pay) at high-score schools, in fact, they are never actually allowed in.
But Rahm, after all, is just imposing Bush education law which should be called, No Child’s Behind Left.
You want to know what’s wrong with our schools? Benno Schmidt, CEO of the big Edison Schools teach-for-profit business is a creepy, greedy privateer. But he told me straight: that before Hurricane Katrina, his company would never go into New Orleans because Louisiana spent peanuts per child on education. He made it clear: You get what you pay for. Not what you test for.
So the charter carpetbaggers slither in, cherry-pick the easy students, and declare success. The tough cases and special ed kids are left in the public system so they can claim the public system fails.
To read this article in full, go to Nation of Change.