“No, it wasn’t greed or money. The compensation piece was more or less settled before the strike. Pundits and talk-show hosts who take home hundreds of thousands a year will express outrage that teachers–teachers!–might make $80,000. I ask you, who adds more social value–a first grade teacher in Chicago or a talk show host on national radio or TV?
“Why did they strike? After 17 years of reform and disrespect, they were fed up with the bullying. They were tired of the non-educators and politicians telling them how to teach and imposing their remedies. Reform after reform and children in Chicago still don’t have the rich curriculum, the facilities, and the social services they need.
“They were sick of the incessant school closings. They were sick of seeing charter schools open that get wildly uneven results yet are praised to the skies by Arne Duncan and now Rahm Emanuel. They knew that the charter schools are non-union and that the Mayor will use them to break the union.
“In the end, the union pitted itself against Rahm Emanuel, Arne Duncan, Chicago’s business and civic leadership, and the Race to the Top. It took on the most powerful forces in the city, and yes, even President Obama, who remained neutral.
“And by taking a stand, by uniting to resist the power elite, these teachers discovered they were strong. They had been downtrodden and disrespected, but no longer. They put on their red T-shirts and commanded the attention of the nation and the admiration of millions of teachers. Powerless no more, they showed that unity made them strong. 98% voted to authorize the strike, and 98% voted to end it…”
Important school issues are ‘off the table’ by JesseJackson
“…The big issues for these schools and for the teachers aren’t talked about because they are officially “off the table.” CTU teachers are most concerned about class size, about adequate facilities, about wraparound services from social workers to nurses, about well-rounded curricula including art and music and languages, about early childhood education that helps children come to school ready to learn.“This isn’t fancy stuff. One concern is classrooms that reach temperatures of up to 98 degrees in summer; only 29 percent of schools are air-conditioned. Another is about textbooks for the first day of school. Many of Chicago’s elementary and middle schools have no safe place for recess, and few have age-appropriate playground equipment. There are 160 elementary schools without a library; 140 are in the poorer South Side of the city. Even though a staggering 80 percent of inner-city teen boys are exposed to violence, 675 schools share about 205 social workers. Schools often must choose between art and music, if they are lucky enough to have either…
“No one likes teachers’ strikes. But teachers are on the front line. In a time of spreading poverty and rising hunger, with harsh exploitation of the poor by landlords and payday lenders, poor children too often come to impoverished schools.
“Teachers take the rap for poor student performance without having the power to change what gets in the way of learning. Grading teachers on the basis of a machine-graded test cannot substitute for schools with playgrounds and social workers, classes with manageable numbers, or roofs that don’t leak. Poverty, inequality, violence, race and investment matter. They must be a part of any long-term solution.”