Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What is the Chicago Teachers’ Strike About? (A Response to the Chicago Tribune)

“If the Chicago Teachers Union strike ends before this column appears, the damage has been done and can't be repaired. To the union's reputation. And especially to the children, who have been taught the meaning of greed…” –Dennis Byrne, Collateral Damage, Sept. 11, 2012

What is the Chicago Teachers' Strike about?

·         It’s about fighting against discriminatory, evaluative procedures compelled by corporate-interest groups that want to reduce the “art of teaching” to high-stakes, data-driven test scores and merit pay;

·         It’s about the need for smaller class sizes to produce the best possible teaching and learning for public-school students;

·         It’s about rectifying the scarcity of textbooks and other essential materials for Chicago’s public-school students;

·         It’s about the need for more school libraries and for enriched curricula that include music, art, theatre, creative writing, and physical education;

·         It’s about classrooms that need air conditioning so teaching and learning will occur during hot or humid weather;

·         It’s about students needing more social workers, counselors, nurses and other support staff;

·         It’s about the proper calculation of teachers’ raises and the rescinding of fair compensation for longer school hours;

·         It’s about rehiring public-school teachers that were laid off;

·         It’s about better health benefits, productive teacher training, and job security for public-school teachers;

·         It’s about attacks on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining;

·         It’s about opposing the villainy of government officials and corporate-financed media and their attacks on public-school teachers’ professionalism and self-respect;

·         It’s about fighting against corporate-educational reform and the privatization of public schools by profiteers;

·         It’s about protesting ineffectual Value-Added Assessment, Race to the Top, and No Child Left Behind;

·         It’s about the closing and destruction of Chicago Public Schools and the systematic and resultant destruction of their communities;

·         It’s about the disparities between charter schools and public schools’ economic resources for enhanced programs;

·         It’s about propagating skewed data regarding student outcomes from charter schools that are the result of an inequitable policy to accept only the brightest and wealthiest students, despite the fact that most charter schools “under perform” public schools;

·         It’s about forced “turnarounds” subsidized by billionaires and their officiousness (for example, the Gates and Broad Foundations) to “control and take over” public schools for self-interest, profit, and more charter schools;

·         It’s about creating disposable teachers, via Teaching for America and the online teaching craze;

·         It’s about the deliberate failure to address the root causes of the problems facing public education: the inequality of property taxes that primarily fund public schools in Chicago (and elsewhere in Illinois); and the poverty, dispossession and violence in Chicago and the self-perpetuating impact this has upon teaching and learning in Chicago public schools;

·         CTU Teachers are on strike for the above-mentioned reasons, and greed is not one of them.   


  1. I was in the first ever Chicago Teachers Union strike in 1968. I wish I could be with them on the streets today simply to add to their number.
    Everything you said is accurate. The domino effect this strike will have on teacher retirees is much more convoluted yet just as potentially destructive as what is being inflicted upon the students, parents and teachers of public schools.
    Thank you for what you write and reveal.
    Thank you for continuing the fight.
    - Ken

  2. Your rich and illuminating reply demolishes Dennis Byrne's calumny. People can disagree about the strike, of course, and as your own list shows, it is about many things. You've certainly convinced me that greed is not one of them. Thank you!