30,000 Chicago Teachers Go On Strike

For the first time since 1987, Chicago's teachers union will go on strike after Mayor Rahm Emanuel neglected to reach a deal for a new contract, reports the Chicago Tribune. Starting today, up to 30,000 teachers and principles will cease work, putting the nation's third-largest school district and 400,000 kids in limbo, during one of the biggest teen gun violence crises in the country. Emanuel's school district got stuck on issues not of pay, but of education quality: the district wants to move to a model of teacher evaluation based on standardized test scores, an old ghost of "No Child Left Behind" that helped to decimate urban public school systems during the Bush era. That, plus a wrench in the health benefits agreement, is the main reason teachers are protesting:

As the strike deadline approached, parents spent Sunday worrying about how much their children's education might suffer and where their kids will go while they're at work.

The school board was offering a fair and responsible contract that would most of the union's demands after "extraordinarily difficult" talks, board president David Vitale said. Emanuel said the district offered the teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years, doubling an earlier offer.

Lewis said among the issues of concern was a new evaluation that she said would be unfair to teachers because it relied too heavily on students' standardized test scores and does not take into account external factors that affect performance, including poverty, violence and homelessness.

She said the evaluations could result in 6,000 teachers losing their jobs within two years. City officials disagreed and said the union has not explained how it reached that conclusion.

Teacher X, an educator in the Chicago public school system, made a great argument as to why the strike is actually going down like this:

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.

When you support Mayor Emanuel’s TIF program in diverting hundreds of millions of dollars of school funds into to the pockets of wealthy developers like billionaire member of your school board, Penny Pritzker so she can build more hotels, that not only hurts kids, but somebody should be going to jail.

It goes on like that, and is a must-read. The bottom line is, you can link back the deteriorating nature of the Chicago public school system with the fact that of 152 people murdered in the city between June and August, 38 were teens. Meanwhile, as Emanuel revitalizes wealthier parts of the city, the impoverished South Side sees an increase in gangs. His solution hasn't been working.  It's not too hard to see what the problem is here. More updates on the strike as they come.





AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at September 10, 2012, 8:13am

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