Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Diary of a Fangirl: Chicago Teachers Union Strike

Hello, gentle readers.

Usually I don't do this, but I can't help but make a post here because this whole Chicago Teachers Union strike thing has affected me on a visceral, emotional, and personal level.

I was out this morning, and saw them picketing outside of a school on Western, and I honked my horn and cheered for them.  On my way back down the street, I did it again, and I saw the face of one of the teachers there--she was joyous for the support.

The media has not been clear or honest about what's really happening here, and they seem pretty keen on parading parents on TV who are worried about who's going to babysit (which is the impression that they give--that they don't necessarily care about the education part--just about who's going to watch their children), and I'm going to share below about someone who is knowledgeable, in the system, and can clearly and concisely explain why the teachers are mad as hell, and why they aren't going to take it anymore.

The following is from a CPS teacher which specifically defines what the fight is for:

Dear Friends and Family,

As the Chicago Teachers Strike becomes national news it is important to remember a few things:
A) Stephanie has her master’s degree in Urban Education Policy and I will have mine in December. What this means is we have dedicated our entire post graduate degree to understanding how urban school systems work and what make school systems effective and ineffective.

B) Every Teacher in Chicago wants nothing more to be teaching our students. This is the career we chose so it is offensive to suggest that we do not care about or walked out on our students.

C) The media does a poor job of portraying the real issues that teachers in Chicago are upset about so I will try my best to explain and help you to understand the many misrepresentations being portrayed in the media.

Things you may have heard in the media or things to help you understand what we are fighting for:

1) Chicago Teachers turned down a 16% raise
We did not turn down a 16% raise. This comment is out of context. A teacher makes 16% more their 20th year teaching than they did their 1st year teaching. We did not turn this down (it actually hasn’t been offered). What we did turn down was 2% raise for this year. We are being asked to work a 4.5% longer school year. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in, working 4.5% longer for 2% is a bad deal.

2) Recall Policy
Chicago has a tendency to close schools for invalid reasons. We believe that if a school is struggling it should receive help, not closure. When a crime goes up in an area, more police are brought in, the station located there is not closed. In Chicago, they close schools instead of providing help. When a school is closed the entire school staff is fired no matter what (teachers, custodians, secretaries etc). We want a recall policy that gives priority to teachers who were let go due to these unjust closures and who had received good evaluations, to have first chance at getting new jobs.

3) Evaluation Policy
As teachers we always want to get better at our profession. Yet we do not want an evaluation policy that is based on students standardized test scores. Standardized tests do not prove learning (research proves this). We want to be evaluated and given feedback through observations from our administration and we want them to have proper training on how to do this.

4) Step and Lane
We believe that teachers should be rewarded for the more years they teach. We understand this is not how it works in all professions, ours may be unique. We believe this because, research shows that teacher experience is one of the two most important factors in students’ educational growth.
We also believe that teachers should be rewarded for continuing their education through master’s and PhD programs in order to be better teachers.

5) Shortest school day
It is a lie that Chicago has the shortest school day in the country. This lie has been repeated over and over again and suddenly it is now believed to be true by many. This is not true and there is proof of this. The union proposed a way to make for a longer school day last fall, yet CPS rejected this offer. Simply by giving the teachers in elementary schools lunch and recess Chicago would lengthen the school day.

6) Better school
We want PE, Art, World Languages for every student in the city and we want these things every day.

7) Nurses, Social Workers etc
There are only 370 psychologists, social workers, and nurses for the 400,000 students in CPS. In my school for example we only have a nurse on Friday and only have a social worker on Monday and Wednesday. This is common across all schools. We find this unacceptable and offensive. Our mayor would not tolerate this for his children and we do not tolerate it for ours.

8) We want librarians and counselors
My school has 1 counselor for all 400 students and a library with no librarian. Again this in unfair and unjust.

9) You will hear that CPS does not have the money
One thing to remember is that a budget is a political document not a financial one. It is about priorities and CPS chooses to not place its priorities into public education. CPS is giving $100 million to charter schools even though research shows charter schools do no better than public schools.

10) We also are offended by having a school board with zero educators on it.
How do you explain the intricacies of education and make sure all the necessary things get put into a contract with someone who has never taught. There has been 50 contract negotiations since Nov. 2011 and CPS has not wanted to talk about anything important until now. Eventually we couldn’t wait any longer to do the right thing for our students, our schools, and ourselves.

So I please ask you to be respectful and know that a 1 minute news clip does not explain all that is going on in Chicago. I would ask you to watch two things and read one.

The first clip is one of my professors at the University of Illinois at Chicago explaining the situation in Chicago.

The second is myself explaining the situation

The third is a column I wrote explaining the situation.


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