CTU, led by Karen Lewis, go on strike…
September 10th, 2012 was supposed to be another ordinary day for my six-year old niece who started first grade last week. She was excited to start school and was eager to share with her parents her lessons of the day. Unfortunately, because of politics at its worse, my niece and thousands of other CPS students will be spending their time at home. Instead of furthering her education and keeping par with other children her age she will instead spend the day playing with her younger brother. The people who are supposed to be providing for her best interests are busy stroking their egos.
Now you might think that’s rather harsh to say about teachers. I want to make it very clear. I support teachers. I praise teachers. I have family and friends who are teachers. It is one of the hardest jobs. As a product of CPS education, I know the sacrifices teachers make and the existence of exemplary individuals in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). My comments aren’t directed towards teachers. They are directed towards the CTU, more specifically CTU president Karen Lewis, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard (CEO of CPS). Individuals elected by their constituents to do their job have miserably failed to do what’s best for the children.
This notion that Karen Lewis is spewing that the strike isn’t about the money is ridiculous. The strike is primarily because of compensation issues. Granted those issues have apparently been agreed upon as of Sunday, September 9th. It doesn’t deter the fact that this strike came about because Mayor Emanuel decided to lengthen the school day. This started a firestorm within the union party who became enraged over a lack of subsequent pay increases. Yes, the lack of playgrounds, child psychologists and other social programs should be addressed; but, let’s be honest in that these issues are not at the forefront of this strike. The reason there is a strike is because of the blunders exhibited by both sides.
We have Emanuel who thinks it’s more prudent to spend his time at a convention. We have Jean-Claude Brizard who decides it’s more prudent to vacation weeks before a looming deadline. And we have Karen Lewis, who states she will not negotiate or debate in the media while appearing on “Windy City Live.” Lewis attempted to show the public’s support by using children as leverage. I’ve got a wakeup call. Let’s not pretend the union and the school board isn’t only looking out for themselves. The teacher’s union voted earlier this summer to go on strike. They received the necessary approval to go ahead with the strike. If it really was about the children the CTU would have gone on strike already. They waited until September 10th for two reasons. They thought the added pressure would make Emanuel yield to their demands and teachers had to work at least one day this month to receive health benefits for the month of September.
The union isn’t a fair representation of the teachers it represents. Most teachers truly care about their student’s education. If they didn’t they wouldn’t and shouldn’t be teaching. The main issue arose when Emanuel decided to add another hour to the school day. CPS students were in the bottom in instruction time (average of 6 hrs 15 min), yet instructors were compensated in the top 5 in the nation (an average of just under 72k). The board offered a raise of 2% for the next 4 years. The union countered with a 20% raise the first year and a 10% raise the second year. They believe by adding an extra hour to their work day (which puts the school day on par with the nation) they are entitled to a proportional raise. A large subsequent raise in fact. Most Americans haven’t seen a raise in the past four years let alone a 30% raise.
The issues of class size, lack of playgrounds and other social issues have always been an issue. Why haven’t they gone on strike in the past 25 years? The reason is because as much as they refuse to admit it, compensation was the catalyst of their strike. Additionally, the union is angry about the fact the board took its ability to accumulate sick time and retire early. Also they refute the idea of merit based evaluations. Name me a job where your boss doesn’t evaluate you based on your performance. I believe teachers should be evaluated based on student performances, but also peer evaluations, parental evaluations and student evaluations. Teachers should be evaluated just like every other profession. Most educators have great intentions and work intensely for the future of their students. However, there is a small faction who neglects their duties and have not habitually been kept accountable. After three years teachers are given tenure; something that makes it very difficult to get rid of failing teachers. I understand there should be job security, but not to failing teachers.
Both sides have been negotiating until 10pm each night this past weekend. While they stop negotiations Sunday night to go home, parents were left to frantically figure out what to do with their children’s care. 145 schools will be open from 8:30am to 12:30pm during the strike. What good does that do for working parents? Who is supposed to watch the kids the rest of the day? Parents will waste sick time, if they even have any, to care for their children. Many parents will forfeit their pay. This sad reality is outrageous. I have confidence the strike won’t last too long because of the pressure to resolve. Why does it take outside pressure to get things done? The CTU and CPS board should stop acting like our U.S. Congress and act with more concern for the children; because in the end the children bear the burden of these battles of egos. They bear the burden for the lack of leadership exhibited by school representatives. A lack of leadership shown by the mayor. Is it too hard to deal with issues before the eve of a deadline? Sorry to bother you from your personal vacations.
Note to local leaders:
As you now try to do your job. Late as usual. My niece and so many others are home relishing their days off. Not yet realizing the consequences of the strike. Rahm Emanuel, Jean-Claude Brizard and Karen Lewis if you truly care for the students get the job done. And next time don’t wait until the last minute.
Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate