War on Students: Chicago Teachers Union to Strike

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This week, Democrats are holding their convention in Charlotte. During that convention, there is little doubt they will be extolling the virtues of organized labor, especially government employees, with teachers likely getting top billing. Next week, the teachers in President Obama’s home city of Chicago have scheduled a reality check regarding such virtues: last Thursday, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced they will go on strike beginning September 10th. “We have said from the beginning, we’re tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed,” CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, approximately 700 CTU delegates “thundered ‘aye'” last Thursday after Lewis put forward a motion to set the Sept. 10th strike date. When Lewis asked for “nay” votes the hall reportedly fell silent. Chicago Public School (CPS) officials responded by outlining consequences of the first teachers’ strike in 25 years, noting that 350,000 students would be denied an education, 11,000 athletes would be denied a chance to play varsity sports, and the transcripts and recommendations of 20,000 senior student would be “put on hold.”

As a result of the strike threat, CPS has come up with a contingency plan called “Children First.” The program will be put in place as “precaution,” according to CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. It entails keeping 145 of the city’s schools open for half days–from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., according to a statement released Thursday. The Chicago Board of Education also authorized spending $25 million to keep those schools open, staffed by principals, assistant principals, central office employees, parent volunteers and other non-union staff.  “Too much is at stake for our kids both inside and outside the classroom and that’s why we’re focused on reaching a fair contract for our teachers that keeps our kids in the classroom where they belong,” Brizard said.

CPS also sent a letter to the Illinois High School Association last Thursday to see if they could be granted an exception to the current bylaws that prohibit athletic teams from practicing during a strike, despite the fact that 90 percent of the athletic coaches are CTU members. Another series of messages was sent to parents, via letters, text messages, robo-calls and in a “tele-town hall” meeting to let them know that their children will still be fed, supervised and otherwise engaged if a strike occurs.

Yet the nature of that engagement reflects the overwhelming power of the teachers union. “While academic instruction will not be provided [because it’s prohibited by law during a teachers strike], students will participate in positive activities to keep them engaged,” said the CPS fact sheet. “Examples include arts, sports, journaling, independent reading and writing, puzzles and computer-based programs.”  The fact sheet also notes that CPS will be coordinating with the Chicago Transit Authority and the Police and Fire Departments to “ensure safety and provide additional services.”

The issues are familiar. The union wants higher wages than the two percent the CPS is currently willing to pay, having lost a scheduled four percent pay raise negotiated last year. They are also working 10 extra days this year as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pledge to lengthen both the school day and school year. The CTU also insists on maintaining so-called “step and lane’’ increases based on seniority and extra credentials–even as they remain against bonuses for teachers who improve student test scores. The union also wants to be able to continue “banking” sick days that cost the system millions of dollars annually.

Moreover, the union wants teachers who have been laid off to be first in line for new jobs, as opposed to principals having the power to hire the best teachers available. The CPS agreed to hire 477 more elementary school teachers from a pool of recently laid-off teachers as part of a preliminary deal on how schools would handle the longer day this school year, but the union wants to expand that deal to cover every jobs slot that opens up. The union remains steadfast regarding this provision because it is likely CPS, due largely to budget constraints, is likely to close or consolidate schools that underperform, or don’t have enough students to be run efficiently. The union wants to make sure that its members who are laid off in the process don’t have to compete with anyone else for openings.

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  • clarespark

    Teachers unions deem teachers as workers, not professionals, and ignore the curriculum, despite the disgraceful performance of American kids compared with those of other developed countries. I laid out the problem here: http://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-br…. "Review of Steven Brill's Class Warfare." Teachers unions have emerged as one of the most reactionary forces in the American scene.

  • Tanstaafl jw

    The teachers want to be armed with the same guns as the students.


      Some teachers are as dumb as their students.

      Test Teachers yearly.

  • mghirsch

    First things first. I am a reassigned CPS teacher. While you are right to be concerned about the students, it is not the Teachers' Union who is at war, it is the Democrat's decade's old policies that are. These policies have broken down the family, and resulted in students with no guidance from home. Yes, the schools are not producing the results they should, but is it the teachers' fault that there is high absentee and tardy rates among students? Is the teachers' faults that the students don't do their assignments or homework? Is it the teachers' fault that due to political correctness that disruptive students can't be removed from a classroom so that the other students can learn?

    Michelle Rhee is not a credible source. Her administration has been found to massage test scores to show that the students were doing better than they were.

    The graduation numbers, while may be accurate, do not tell the whole story. Principals are [pressured to pass and graduate non-deserving students. Some examples. I can document cases where students did not have a teacher the entire school year, only substitutes. This is despite the fact that there were qualified teachers out there (experienced, highly qualified teachers who were making mid-range salaries). The students were told not to worry, since they couldn't be failed. They all received passing grades. In another case, I was fired from a Saturday recovery school (this was for students that failed a course and were given a chance to make up the credit) because too many students were failing. Whey were they failing, they were not doing their work. I documented this to the principal but it didn't matter. They had to pass. I had been told when I was hired, we couldn't fail the students, but in my naivety, I thought it meant I had to do the best I could for the students, not that it was a literal statement. The best measure would be how many of CPS students who go on to college actually complete it.

    School funding is an issue, but the problem is not the amount, but how it is spent. When I was a CPS student at a 2400 student school, we had one principal, two assistant principals, and four counselors. At my last school (1800 students) we had one principal, four assistant principals, six counselors, 12 security guards, and two full time police officers. In addition, every CPS student, regardless of family income, is eligible for a free breakfast, and many get a free or reduced lunch. In some schools, they even get a free dinner.Think how much better the money could be spent.

    Teaching is not a 9-5 job. Outside of classroom hours, we spent a considerable amount of time grading papers, doing lesson plans, and preparing assignments. In order to keep our certifications, we have to take continuing education courses (which we have to pay).

    Before you continue to criticize teachers, please spend some time in a classroom. You will see all the stress that goes with the job and see why less than 50 percent of new teachers last five years. And contrary to popular believe, I have found that teachers in the lower performing schools actually work harder than in the top performing schools.

    I did not go into teaching to get rich, but even so, don't I have a right to a decent life style? Why do lawyers merit a $4-500/hour salary while teachers have to struggle to make ends meet? As a high school teacher, I affect 125 people a day, while a lawyer may affect only 4-5.

    • al222

      when teachers collectively bargain for such things as the right to expel the trouble-makers, a decent dress code for both students and teachers, a safe and secure environment for every student and a certain level of non-negotiable respect from students, THEN you might have a case. as long as contract negotiations are all about teachers and their various perks, your complaints are all b.s.

      and one more thing: for every teacher who complains about lousy parents, a question: who do you think taught the parents?

      • mghirsch

        First of all, SB7, passed by the Illinois senate and general assembly (pushed by Emanual and his cronies) limits what we can negotiate. In the past, we could negotiate class size, or removal of students among other things, but not now. I agree with you about the dress code (as a matter of interest, the students at the higher achieving schools have NO dress code, but dress as if they did, but it is not true of the underachieving schools). Respect is another issue. When parents don't respect the teachers, or education in general, the children won't. Nobody (openly) debates the need for a safe school environment, but the politicians refuse to do anything that would address the problem because it might offend their constituency. Teachers. and society suffer because of it.

        At one time, some special education students could be labeled behavior disability, and in more extreme cases transferred to special schools. (There is even a limit on how many days a special ed student can be suspended). The ACLU put a stop to it. As well as the practice of transferring pregnant girls to a school with parenting curricula as well as academics.

        Who taught the parents? Teachers taught (or tried to teach) the academic subjects, but community organizers taught them lack of respect not only for education and teaches, but authority in general. And society is paying the price.

  • pyeatte

    For the parents and kids with initiative they could use the online Khan Academy for extensive schooling – free. Gets you around the union.

  • Dead space

    Teacher union’s greed runs a world in need.


      The most disgusting thing is that the Teachers union literally present their demands for higher salaries and more benefits to BENEFIT STUDENTS.

      How about Teachers taking a pay cut, less benefits, and the freed money go to buying more books, computers and teaching materials for the students.

      End Teacher Tenure!