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  • Chicago Teachers Union Strike: A Parent's Perspective

    This week marked the second week of school in Virginia for my two elementary-level children. And as I began to navigate the “get to know you” phase of the new school year, I had a dismaying new perspective on the current teacher union strike in Chicago.

    There are a lot of issues that are raised in the current situation happening in Chicago. But what I most started to consider is the longer-term damage this may have in the school atmosphere. Every parent wants the best school, the optimal learning environment, and the most dedicated teachers for their children. We see movies like Dead Poets Society and think, “I want my kids to be inspired to learn like that!” We are thrilled when the kids come home with stories about how great their teachers are or some positive learning tidbit. We go to the back-to-school nights hoping to connect with our children’s teachers and know that this is the year they will finally learn to read chapter books or figure out algebra or master the periodic table.

    At the most fundamental level, there needs to be a trust relationship between parent and teacher. Parents should be able to count on the teachers to do their best to educate their children and help them achieve their goals. And teachers need to be able to trust that parents will reinforce these classroom lessons at home and instill a sense of respect for the classroom and teachers.

    That is what makes the timing of this strike so damaging. This is the time of year when the students are learning about their teachers—which ones give a lot of homework, who runs the after-school activities, etc. Similarly, teachers should be getting a read on those students they get to spend the next nine months teaching. But in Chicago, even when this strike is over, there will be underlying resentment and questions.

    The unions chose to put the learning of hundreds of thousands of children in jeopardy. And each parent now will ask themselves: As a result of union action, are the teachers there to educate and help my child, or is this just a 9–3 job where the teachers count the hours until they are free from their charges?

    Even if the strike had happened during the summer or end of the school year, those relationships would have occurred. But, because it’s happening at the beginning of the school year, they never even got off the ground. Shame on the unions for forcing teachers to break this necessary bond at the very beginning of what should have been a wonderfully exciting year for Chicago students and parents.

    Dani Doane is Director of Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation and has two children in elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    25 Responses to Chicago Teachers Union Strike: A Parent's Perspective

    1. luke smith says:

      You clearyle have never taught in a large city plagued with financial woes, inadequate supplies, dangerous schools, and a school board that has no connection to teachers or students. Your perspective is specious and limited.

    2. Samantha says:

      I understand your opinion, and I am not commenting to start anything, but I think you may underestimate the amount of parent support here in Chicago. I feel there will be very little resentment from parents when school starts back up again. And I can guarantee you that the teachers do not look at it like it is a 9-3 job when most teachers I know are committing hours before and after school willingly off the clock, as well as many more hours at home preparing lessons for their students. Not to mention the thousands of dollars out of pocket to try and give their students the best opportunities possible.

    3. Jasmine Charter says:

      The really sad thing is that what they are asking for is completely outrageous compared to the private sector. I just got a 2% increase this year and I will be paying more for my health insurance this year. I don't make more than their average salary of $75K / year and I work longer days (and nights / weekends) and I work through the summer. And they think that they have a raw deal? Really?

      • L.K. says:

        we don't. this isn't about salary at all. benefits are iffy because in exchange for keeping the cost of health care down, we are expected to enroll in a Wellness Program that basically punishes you financially for being overweight, having diabetes, smoking, etc. not a fan of govt. dictating what i do with my body.

      • Susan Carter says:

        Ms. Charter,
        It is not the money! I realize that you work extremely hard, now lets assume that your evaluation for your 2% raise rested on the sholders of a child of 11, that was up to 4:00 am texting his friends, and really doesn't want to take that fourth test of the month; so he just fills in circles without even reading the questions. When his test comes back, the concenses is that your teaching is poor or he would have made a better score; therefore, you don't get a raise and lets move you to a lesser position so you can't hurt any more children. That is what it is about.

        • Carmelo says:

          As an educator and a parent living in Chicago I'm tired of every excuse I've heard. Now we're blaming students. If you can't inspire a student to learn, than check yourself or find something that will. We are dealing with our future. Economically the whole country is hurting, and the average income earner watches in disbelief. Most of the world has but a fraction of the resources we have to work with and get the job done. Smell the coffee, we (teachers, parents and students) are all just pawns in a much larger game. What is broke is the bi-product of both the unions and the politics. Only a fool would believe that the outcome will ever be different, if the management is the same.

    4. Nate says:

      This is a nice post. Very good points are made, but teaching will never be a 9 – 3 job and that is what many people fail to understand. Teachers are not so much upset about the expectations, but how the work that is put on them is expected to be completed from 3 pm until 8 am the next day. Imagine busting your butt from 9 – 3 day in and day out to bring 4 more hours of work home.

      • CherryAnn says:

        When I was growing up, the teachers did take their work home at night and graded it and brought it back the next day. They never complained or asked for something special because they thought they were more deserving. No, they did the work because they loved the kids and wanted them to really learn all they could in their school career. Not now. Now, the best Little Johnnie will come home with is a solid knowledge of how to run his Ipod and the current social agenda being advocated. He can't read, write, or compute, but his thumb can work overtime sending out text messages to all and sundry. And considering the teachers get three months off a year for summer, two weeks at Christmas, one week at Thanksgiving and spring break, and, in my state, at least one "teacher inservice day" a month, I don't think it is too much to ask for them to take a little work home and actually do their jobs, do yo?

        • Nate says:

          Cherry, your response is very valid. The problem is, your view of what teachers brought home when you were in school and now is completely different. Much of the work is not even about the children. It is about some data that a school district compiles for no reason then to have numbers. Before you can make any judgement, go spend a month as a teacher. Not an hour, day, or week. A month. Then if you feel the same exact way, then I would feel a little better about your experiences with education.

        • C.H. says:

          What city do you live in. Twenty five years ago teachers were on strike almost every year.

    5. mary bowling says:

      Shame on you for blaming teachers for finally standing up to years of systematic corporate destruction of PUBLIC education.

      • SPA says:

        Sorry sir but this is democracy. Shame on you for trying to quite down a different opinion. What do you propose for teachers to get evaluated on? I am a mother in Chicago and I am against the strike. Do not think you have all the parents with you.

    6. YESS says:

      I totally agree with you, Teachers need to realize you're not hurting the city by going on strike but you are hurting the children.

    7. Lydia says:

      That's it? I see someone here needs to head back to school to learn how to support ones argument. Stating ones opinion is hardly worth listening to without evidence. Ps if teachers cared about going to work from 9-5 they would not have chosen a profession that includes working countless more hours when at home.

    8. L.K. says:

      well you happen to be very lucky that your children go to school in Fairfax County, Virginia, which has one of the better public school systems in the country. things are not so peachy here at CPS

      yes, it's unfortunate that children are being kept out of their schools during the second week, before they've gotten settled into their new classrooms. yes, we have a lot of work to do when we head back to the classroom – it will feel like starting over again.

      but shaming the union for standing up for the children of chicago is frankly quite unfair. you're privileged enough to send your kids to schools that are adequately funded. your teachers are paid nicely (as are CPS teachers, for the most part) and your schools probably have air conditioners and books on the first day.

      the threat to our public education system here is enormous, and rahm has already been steadily working at destroying the union since he arrived in office. despite the unfortunate timing, this was a necessary movement; we are not standing up only for ourselves as educators, but the children of chicago who would suffer from rahm's poorly implemented "reforms."

      all of the CPS teachers i know, including myself, are extremely dedicated to building strong relationships with parents and students. it can be difficult, considering a student population that is often transient or in and out of jail, and parents who struggle to make it up to the school because they're working. but i believe that we succeed, and therefore we have had the support of parents and students at our schools.

      would you want your child, or your child's teacher, to be judged by their standardized test score?
      maybe you would.
      if your child was an 18 year old special education student and couldn't read past a pre-k level, would you want your child and their teacher to be judged by their standardized test score?
      maybe not.

      if rahm emanuel continues to push standardized testing as a way to push out dedicated teachers and "failing" schools, charter schools will open in neighborhood schools' place. since community and parent/teacher relationships are so important to you, tell me, how difficult might it be for your children to feel a part of a school community where students are bussed from all over the city and teacher turnover is high due to extremely low pay, longer hours, and no bargaining power? how often do you think parents whose children attend charter schools all the wayacross the city can actually come to the school and build those relationships if they're working 2+ jobs to make ends meet? this is what we are up against.

      and what happens if you're a non-unionized teacher working at a charter, delivering special education services that are far below what is LEGALLY required and adequate to meet your students' needs, but the school will not give you resources or a curriculum until 2 months in? what if they won't hire another teacher even though the minutes of instruction required by those students exceeds what you can personally deliver? these things HAPPEN in CPS/charter schools, and how can that teacher fight for their students then? what can they possibly do or say to make their administration aware that these injustices are not okay?

      these injustices are NOT okay and we will not stand for them. i don't care how much i get paid or how much i have to pay for health insurance, but i will not sit by and watch my students become victim to ill-devised "reform" efforts devised by someone who sends his kids to private school anyway.

      • Susan Carter says:

        Thank you

      • H.K. says:

        then what should the students be judged on? all jobs have some sort of standard to meet up to and though indeed I agree that standardized testing shouldn't make up all of it, what is supposed to hold the students and teachers accountable in this economy where CPS already has one of the weakest academic standings in the nation? I can't say I'm doing poorly academically but as a whole, compared to the east and west coast schools, we are much much weaker competitively.

        And yes, I agree a teacher's job isn't easy. I love my teachers to death for what they do; but the teacher accepted this job because he/she knew what they were going to be up against. If the CPS teachers aren't fighting for more pay but rather a better learning environment, I'm all for that. However, where is this money going to come from in this strained economy when CPS teachers are already some of the highest paid within the industry? They already settled on such a high pay, how in the world can more teachers be hired when there isn't enough money to afford that.

        From what I've seen so far, I don't think the CTU understands this. After all, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only family without a money tree growing out back.

      • M.A. says:

        I agree with L.K, Lydia, Mary Bowling, and Nate. I was a CPS student and my siblings and neighbors are CPS students as well. I do not live in the most ideal neighborhood in the city of Chicago and both of my parents are busy because of their jobs. Nonetheless, I can assure you that my parents are very very supportive about my siblings' education. Hopefully, something good comes out of this strike, especially for the students who live in inner-city neighborhoods.

    9. Sarah Gilligan says:

      Shame on you for commenting on something so important without doing your research. As a parent of a CPS student, I am a proud supporter of the CTU. They are fighting for more than a fair wage. They are fighting for better working conditions which result in better learning conditions, smaller class sizes, more enrichment programs. They are fighting for a fair evaluation system not based on high stakes tests. Tests that do not take into consideration that a large % of the CPS students come from poverty, and violence, of which teachers have no control over. If you chose to look even further you would see they are fighting against the privatization of this city's Public Schools, and the push for Charters. Charters that have Non Union teachers, working for less pay, that fine students for breaking rules, and regardless of what you have read, do not out score the majority of neighborhood schools. You can research this yourself on CPS website, search schools by area code and compare. Is spreading out the funding in the name of creating school choice worth it? It was not in DC. Next time you want to give your opinion or shame on someone do your research. Sarah Gilligan CPS parent, proud supporter of the CTU!

    10. Jason says:

      CPS has one of the worst graduation rates, high drop out rates, short work days, short school years, a dismal record of education and one of the highest teacher salaries in the country. As tax payers it is only right for all of us to question the veracity of Chicago's teachers. They have an operating budget of 5.3 billion. Do you really think throwing more money at them or giving into their money demands will actually "help the children"?

      I dont like Mayer Emmanuel or agree with his politics, but at least he is trying to do something to reform education in Chicago. Any rational person can surmise that their current system is not working.

    11. ChiResident says:

      Good teachers never see the job as 9-3. Most don't see it as 9-5 or even 9-6. But the new contract allows bad teachers to do the minimum and rely on their dedicated colleagues to pick up the slack.

    12. segi says:

      I am a CPS parent, an educator, and I totally agree with this article. I have lost trust in the teachers. Not all parents support the strategy of this strike. Yes, teachers are the underdog against the "system" but it doesn't make the union 100% right. Everyone and I mean everyone who works in the US work hard, long and uncompensated hours. Most professionals always have more work to do at home after the official work day is over. I know I do and still run a household as wife and mother.

    13. As a CPS parent, I am 100% supportive of the strike, and thankful the teachers have waged this courageous fight against a school system that is failing our children. The CTU produced a wonderful document- something to the effect of Creating the Schools Chicago Children Deserve. I suggest any opponents read the document before criticizing. CPS proposes class sizes of up to 55 students. That's a lecture hall. Public education in Chicago has been under attack for far too long. This fight was long overdue, and I'm so proud that our teachers have taken it on valiantly!

    14. Nate says:

      Let me give some of you a clear example of what teachers go through. We should evaluate our senators and congressmen on the growth of this economy. But we don't, why? Because there are so many factors out of their hands.

      Let's take the corporate employee who's main job is to invest peoples money to make money. No matter the client, this employee should be expected to make money. This CLIENT has a choice, to invest based on a professionals advice, or invest in whatever they want. Regardless of what the client decides, those investments would impact the employees job. Imagine that? Would that be fair? That wouldn't happen. Why? Because those would be factors out of their hands. AND that's ONE adult the employee is trying to reason with. No 25 kids learning to mature while learning.

      I wonder if teachers have any factors out of their hands?

      Too many people are stuck on "summers off" when most teachers still need to work to live.

    15. Accountable Teacher says:

      I am a teacher and a teacher trainer. I have no problem being evaluated. A teacher should want to know how effectively they are teaching. No standardized tests should not be the only measure, but we should be accountable to our students. If students are not learning then I am not teaching. I don't have a problem basing pay on outcomes. I think that is how it should be. Of course there are factore outside of my control but when I am in the classroom with my students, it is may job to ensure that my students are mastering the objectives and state standards. Anything less than that is a disservice to my students and the parents who entrust them to me. Is it harder? Absolutely! Harder than most people could ever imagine. Probably one of the hardest jobs on the planet, especial because of the inequality in our educational system. But hard is not impossible and hard doesn't give any teacher an excuse not make it happen. I am in Chicago and I disagree with the strike because it doesn't seems to focus on teachers being accountable to students, test or not.

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