Everything you need to know about the Chicago teacher strike
For the first time in 25 years, Chicago teachers have gone on strike. This action, one that may serve as blueprint for union tension that has recently increased around the country, brings with it a lot of questions. Here are some answers to some of the most important ones:
Why are Chicago teachers striking?
After several months of negotiations, the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) and the Chicago Board of Education (CPS) failed to agree on a new contract for teachers and other professionals in the Chicago school system.
In addition, Karen Lewis, President of CTU, remarked at a press conference last night, “This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could have avoided. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.”
What will happen and for how long?
According the CTU website, “more than 29,000 teachers and education professionals will not report to work” today, September 10th. In addition, several thousands of those individuals (26,000 by one estimate) are expected to picket outside of schools around the city today and until a deal is reached.
Where will students go during the strike?
The way the students spend their time during the strike will be determined by parents. For parents who have obligations that prevent them from having their kids during the would-be school day, CPS has opened 144 sites around the city for students to go during the strike . Other organizations have also put together some options for students and their parents as the strike continues.
What has Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has said about the strike?
Rahm Emmanuel called the strike, “a strike of choice … it’s unnecessary, it’s avoidable and it’s wrong.” Emmanuel also promised to end the strike and “get our kids will be back in the classroom where they belong.”
What do CTU and CPS disagree on?
Benefits - While both parties have strongly disagreed on compensation in the past, Lewis revealed last night that they were no longer “far apart” on compensation, but disagreed on health benefits. CTU has argued that all teacher’s should keep their current benefits while CPS has proposed to “freeze all employee health care contributions for single and couple plans with a small increase in family contributions of no more than $20 a pay period in addition to a small increase in emergency room co-pays.”
Evaluation - CTU and CPS have both made proposals for a new teacher evaluation system. However, CTU has argued that the CPS proposal ties teacher evaluation too closely with factors outside of the teachers control including poverty and exposure to violence. Here are links to the The CPS proposal and the CTU critique of that proposal to help you draw your own conclusions.
Classroom Resources and Structure - CTU has cited ”smaller class sizes; an enriched curriculum; more counseling and support services; teacher mentoring, support and professional development; and reduced paperwork and standardized testing,” as parts of their contract proposal which CPS has not agreed to.
In spite of these disagreements, both sides have agreed that the negotiations have been productive in several areas over the last few months which is good news for the potential to strike a deal.
Will this affect President Obama?
No one knows whether or not this will definitely hurt President Obama. In fact, its effect may depend more on his reaction to the strike than it does on the strike itself. However, it’s reasonable to suspect that these failed negotiations will have a problematic effect on the Obama campaign since Chicago is Obama’s “hometown” and since Emmanuel is his former chief of staff who the President quasi-endorsed.
Image from @CTULocal1