Adonis Diaries

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on strike? What are the reasons? Since 1987…

Posted on: September 13, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on strike? Since 1987… 

Andrew Bossone wrote (on Facebook) via Kate Goodin:

“This will be the first time since 1987. The union normally has to get 75% approval from members in order to strike, they got 90%, including those who didn’t vote and were counted as “NO for striking”. That’s 23,780 out of 26,502 CTU teachers.

Teachers say they’re being asked to:

1. Work 20% more hours without salary raise,

2. that they’ve had to face major cuts to arts, music and sports as well as school closures,

3. they are rejecting the new teacher evaluations, which are to be based on standardized testing: we all know how well-designed, fair, representative and effective standardized tests are…

I don’t think that teacher’s demands and viewpoint have been represented adequately in a lot of coverage of this issue. NYT coverage for example was very vague on what the demands were and what was at stake in the contract, and essentially boiled down to ‘this is going to very inconvenient for students and parents.’

Lara Lindh, Preschool for All teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, explained on June 22 why she and thousands of her fellow teachers voted “yes” to authorizing a strike on AlterNet: “Why I Voted to Authorize the Chicago Teachers’ Strike
“Earlier this month, members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted and among CTU members who voted, 98 percent said “yes” to strike authorization. We considered those who refrained from voting as against the strike, which is still a nearly 90% majority to give the union authorization to call a strike.

Actually, around 8.5 percent of the union membership didn’t vote, so they were counted as “no” votes: That’s 23,780 yes to 482 no.

The overwhelming support for strike authorization seemed to confuse the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who likes to assure us that he loves and respects teachers as he destroys our schools and degrades our union. But the vote didn’t come as a surprise to me.

Here’s why I voted, along with the vast majority my brothers and sisters in the CTU, an enthusiastic “yes” to strike authorization.

Reason No. 1: As has happened to me every spring since 2008, I was warned by my boss in March that my preschool teaching position was threatened for the following school year due to budget cuts. As I have done every spring since 2008, I spent countless hours readying my resume and my teaching portfolio, combing the want ads, and annoying my colleagues looking for another job for this coming fall.

With a son, a mortgage, very little savings and a job that I love and would grieve to lose, I tried to muster the enthusiasm necessary to hunt for another job while simultaneously remaining the kind of “super-teacher” that we’re expected to be in order to maintain an evaluation rating that would allow us to be hired by another principal.

In May, I was informed my job was safe, but my assistant teacher’s wasn’t. Due to budget cuts, she’s being replaced with a cheaper, part-time version.

Reason No. 2: The month of May is supposed to be a wonderful month for preschool teachers: We ready our student’s yearlong work portfolios and bask in the glow of their progress and reminisce about how far we’ve come.

We go on field trips and have culminating projects that we enjoy sharing with our students and families. We look forward to summer break.

We begin to say goodbye to the little people we’ve nurtured and loved and taught for the proceeding nine months.

This May, I spent the entire month, as I have for the past three years, conducting a standardized test on my 4 and 5-year-old students to determine their “kindergarten readiness.”

It used to be that by virtue of turning 5 years old, you were deemed “kindergarten ready.” Those days are over. In the name of accountability (which always seems to mean accountability for those with the least say-so), we have turned our schools into test-taking factories, with no child too young to be tested.

Reason No. 3: The day before the strike vote, my school clerk stopped me in the hallway. He had an emergency letter from Jean-Claude Brizard that we had to distribute to parents informing them of why the strike vote was wrong for teachers to do and insulting our collective intelligence by claiming that our leadership hadn’t informed us of what was at stake in our contract negotiations.

The attempt by Brizard to turn parents against teachers was expected, his condescending tone familiar, but what was unheard of was that the letter was translated into Spanish, Mandarin, Polish and Arabic.

As a teacher of English Language Learners, I was dumbfounded. We can NEVER get materials or information translated into our students’ home languages without doing it ourselves.

Was this the proverbial final straw? No, I had already made up my mind to vote “yes” because I want dignity, respect and resources for what I do and for the students I teach.

But it did underline to me that if they can so easily find the resources to drag us down, then they can be forced to find the resources to build up public education.

Reason No. 4: The $5.2 million in TIF money the city council just handed to billionaires CPS board member and infamous union buster Penny Pritzker to build another Hyatt Hotel for her empire. Resources not there? Yeah, right.

I voted “yes” because I have self-respect, and I was always taught (and teach) that when you stand up for yourself against bullies and liars, others will stand up with you. Well, the teachers are standing up. Will you join us?


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September 2012

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