The teachers’ strike in Chicago has catapulted competing views of education reform to the forefront, in school districts wrestling with similar issues as well as in the race for president. Teachers’ work conditions, class sizes, and salary are up for negotiation as the third largest school system remains closed to its students for a second day.
On Monday, the red shirts of the Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters filled parts of the city. The first strike in 25 years took many by surprise, including the families of students without classes to attend.
The New York Times is reporting that talks continued late into Monday night between school officials and union leaders. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Times that she blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the bad blood between the city and the teachers, pointing to his aggressive push to extend the school day and rescinding a promised raise.
“You have a situation where the teachers feel totally and completely disrespected,” she told the paper.
A National Public Radio report said the strike shows how much pressure teachers are under on a national level, and that the outcome in Chicago could influence how other teachers’ unions fare in the coming years.
“It’s impossible to overstate how much the debate has changed over the past 10 years,” Andrew Rotherham, a co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, which advocates for low-income students, and a columnist for Time, told NPR. “The unions have to figure out how to adapt to this new environment.”
WNYC will be discussing the strike and its impact later this morning with Esther Fuchs, professor of international and public affairs and political science, at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and former advisor to Mayor Bloomberg. She’ll be talking with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer about what the Chicago strike means for New York City teachers.
In the meantime, Gotham Schools outlines the issues and why a similar walkout in New York City is highly unlikely.
Among other reasons, Philissa Cramer reported, “New York City teachers don’t have to grapple with many of the issues Chicago teachers face. The union contract already contains class size limits, even if the union says they are sometimes skirted. Recall rights for laid-off teachers have been in place for decades. And the school year has long been 180 days.”
There are no shortage of opinions on Twitter, with some saying the teachers have a good deal already and should get back to the classrooms, while others criticize the city. Others focus on how the students are getting the short end of the stick and sympathize with them. And some wonder what President Obama has to say about this situation.
Former Saturday Night Live Comedian, Horatio Sanz (@mrhoratiosanz), said, “Dear Kids in Chicago. God bless your good fortune. Here’s to another two weeks of the teacher’s strike. I survived Chicago Public Schools.”
Zoe Zolbrod (@zoezolbrod) tweeted “What’s Rahm’s plan for improving learning conditions? To say teachers are striking for pay is a distortion.”
“Today, in a city like Chicago, some of those kids may only feel safe at school. and now they don’t have that,” tweeted Marquise Hudson (@marqhudson).
Hope (@nwbtcw) of Chicago wrote “Chicago students don’t stop learning during a #CTUstrike –they learn to stand up for their rights, and the power of organized labor.”
David Segal of New York predicted “Obama’s reaction to #CTUstrike could define what 2nd term ed policy will look like.”