I’ve written before about the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and my concerns about its leadership’s rush to promote divisive tactics like a teachers strike.
Sure enough, those worries were justified. This Friday, April Fools’ Day, CTU leadership is calling on its members to walk the picket line for one day and then hold a mass rally downtown.
Not all teachers are on board with the plan. Many are frustrated that Friday’s action takes money out of their own paychecks and gives it back to the same district that handed them an unpaid day off work last week. Some are even considering crossing the picket line to stand with their students, in their classrooms, on Friday.
Straining the Relationship Between Parents and Teachers
Much less media attention has been paid to parents and how they feel about the union’s strategy. I actually agree with the union that our state and city have massively underfunded education and it’s time to right that wrong. But I am very disappointed in CTU leadership and how they are handling teachers who oppose the so-called Day of Action.
A one-day strike in Chicago isn’t going to change Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s mind about what to do, or Gov. Bruce Rauner’s. Maybe the mayor will have trouble getting home from work on Friday. The governor probably won’t feel it at all. Neither is likely to change course based on one day of protest.
However, what the one-day strike could do is undermine the strong relationship between parents and teachers in Chicago. I deeply appreciate my son’s teachers, but I resent union leaders for demanding they leave school for an effort that won’t make any difference to the people it is intended to target.
How is the CTU’s strike going to help my son? Students should be a priority, and by having a strike we are telling our students the opposite. They are already experiencing the negative effects of the school budget cuts. Why should we be hurting their education more?
I know I’m not the only parent feeling frustrated that union leaders offhandedly declared a one-day strike when we’re the ones with the ultimate responsibility to make sure our children are safe and occupied that day. It makes it harder for me to take the CTU’s messages seriously.
Setting Our Sights on Springfield
We have real problems here in Illinois. For years, the state has shortchanged all schools of the money they need to educate children well, and has recently taken funds from the schools that need it most. Our legislators haven’t shown the courage it takes to create real solutions, like a progressive income tax, that would bring in the revenue we need to fund schools well enough to do the job we ask of them.
The money situation for state higher education is at least as bad, maybe worse. State colleges and universities haven’t seen money from Springfield in eight months. While the larger schools are tapping private funds to stay afloat, the smaller regional schools, like Eastern Illinois and Chicago State University, are in serious financial danger.
At the Illinois Institute of Technology, the neediest college students are being asked to give back state grants for school because our governor can’t work with the legislature to create a budget. This makes me sick to my stomach, because I relied on the same grant to earn my bachelor’s degree. Without that state support, I wouldn’t be in graduate school today.
All of us—parents, teachers, taxpayers—need to look beyond Chicago and set our sights on solutions in Springfield. We know our governor doesn’t want to hear what we have to say. It will take a strong, united front and a smart, long-haul strategy to make real change in our state. A one-day strike is not a long-term solution.
I hope the CTU’s leaders will stop playing the fool and take steps to regain the trust of parents and the community so we can all work together to solve the very real problems of education in our state.