Via the Washington Post: as of June 11, 2012, ninety percent of the 26,000-plus teachers in the city of Chicago voted to strike if contract negotiations with the city fall apart. At issue are longer school days minus any corresponding increases in pay, and other disputes over class size, restoration of school libraries, art and music classes, and an end to chronic underfunding. A four percent pay raise was rescinded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the name of budget cuts.
A fact-finding report from a neutral party is expected in July. The teacher vote now would simply authorize a fall strike if no satisfactory agreement can be made. (These discussions are occurring even as I blog this.)
What the Washington Post story neglects to mention is that the backdrop to parent and teacher unrest is, among other things, the damaging and destabilizing closure of seven schools and “turnaround” planned for ten more. In February of 2012, parents and teachers demonstrated their anger at the Chicago School Board’s decision.
A large number, if not all, of the schools scheduled for closure will re-open and become charter schools. The appointed Chicago Public School Board decided this at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s behest. Community input into the decision was ignored or not solicited, as evidenced by community members and teachers who pointed out that new students pushed into a different school inevitably experience rejection from and get into fights with the students already attending the school. Furthermore, crossing gang boundaries will have unanticipated and again, possibly violent results:
[Chicago teacher's union leader Karen] Lewis said she fears when students from the shuttered schools have to go to the other neighborhood schools, gang violence will go up.
“Their unanimous vote will force hundreds of kids to cross dangerous gang boundaries in order to get to school,” Lewis said.
She adds that violence has historically spiked at the receiving schools when schools are closed.
Moreover, what was the democratic process that decided that charter schools are the only solution to a struggling school? There doesn’t appear to have been one.
In May, 2012, Chicago teachers rallied against the Mayor’s proposed longer school day without corresponding increases in staffing or pay.
(More electrifying photos of the May 23, 2012 rally here, which was the source of the video above as well.)
Retired teacher and Chicagoan Fred Klonsky reminds his readers that the attempts to raise strike authorization thresholds by state legislatures is one stealth method used to hobble unions. Previously, astroturf group Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman openly boasted about subverting union leverage by helping pass a Chicago city law that raises teachers’ authorization votes on strikes to 75% of all eligible teachers or higher. Nevertheless, in a demonstration of resolve, Chicago teachers have far surpassed the increased threshold – especially so in the wake of the defeat for teachers’ unions that was supposedly represented by next-door neighbor Wisconsin Governor Walker’s survival of a recall vote.
Chicago teachers are unbowed; now Chicago parents are standing up to organize and reclaim the Chicago Public Schools Board as an elected — not appointed — body.
As Diane Ravitch has noted from a reader’s lengthy comment on her blog highlighting the Chicago Public Schools story, it may be that Mayor Emanuel is the one who’s facing a vote of no confidence.