During lunch yesterday, I scrambled to the internet for the latest news about the Chicago teacher strike. One quote that came up in many different articles was this from Rahm Emanuel:
As some 29,000 teachers declared their first Chicago strike in 25 years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the move “unnecessary” and “a strike by choice.”
“It’s avoidable,” Emanuel said, “and our kids do not deserve this.”
Sadly, I think Rahm totally believes what he says. Both he and Karen Lewis have said that the parties are pretty much in agreement on compensation. For people like Rahm, as well as the general public, that is the entire issue. Neither he nor many others can wrap their minds around why the Chicago teachers are striking.
If this strike was about compensation, the CTU would have been hiding behind the arbitrator who said CTU teachers should get a 39% raise. That is not what they are doing. Unfortunately, Rahm and many others have a tin ear to the very real and important things at stake in this strike, things that have nothing to do with teacher salary and everything to do with education.
This article goes a part of the way in explaining what those issues are:
In Chicago, last-minute contract talks broke down not over pay, but over the reform agenda, both sides said Sunday. The union would not agree to Emanuel’s proposal that teacher evaluations be based in large measure on student test scores.
Nor would the union accept his push to give principals more autonomy over hiring, weakening the seniority system that has long protected veteran teachers. Already, the demographics of the teaching profession in Chicago have notably shifted, as the private managers who run charter schools tend to favor rookie teachers who are younger and far less likely to be minorities, studies have shown.
This is the same type of evaluation system that our union here in NY foisted upon us with no controversy. As for seniority, our union in NY gave us the ATR crisis.
Money is not the issue in this strike. Hopefully, this is will be an opportunity for the CTU to educate the public in what has been happening to public schools over the past 20 years.
Rahm, for his part, does not speak this language. He is from the world of power politics and billionaires. If it is not about money and power, he is out of his element. This is why in every interview he has been giving, he looks like a deer in the headlights. He literally cannot understand all the fuss about evaluations based upon standardized exams and teachers being treated as professionals. This is why he feels as if this is a “strike of choice” and why some others have said that Karen Lewis called this strike because she has a personal axe to grind against Rahm.
Unfortunately, the union in NYC and other major school districts already sold out their teachers on the evaluation front. How do you think Mulgrew and the rest feel seeing Chicago teachers striking against the very things to which they not only agreed, but sold to us as the greatest thing to happen to teaching? Does this have something to do with their lack of action regarding the CTU? They have not encouraged teachers in NYC to help or show solidarity in any way.
As a matter of fact, while the CTU was preparing to strike, Mulgrew and Bloomberg were walking together at the Labor Day parade. Was this the way the UFT was telling Bloomberg, as well as the rest of the city, “don’t worry, we’re not like those troublemakers in Chicago.”?
There are many teachers in NYC who wish we were like those troublemakers in Chicago. We hope positive winds of change blow from the Midwest, but it will take a change in UFT leadership to make currency of that here.