The strike of Chicago Public School Teachers has entered its second day. The Tribune is offering ongoing coverage, e.g. here, as is the Sun-Times. I found the Trib’s coverage less sympathetic to the teachers.
The remainder of this post will be a more-or-less disjointed collection of impressions.,
To be honest after 24 hours I’m becoming somewhat more sympathetic with the teachers. The frequently-repeated assertion that the strike was not about wages, for example. There’s quite a collection of other explanations for the strike:
Class sizes are too large, not enough social workers, not enough nurses, not enough counselors, not enough speech therapists, not enough computers, no new language-arts teachers to staff the longer school day.
Take a breath. No air conditioning, no place for students to play during recess, nobody to supervise recess, textbooks ordered and delivered too late, not enough music and art teachers, no respect.
And oh, yes, every now and then if prompted, I’d run across a teacher who would mention one of the two items that Mayor Rahm Emanuel contends are the only real issues left on the bargaining table: teacher evaluations and procedures for rehiring laid-off teachers.
I’m wary of strikes for pay, especially when those striking are already well-compensated. However, I think that striking for working conditions is just and reasonable.
I understand that teacher evaluations is a hot button. Administrators want complete discretion and so do teachers. There’s no way to square that circle. Some process must be developed that’s not completely subjective but that doesn’t over-emphasize test scores. I recognize that it’s learning that’s important rather than test scores and that emphasizing test scores over all else inevitably motivates teachers to teach the test rather than encouraging learning. I just wish that the CTU were more proactive on the issue of evaluations than they apparently have been.
I’m getting the distinct impression that the real reasons for the strike are, of all things, interpersonal problems between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union. From the Trib article:
The strike on Emanuel’s watch cuts against the narrative the mayor is trying to craft as a leader who’s a problem solver moving the city forward. Emanuel’s aggressive posture in pushing for a longer school day and year, while also cutting the pay raise teachers were supposed to get last year, galvanized the union.
It may be that Emanuel’s coarse language and brusque demeanor has alienated people unnecessarily.
The strike has compelled Mayor Emanuel to suspend his fund-raising activities on behalf of the Obama re-election campaign. That recalls to mind the questions I raised when he ran for mayor. Rahm Emanuel was co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign. He resigned that post to undertake fund-raising activities for a SuperPAC. He took a day off in the middle of negotiations with the union so that he could attend the Democratic National Convention, something I honestly cannot imagine Mayor Daley having done.
I wonder if he has time to be mayor. It’s not just a full-time job. It’s a more than full-time job.