Inflection points

I hope to have something of considerable substance up about the Chicago teachers’ union strike up in the next three days, specifically looking at the empirical evidence concerning teachers’ unions, student demographics, and academic performance. (For example: complaining about the high school dropout rates at Chicago Public Schools without mentioning that 90% of Chicago’s public school students are eligible for subsidized lunch is unhelpful at best, dishonest at worst.) But I wanted to take a minute and say, simply: this is where the rubber meets the road. I think you should pay very close attention to this strike and how the usual suspects talk about it. The issues at hand here are very basic and vastly important, for the future of the left. I know that people tire of the meta discussions, but I think that it’s always important to define what we believe and who we stand with. These questions are existential in the broadest sense.

It doesn’t take a wild guess to know that I stand with the picketing teachers. It also probably won’t surprise you to know that rising neoliberal wunderkind Dylan Matthews, writing to his patron’s large readership, has come out on the other side. People are going to take sides and those sides will tell you everything– about their grasp on empiricism and social science, their respect for working people and labor, and whether they are willing to extend American abundance to public employees.

Do you think that teaching should be a high-status position that carries with it a decent wage and the chance for meaningful pay raises? Or do you want to continue the relentless assault on the profession? That is the essential question at stake here.

Update: Corey Robin is essential here.






61 replies
  1. 1
    Spiffy McBang says:

    How do you figure Matthews is against the teachers? The article says strikes result in worse test scores for kids. It doesn’t make any claim about whether the strikes are justified, or that the teachers should suck up whatever the authorities want to do to them in the name of the children. If strikes hurt learning, that’s a problem everyone has to grasp, not just the teachers.

  2. 2
    Scamp Dog says:

    and whether they are willing to extend American abundance to public employees.

    What American abundance? Yes, yes, I know there are some so-called “facts” about this being a wealthy country, but who actually believes that at a gut level? Most conservatives will bluster on about how this is the most powerful, wealthiest, most moral, all good things and no bad things country in the world, but when it comes time to make decisions, it’s “we don’t have the money”, “we can’t”, etc, etc. Most everyone else has bought into that nonsense too. Only a DFH would think that there’s enough to go around and we should help each other out.

  3. 3
    danah gaz says:

    I have always been, and always will be with the teachers on this.

    I have always been, and always will be for increasing the salaries of teachers to a level commensurate with the value they bring to society (watch out, NFL players, Hollywood actors, etc!)

    I have always been, and always will be for every single property tax levy that supports local schools – on principle if nothing else – because I’ve seen what a school can be when the whole community feels the same way.

    My position will not change until the teachers have everything they could ever need and the military has to hold a bake sale to buy another drone.

  4. 4
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Dunno why nobody’s posting here, but I too stand with the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

    A line needs to be drawn in the sand. HERE AND NO FARTHER! Stop the rampant destruction of public education, the vilification of unions and the shafting of public employees who traded wages for benefits and are now being denied both.

    Those teachers walking out are giving a lesson that will not be soon forgotten.

    And FUCK Rahmbo.

  5. 5
    NobodySpecial says:

    in b4 “Rahm is more important and useful than the CTU”.

  6. 6
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Spiffy McBang: Just asking questions troll, if a strike caused no harm to anyone, it wouldn’t be a strike.

    Of course public employees face the charge of harming those they pledged to serve when they go on strike.

    But massive harm is already being done.

    Were the students in districts busted out by performance-pay, vouchers, high-stakes testing and the rest of the baker’s dozen of tactics to defund and destroy public education not harmed?

    At best, these kids are receiving an object lesson in fighting for what you believe in. Whether it is a positive or negative lesson is up to us.

  7. 7
    Corey says:

    Is it possible for you to write a post without making it all about your personal baggage (i.e. anger over people on the internet being more popular than you?)

  8. 8
    Ruckus says:

    I also stand for the teachers but I see both sides here. The system seems to me to be broken, but I don’t see that as being the teachers fault, even though they seem to get all the blame. What about the administration side of education? Is that bloated and in need of re-thinking? How about the way we fund education, does that need to be addressed? How about maybe making real broad based education a priority, not just minimal level test taking. How about what do we do with those educations once we leave the learning institutions?

    The real problem I see is this country can not seem to have a real discussion of any basic problems(of which there are always many), they all become shouting matches based on how much anything costs and how to make it cost less, never how to make it better.

  9. 9
    Loneoak says:

    I’m really starting to hate the term ‘student achievement.’ What about ‘learning’? I suspect, but have no particular evidence, that it is a corporate-speak way of attaching quantification to everything at a school.

  10. 10
    The Moar You Know says:

    My wife’s a high school teacher. She is not surprised that it’s Rahm leading the union-busting here. Back in 2008 during the primaries she had grave reservations about Obama’s education policies, reservations that have turned out, sadly, to be largely correct. She voted for him in the primaries anyway, regrets that, but does not regret his victory over McCain.

    What has floored me, just seriously blown me away, is how despised teachers are in this country. I never really paid much attention before we got married, but damn, when you’re married to one you hear people saying just the most hateful shit about teachers ALL THE TIME and nobody but nobody sticks up for them. I understand it from Republicans – the teacher’s unions are really the last bastion of serious, large scale organized labor left in the country – but I hear it from liberals far more often, as I tend not to hang with too many conservatives, or read their bullshit drivel – at least outside of work.

    (work is me, one independent, and otherwise 100% Republican)

  11. 11

    The assault on the rights, priveleges, and compensation of public school teachers under the guise of reform is abhorrent.

    Nonetheless, your attack on Matthews is unfounded. He is summarizing social science research on a narrow point which he specifically disclaims is only one of a host of difficult questions in this issue. It is, in fact, perfectly consistent to believe that a teacher’s strike is worth supporting even if it does harm student test scores.

  12. 12
    Greg says:

    From what I’ve seen, the positions of both sides are reasonable. No one is trying to bust the union or strip collective bargaining rights from teachers. Both sides are obviously playing hardball, but that’s sometimes how collective bargaining goes.

    Let ’em work it out.

  13. 13
    dcdl says:

    I would like to see other way to fund schools other than property taxes and various other taxes like lottery taxes. They start out going for schools than a little bit here and there gets taken out for other stuff like prisons. Before you know it not much is going to schools.

    Also, less tests. My kids teachers say all they do is test. District tests, state tests, national tests. Last year my kids had about 6 tests which take up a whole day or more each. This year at my children’s school they have consolidated one of the grades which basically had two full classes and a half class into two full classes. Each class has just under 40 students now. They did this so the ‘extra’ teacher can work with the children who did not meet the standards last year on state tests.

    The school my children goes to is one of the better ones in the district.

    I’m completely behind the teachers. People need to wake up and start paying for what they want. You don’t get anything for free.

    People also need to take an interest in their school instead of taking out their children and putting them in a charter school which takes money out of the public school. Or homeschooling since some parents think they can do a better job.

    Probably the best thing for some areas is a living minimum wage and better jobs. Of course, with America the size and diversity it is there is no one size fits all either.

  14. 14
    Shinobi says:

    I’ve seen a surprising number of people who are normally pro union coming out against the teachers on this. I think they are really losing the information war. Some people apparently think things are hunky dorey at Chicago Public Schools, but if that were the case people wouldn’t be trying to get their unborn children into private and charter schools. (I want to be clear that I am NOT exaggerating. I know of at least 2 people who were on waiting lists after the kid was gestating for 3 months. )

    I think what I find fundamentally dishonest about CPS’s approach is this. They don’t want to pay teachers much more, but they want to increase teacher quality standards. They want the best teachers, but they don’t want to pay for them, and in the real world that’s not how it works. IF you want top talent you pay for top talent.

    Considering how little even a top CPS teacher is paid it is clear that the bloat is on the operational/administrative side.

  15. 15
    Shinobi says:

    I’ve seen a surprising number of people who are normally pro union coming out against the teachers on this. I think they are really losing the information war. Some people apparently think things are hunky dorey at Chicago Public Schools, but if that were the case people wouldn’t be trying to get their unborn children into private and charter schools. (I want to be clear that I am NOT exaggerating. I know of at least 2 people who were on waiting lists after the kid was gestating for 3 months. )

    I think what I find fundamentally dishonest about CPS’s approach is this. They don’t want to pay teachers much more, but they want to increase teacher quality standards. They want the best teachers, but they don’t want to pay for them, and in the real world that’s not how it works. IF you want top talent you pay for top talent.

    Considering how little even a top CPS teacher is paid it is clear that the bloat is on the operational/administrative side.

  16. 16
    Darkrose says:

    I’ll always side with the Chicago Teachers’ Union. If I don’t, then the ghosts of my mother (35 years) and grandmother (??? a long time) will come back to haunt me.

    Yes, strikes hurt everyone–including the teachers and their families, which people tend to forget. Striking is a strategy of last resort.

  17. 17
    Sullivan Hyde says:

    @The Moar You Know: Alright, I gotta cop to this. And I 100% support the teacher’s union here.

    But I generally feel like 80% of my public school experience was about busywork and asserting authority rather than education, and a nontrivial minority of teachers I had were total dicks.

    That’s neither here nor there on the issue of fair wages and working conditions – I understand that. But a lot of people are carrying around the same resentments, or worse; and they don’t necessarily see the same nuance I do.

  18. 18
    negative 1 says:

    @dcdl: I am admittedly biased because I work for a teachers’ union (though not in Illinois), but I don’t think people quite get what the Michelle Rhee model has quite done. The state tests as a metric are out of f*&king control, to put it mildly. They actually changed education in order to further several people’s careers. That’s it – they are not intended to teach students anything. So time in the classroom spent on these tests is time not spent on education so that Michelle Rhee and others like her can look “bold” by doing the one thing Rethugs like them for – bashing unions.
    Standing with the teachers has implications because they are eviscerated by the right (for being in unions that support dems, let no one tell you otherwise) and then rather than support them, democrats are now joining in. This is the worst of the “third way” democratic movement. Supporting teachers in this is a good way to express anger at the move to the center we find the democratic party engaged in, without ending up with President Romney as a result. Remind everyone that Democrats support the working class — stand with the teachers.

  19. 19
  20. 20
  21. 21
    Linnaeus says:

    @Shinobi:

    IF you want top talent you pay for top talent.

    It’s funny how this principle is applied to every job except teachers and others in public service professions.

  22. 22
    Marc says:

    It would be nice if we could have some actual information about the issues at hand. I’m not terribly interested in just striking a union-always-right or union-always-wrong pose, and I don’t know enough about the particulars here to know where on the spectrum I’d end up with given an informed opinion.

    For example, how much money is involved; how much is available; and how important are the non-financial issues?

  23. 23
    red dog says:

    In my old fashioned view it seems good teachers want the rural and suburban jobs because of class disruption and safety so they spend less time on disruptive students. Spend a half day in each in and urban and rural class. The difference will amaze you. Consequently, teachers not selected for the easy jobs end up in the cities where their shortcomings become more glaring. I know, I know there are many exceptions and the children are the losers.

  24. 24
    kasnarski says:

    Read somewhere that Chicago Teacher’s annual salary is $79,000.

    They wanted a 17% raise this year and a 2-3% raise per year.

  25. 25
    kasnarski says:

    and why am i always in moderation?!?!?

  26. 26
    Greg says:

    @Marc: Here’s a rundown of the issues from CNN:

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012.....?hpt=hp_t1

  27. 27
    Irony Abounds says:

    My wife is a teacher and I am generally sympathetic to the teachers’ cause. With that said, it is not anti-teacher to say this a PR nightmare for the teachers. You have what virtually everyone admits is a lousy school system, teachers, who, unlike a great number of Illinois residents, at least have jobs and getting to keep them with increased pay (although it is at best a push given the extra hours) and kids who will suffer because of the strike. Add in the budget woes of the district, those of Illinois generally, and a general distaste in the public for public workers and it just adds up to a situation that is no win for the teachers. May not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

  28. 28
    Marc says:

    @Greg:

    Thanks. It looks that the teacher evaluation system is the tough nut to crack. I don’t like firing teachers based on standardized test scores, although this would depend somewhat on what threshold they picked (e.g. if you were the teacher with the largest score drop in the city you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re in the bottom third, that could easily be random chance.) I can certainly see why the teachers would view this as a strike issue and I sympathize with them.

    I also suspect that this will be an absolute PR disaster for the teachers union (as per #27 above.)

  29. 29
    A moocher says:

    @Corey: say what? who exactly are you calling out here, and on what textual basis?

  30. 30
    A moocher says:

    @Corey: say what? who exactly are you calling out here, and on what textual basis?

  31. 31
    Linnaeus says:

    @Marc:

    I also suspect that this will be an absolute PR disaster for the teachers union (as per #27 above.)

    I’m worried about this myself (it’s always an issue when public service workers strike), but I’m not in Chicago and don’t really know what the response of the community is (and that response might still be in flux). I’ve heard that CTU has new leadership that’s been doing a lot of grassroots work, which if true would help the PR situation.

  32. 32
    The Moar You Know says:

    Read somewhere that Chicago Teacher’s annual salary is $79,000.

    @kasnarski: Citation, please. That strikes me as high. But…

    Even if true, does that strike you as being too much for a job that requires a Master’s degree, 70-80 hour workweeks, and ongoing training requirements that have to be met during your six weeks of summer vacation every year?

    If those were my working conditions – and they are my wife’s working conditions, bless her – I’d quit on the spot.

  33. 33
    Kerry Reid says:

    What I don’t think has been mentioned here yet is that a new state law in Illinois makes it illegal to strike for any reason EXCEPT compensation packages. So all the other issues — physical conditions of the schools, classroom sizes, lack of support staff in the form of social workers, etc. – cannot be addressed UNLESS there is also a compensation aspect. Perhaps unfortunately, that makes it seem like those Damn Greedy-Guts Teachers Are Hurting The CHILDREN!!! again.

    See here for more.

  34. 34
    Shinobi says:

    @kasnarski: Something like 7% of that goes to their pension, and I”m sure some of it goes towards their health care costs. An important point to make though is that most teachers at CPS and in IL I think are required to have a Master’s degree (The 4 teachers I know here all do.) If you have a PHD and have been teaching for 20 years you can make the max, 88k.

    We’re talking about highly trained professionals with advanced degrees and years of experience working 50+ hour weeks. Plus, Chicago is an expensive city to live in, not as expensive as NY.

  35. 35
    BGinCHI says:

    @kasnarski: Because you sound like a fucking idiot, probably.

    Those figures are ridiculous.

    Average salary is in the 50s. Teachers are being asked to increase the school day 20%. The reported offer is somewhere around 4% for 4 years.

    I teach future teachers here in Chicago. Trust me, folks, CPS teachers are not overpaid and they do not have easy jobs. There are scarce resources for what they do and all the ones I know are hard-working and care deeply about their students. If the administration wanted to make improvements they would do it by working with teachers.

    If you think the best advocates for education are politicians and not teachers you are fucked in the head. Or, simply, you don’t know what you are talking about. You have to be in this game to see what it’s like.

  36. 36
    The Moar You Know says:

    I don’t think people quite get what the Michelle Rhee model has quite done.

    @negative 1: Pardon me for a moment while I lose my shit…

    That vile bitch should be executed.

    Ahem. Sorry. Michelle Rhee does that to me.

  37. 37
    The Moar You Know says:

    I”m sure some of it goes towards their health care costs.

    @Shinobi: Teachers have to pay their entire health care premiums out of pocket, districts aren’t allowed to subsidize it.

    Also, another data point on how shitty teachers have it – they have to pay, but do not get, Social Security.

  38. 38
    BGinCHI says:

    @Irony Abounds: God this is a stupid post. Seriously? So because it’s inconvenient teachers should roll over no matter what’s being proposed? Do you think it’s just about wages?

    You have what virtually everyone admits is a lousy school system, teachers, who, unlike a great number of Illinois residents, at least have jobs and getting to keep them with increased pay (although it is at best a push given the extra hours) and kids who will suffer because of the strike.

    This takes the cake for stupidity today I hope. Please, someone try to beat this.

    WHY is it a “lousy school system”? It has problems to be sure, but how about the socioeconomic status of students and families? How about lack of resources? Mismanagement? You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.

    And for a society to tank its teachers because other people don’t have jobs? ARE YOU THAT FUCKING STUPID? Are you in the third grade? Why do they get to have jobs but other don’t? We aren’t talking about cake or tennis lessons.

    If a struggling economy harms its basics, like education and services that allow people to help themselves, then it is fucked.

    Your post should be taped to the wall here as a cautionary tale.

  39. 39
    kasnarski says:

    @BGinCHI

    @BGinCHI: don’t insult the messenger, douchebag

    here’s the link, idiot: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/20.....hers-make/

    sorry if i was off a few grand

  40. 40
    Captain C says:

    @The Moar You Know: I’d settle for her being forced to spend the rest of her life teaching under the conditions she would impose on others, preferably with a grandstanding, clueless, test-grade-altering boss such as herself.

    The kids would have to be virtual ones, though. No sense in harming actual children in this exercise.

  41. 41
    Rhoda says:

    I’m going to read up on this later; but from all I’ve heard (which is the spin) this is not playing well for the teachers. I’ve heard they are standing in the way of charter schools, they are against raising standards for evaluation of students (which sounds like they don’t want to be forced to teach more), and they are against the longer days. Meanwhile, they want a pay raise.

    Basically, the message is that they are the problem. They are threatened by charter schools (which it’s implied will do better being a market oriented school that rewards for outcomes).

    The whole thing sounds like bullshit to me; because I’ve been following the posts here at BJ about the for-profit education industry. I will say, I hope it’s playing better in Chicago for the union.

  42. 42
    staci says:

    @Marc: I was just visiting a few of the striking teachers – the Board has offices across the street from my work. Amazingly, of the four I spoke to, not a single one of them was complaining about salary. One teacher said she has 25 special ed students with no aide in the classroom to help out. Another teacher has 40 students in her classroom. They want to have access to school books on the first day of classes with enough books for each student. They want more teachers and aides hired to relieve some of the stress on the current teachers. Each of these things, collectively and individually, should be the things every parent would push for but this is not the arguments being forwarded through the media. Listening to them, one would think it was all about the money.

  43. 43
    Greg says:

    @staci: They already got the concessions on textbooks and some additional hires. The remaining disagreement is over the issues as laid out in the CNN piece I linked to. Here’s the union’s press release:

    “Talks have been productive in many areas. We have successfully won concessions for nursing mothers and have put more than 500 of our members back to work. We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.”

    http://www.ctunet.com/blog/cps.....n-25-years

  44. 44
    Danny says:

    But I wanted to take a minute and say, simply: this is where the rubber meets the road. I think you should pay very close attention to this strike and how the usual suspects talk about it. The issues at hand here are very basic and vastly important, for the future of the left. […] People are going to take sides and those sides will tell you everything

    “R U 4 REALZ LIEK ME OR R U A FUKKEN JUDAS????”

    The heart of a useless, good-for-getting-nothing-done, self styled radical cum emoprogger, laid bare.

    ETA: How about you tell us why it’s so important that we support their right to picket instead of going hunting for mensheviks? Apply yourself.

  45. 45
    Sly says:

    Last year, after the city of Chicago instituted a rule mandating a 75% supermajority was necessary to approve a strike, Jonah Edelman, CEO of Stand For Children, gloated at the Aspen Ideas Festival that it would make it impossible for teachers to go on strike. “The unions cannot strike in Chicago.” He said. “They will never be able to muster the 75% threshold necessary to strike.” Stand For Children pushed heavy for this rule, for the explicit reason that it would make it harder for CTU to negotiate. Edelman reveled in the supreme confidence that he and Stand For Children brilliantly outfoxed CTU: “I can tell you there was a palpable sense of concern, if not shock, on the part of the teachers unions in Illinois… that we had clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down their throats.”

    Then, on June 11th, when the vote was held, 98% of CTU members that voted (roughly 92% turnout) called for a strike. Stand For Children were apoplectic, and suddenly started playing the “Can’t we all just get along” tune.

    Then CTU went on strike.

    So fuck Jonah Edelman.

  46. 46

    @Linnaeus:

    It’s funny how this principle is applied to every job except teachers and others in public service professions.

    I don’t think so. If anything, I’d say that the principle is being applied to fewer and fewer jobs all the time. About the only positions where anyone says we need to pay top money to get top talent are entertainers and corporate executives. For every other job, people demand top talent but try to base their pay scales on industry medians.

  47. 47
    PeakVT says:

    @Ruckus: The system seems to me to be broken, but I don’t see that as being the teachers fault, even though they seem to get all the blame

    I hope you don’t mean the overall public school system model, because it isn’t broken, or failing, or whatever. A subset of schools and systems are “failing” because they have a tremendous amount of poor students that don’t have good support at home, or worse. Programs at school can attempt to mitigate those students’ problems, but the programs will never be enough to overcome them.

  48. 48
    Daulnay says:

    Teachers do a difficult job with little thanks. The institution grinds on them, and forces lots of stupidity on them that gets in the way of their students’ learning. Many parents and teachers think that schools don’t work well, even when teachers try their hardest.

    Administrations treat teachers like interchangeable cogs more than professionals. Teaching has no barriers to entry like those in law, medicine, or engineering. The field still suffers from the remains of the male-dominant world-view that existed 60 years ago when teaching was a ‘woman’s profession’. So teaching has neither good prestige nor good money.

    So, I’m generally sympathetic to teachers… but I’ve seen too many (I have 3 teenage children) who are incompetent, ignorant, or downright vicious. (I think teachers should all be kind, competent, and knowledgeable about the subjects they teach. Who doesn’t?!?)

    Vicious teachers can be removed, but it’s difficult. I fault the teachers’ unions here, because the (understandable) protections they have in place make it very difficult to get rid of mean, cruel teachers. A big part of the problem comes from the administration/teacher dynamic, which puts them in opposition. Both parties have a strong interest in getting cruel teachers kicked out, but the adversarial dynamic provides for a very slow system.

    Teachers who can’t do arithmetic or don’t know proper grammar and spelling are unfortunately common even in ‘good’ school districts. Of course, students have a lot of trouble respecting a teacher who makes mistakes and doesn’t seem to know their subject. That leads to discipline problems, as well as students feeling that their time is being wasted (which it is in the really egregious cases.)

    We need better teachers. But that won’t happen until we change the way schools administer the teachers. They must get good pay, and face expectations and treatment (from the administration) that we give professionals like lawyers. For this, we need to abandon the corporate hierarchy model that most schools use, and replace it with something more like partnership/medical practice. We also need to insist on knowledge and competence, through something like a bar exam. You cannot teach what you do not know, so at the least teachers must have mastered their subject area. New teachers should be mentored by the most competent, experienced teachers, rather than being thrown into the water and left to swim or sink.

    Finally, the ‘factory’ model should be ditched. Children progress at different speeds and have different abilities in each subject. Their education should be much more tailored to them than it currently is. We gather great amounts of information about what each child knows, through testing, and none of it gets used to tailor the teaching. What a waste!!!

  49. 49
    Ruckus says:

    @PeakVT:
    Maybe I should have been clearer.

    The system I was referring to is not just the schools, it is that we, as a country, say that education is only important to those who can afford it. It is the same with healthcare. No, it is not the fault of the teachers. It is not the fault of most of the school systems. It is our fault for looking for the simple, cheap answers without looking for the causes and trying to fix those. NCLB is an example of looking for answers without looking at the causes.
    Our byzantine system of taxation (utility taxes and fees, sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, capital gains taxes, medicare, ss and many more), each one with loopholes and exemptions does not help except to hide how much we really pay, who pays how much and to hide what those moneys pay for.

    The bottom line here is no one is to blame and everyone is to blame. Teachers should make an honest living. So should ditch diggers and doctors and so on. But life isn’t fair. That doesn’t mean we have to look for ways to make it less fair.
    And no, that was my point, the public school system can work great. What is missing is all the adult conversations we need to have as a nation because so many of our problems are interrelated.

  50. 50
    gelfling545 says:

    @The Moar You Know: I will vote cheerfully for the President and support him in every way I can, as will many of the teachers I know (and there are a lot) but his education policies are god-awful and he seems very limited and closed-minded in this area (as compared to other areas)and “race to the top” has been awful for our schools locally. He really needs better advisers in this area.

  51. 51
    Spectre says:

    Unsurprisingly, it’s an Obama democrat that is carrying out the union busting here. Good for the workers for fighting back, and good for progressives to call this out.

    The “value added metrics” are just a big scam. It’s meant to distract people from problems of wealth disparity, and (since it’s so unreliably random) it can be used as a tool to fire off veteran teachers, and thus avoid paying their salaries. It also ruins learning by making the teachers teach to the test, rather than to overall learning.

    Solidarity with the teachers! They’re fighting for their own rights, AND better education for the students.

  52. 52
    jhe says:

    We switched our kids from a Catholic school to a CPS magnet. Man, were we pleasantly surprised. The teachers are well-trained, hard-working and very caring. I talked to my right-wing neighbor who switched his kids from a different Catholic school to the neighborhood school and he had the same reaction. His comment was “I’m not used to getting a response to a text message at 7:00 PM from my kid’s teacher.”

    There were some crappy / crazy teachers at the school. Two were in non-core subjects where the couldn’t do much damage (and just retired). The other got canned after the last school year.

    Basically, over the last 40 years we’ve cut the school day and increased the class sizes so the teacher-hours/student went down. At the same time the number of kids with a stay-at-home parent has gone down dramatically (don’t have the numbers but I don’t think that’s that controversial an assertion). As a consequence, the parents aren’t there (as much – parents I know are coming home and then helping with homework) to make it up if the kid doesn’t pick it up in school. So what’s the root cause? Must be the teachers. Especially the UNION ones. Must be.

    I’ll add this. Every time the stock market went up over the last 30 years, the state governments (usually under Republicans) said “Hey, look how well-funded the pension funds are. We should cut taxes.” Now with the market down we’re trying to figure out how to renege on the pension deal we made with teachers. Apparently some contracts are different from others.

  53. 53
    Victor says:

    In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emmauel’s idea of leadership is to attack teachers instead of gangs, murder rates or poverty. Heck of job Rahm, heck of a job.

    As a Civics teacher for Chicago Public Schools, I find that the strike shows me that Rahm Emmanuel has terrible leadership skills. Imagine if I told a room full of people that I will be flying everyone to Paris for dinner. Everyone cheers and when we arrive at the airport counter it turns out the airline won’t give us free tickets. I then confess that I have no money and instead they will have to pay out of their own pockets. How do you think they would feel?

    I don’t know anyone who is against a longer school day. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want better technology or more resources. The list of things that could be improved in Chicago’s schools is a long one. I think Rahm wants to be the guy who gave Chicago a longer school day, but he will be remembered as the guy who had ideas he refused to pay for.

    When a politician wants to build a bridge or new tunnel, he doesn’t ask the construction workers to pay for it. That’s not leadership.

    True story. I was the first high school history teacher in Chicago to achieve National Board Certification. The highest level of certification in the state. You are issued a master teacher certificate when you achieve this status. When I bought my home as a CPS teacher with National Board Certification, I qualified for a low income loan.

    Think of that. A National Board Certified Teacher in Chicago qualified for a low income loan. Instead of being ashamed that such a thing could happen in Chicago, Rahm’s leadership has taken us to our first strike in 25 years.

    Today while I walked the picket line, I did some research. The last time I got a raise was in the fall of 2010. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency in 2010 the average price of a gallon of gas in Chicago was $2.978. Today it is $4.40 at most gas stations in the city, a 48% increase.

    We have all seen the charts showing how middle class incomes have lost purchasing power over the last 30 years.

    Somehow I imagined I lived in a world where it seemed reasonable and proper that someone with a Master’s degree and National Board Certification was a member of the middle class. But not in Rahm Emmanuel’s Chicago. While he continues to push for more privatization and doling out millions of dollars in deals and tax breaks to the richest amongst us, teachers and the children of Chicago get the back of his hand.

    So today I spent hours on the phone calling community organizations asking them to meet us tomorrow in front of as many schools as they could find volunteers for and set up voter registration tables. That should put the fear of the lord in our mayor. Imagine that visual on the local news, citizens registering to vote during a teacher’s strike. I challenge our news organizations to put that image on their stations.

    The decline of the middle class in Chicago ends today. The deprivation of resources for the children of Chicago that are so desperately needed stops today.

    It ends this week or next week or however long it takes to resolve this strike. Because after our strike, there will be lots of contracts that need to be resolved, and it is my hope that the teachers of Chicago will have shown to not just other unions but to everyone that the decline of the middle class in Chicago ends today.

    Victor H
    NBCT – Chicago Public Schools

  54. 54
    nicole says:

    @kasnarski:

    not true.

    Read this {which FDB actually linked to)by Corey Robin.

  55. 55
    Ruckus says:

    @jhe:
    Apparently some contracts are different from others.

    Not really. It depends on who has the most lawyers and how long can they pay them, not what the contract says. That hasn’t changed.

  56. 56
    Irony Abounds says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Hey asshole, I hope to hell you aren’t in charge of PR for the teachers. Did I say it was a lousy school district because of the teachers? No, I understand there is a myriad of reasons why the school district has problems. I will even concede for the sake of argument that the teachers are likely one of the least reasons for the problems. While all that may be true, the point remains that the teachers are not going to come out of this looking good. Yes, it’s unfortunate that they are viewed as being greedy, lazy and whatever other slurs can be tossed around, but face facts buddy, when economic times are hard, teachers with average salaries of $75K (per the district), are not going to generate sympathy from the vast number of other people struggling to get by on less than they had a few years ago. I’m sorry that’s the reality, but your mindless name-calling isn’t going to change it one wit.

    Of course, it also goes without saying that obnoxious supporters like you also don’t help the teachers’ cause.

  57. 57
    Ohio Mom says:

    There are some beautiful photos of the rally held the first day of the teachers’ strike — 30,000 were there — at this site: http://preaprez.wordpress.com/ It’s the blog of a retired Chicago teacher and if you have the time to go through his posts, lots of good background on the strike.

    This strike didn’t come out of nowhere, they’ve been negotiating and holding rallies for a while now. The issues are MUCH bigger than pay & benefits: one teacher writes he’s striking because he wants the holes in his school’s roof fixed so his kids don’t get dripped on when it rains.

    But most importantly, this strike is the Rubicon of the movement to dismantle public education. It is as important as Occupy or Wisconsin.

  58. 58
    desen says:

    I hope the teachers get a good deal, but I don’t like that people are throwing around “union busting.” Negotiating with (or against) a union is not the same as union busting. Refusing to comply with every union request is not union busting. When we overuse terms like this, they lose their potency.

  59. 59

    If you want teachers to be “high status”- then folks THESE teachers are not going to be teaching.

    The status is ALREADY determined. You really want to have teaching be high status, then the high status folks who currently don’t teach, have to come in and teach. Period the end.

    What you don’t like is society saying that THESE TEACHERS, these actual human beings are not as high status as they are trying to assert they can be as a group.

    To bad, so sad.

    Status is a HELFUL discussion because it makes clear you can change which jobs are valued, but you will NOT change will humans are valued. The winners win, whichever job you say is going to matter.

    These teachers are not life’s winners.

    Such is life.

    This woman will never be high status and she’s mad about it:

    youtu.be/A1YXOSaMZzs

  60. 60
    e.a.f. says:

    teachers are one of the most important professions in a country. they themselves need to be well educated & paid. If teachers are not well paid how will the public school system attracted the best & brightest. or perhaps politicians don’t want the best & brightest teaching in public schools.

    I was quite surprized to see on the news there was a teachers’ strike in Chigico. I don’t know what they make but in Canada a teacher with a Bachelor of Education (4/5 yrs, university) & about 5 yrs seniority makes about $70K or more. Pay for teachers is comparable to police officers, fire fighters, registered nurses, etc.

    Teachers negotiate class size. Aides are provided for special needs children.

    If we do not provide children with the best education possible they will not grow up to fullfill their potential & neither will the country.

    It isn’t that there isn’t enough money to educate children in the public school system, its that politicians & others do not wish to put money into the public school system to educate children. It doesn’t appear that politicans want to ensure schools are in good condition or that children have adequate tools to learn or teachers to teach.

    Try to remember if children aren’t well treated when they are young, they can grow up to be very unhappy teenagers & unhappy teenagers & young adults do not bode well for any country.

  61. 61
    penpen says:

    Freddie, out of curiosity, do you still intend not to vote for Obama this fall?

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