Just when you thought the situation in Chicago couldn’t get any more dire, the seemingly unimaginable happens. As of today, all unionized non-charter school teachers in the city have vacated their posts and gone on strike.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly blasted the strike announcement Sunday as “a strike of choice.” He repeatedly declared: “My team is available now.”
The first pickets appeared outside Chicago Public School headquarters at 125 S. Clark early Monday, and more were expected outside schools throughout the city.
“Negotiations have been intense but productive, however we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said at a dramatic 10 p.m. Sunday press conference. “Real school will not be open [Monday]. … No CTU member will be inside our schools.
“Please seek alternative care for your children.”
…Key disputed issues in the talks were teacher cost of living raises, additional pay for experience, job security in the face of annual school closures and staff shakeups, and a new teacher evaluation process that ties teacher ratings in part to student test score growth. [Sun-Times]
This is just all bad. The most important problem here is that now Chicago kids, shooting each other in droves, now have free reign for who knows how long to continue the cycle of violence. While the thought of a teacher’s strike is sad to see, there literally can’t be a worst place or time for teachers to leave their classrooms.
While I’m sure the teachers have legitimate gripes – protection from getting laid off if a school closes and more subjective ways to hold teachers accountable for student performance – it’s almost unfathomable to think that there couldn’t be at least a temporary solution to keep teachers in classrooms and kids off the street. While the rights they’re pushing for are landmarks for teacher rights and ways to reach kids, I hate that it’s taken a strike for Rahm and co. to hear their pleas.
People have been calling for Obama to do something for his hometown not understanding that his responsibilities are much greater than one city. However, at what point will Chicago’s disarray start to impact Obama’s campaign? Sooner or later Republicans are going to start pointing to the Windy City as an example of Obama leaving something in worse shape. Maybe that will be enough motivation to make him shift his focus to help out Chicago.
In the short term, though, I just pray this issue gets resolved as quickly as possible.