Update: The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract which would allow classes to resume on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
It’s a testament to how peaceful labor relations have been in our schools that the Chicago Teachers Union strike has been front-page and prime-time news since Monday. A national Rorschach test on education: Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Mother Jones weighed in. Like the guillotine, the strike focused the national mind.
The strike could be over soon—and many commentators predicted as much—but no matter when it ends, it offers us a chance to take the nation’s pulse. And the following is a quick roundup of opinion from a few of our notable educators, pundits, and editorial writers; much of it quite good.
First stop, of course, should be the Flypaper’s comprehensive list of stories, put together by a crackerjack team—Joe Portnoy, Pamela Tatz, and Ty Eberhardt. (As a former newsdesk guy, I can feel their pain—worth it, though, as the site proves.) And, of course, one of the best leads comes from our own Mike Petrilli:
I had a reporter ask me this week if I could remember a teachers’ strike as “confusing” as the one in Chicago; it was so hard, she explained, even to know over which issues the teachers were striking.
That’s not an accident. The local and national unions surely realized, after an
Guest blogger Tom English is husband of a teacher, father of two, sacristan, and freelance writer. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
In a September 5, 2012, issue of the Portland [Oregon] Tribune an article titled “Schools beat the drum for equity” is nominally about equity in education but could just as easily be a story about the racial inequities of peanut-butter sandwiches and noontime drum classes for black and Latino boys.
Peanut-butter sandwiches are racist, the story explains, because not all cultures have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their food pyramid; specifically, the Somali and Hispanic cultures. The noontime drum classes are racist because they are targeted to black and Latino boys even though the principal says no one has been turned away, irate parents’ comments to the contrary.
The principal of Harvey Scott K-8 School in Portland is the real focus of the article. Verenice Guiterrez is working hard to make sure that there is equity in education in her school and to improve education for students of color. She is doing so by following the guidelines of the Portland Public Schools, specifically of a program designed by consultant Glenn Singleton to eliminate racial educational disparity in schools.
How is this change going to happen? Teachers are spending a great deal of time attending training and meetings to become proficient in Courageous Conversations and Educational Equity. These sessions are designed to make teachers aware of racial inequities and the pervasive
The teachers say they want more job protection and more money. The school-board president said there’s “only so much money.” The mayor says the teachers should have stayed at the bargaining table. And parents of Chicago public school students are left holding the bag. After weeks of negotiations, last night the Chicago Teachers Union called it quits, its president declaring, according to the Chicago Tribune, "No CTU members will be inside of our schools Monday."
There will be tremendous pressure to resolve this labor dispute quickly.
Some 140 of the district’s schools will remain open from 8:30 to 12:30, but without any of their 25,000 teachers, according to a CPS contingency plan. That leaves more than 500 schools empty in the nation’s third-largest school district (serving over 400,000 students).
According to the Tribune,
- CPS had offered a 16 percent salary increase over four years, but the CTU said it wanted more health care benefits and bigger first-year increase to compensate for longer school days.
- With rumors that CPS might close 100 schools, the CTU wanted guarantees that laid-off teachers would be recalled.
- There was disagreement over the role of student performance in teacher evaluations.
These are all very familiar issues in public education. But teacher strikes have become rare. (See Rick Hess and Marty West’s 2006 Ed Next story.) Strikes are a risky business, especially in an era when teacher unions have been on the defensive, if not on the ropes,
“We Don’t Need No Education” by Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, in yesterday’s New York Times is a succinct, and mostly compelling, argument for giving all our children a solid liberal arts education beyond high school.
Shouldn’t every American citizen have a right to the best education we can deliver?
Though I’m not sure that taking out after the “instrumentalist rhetoric” of recent reports like that of the Council on Foreign Relations (U.S. Education Reform and National Security) is appropriate, Roth is right to question those who wonder “why people destined for low-paying jobs should bother to pursue their education beyond high school, much less study philosophy, literature and history.” I have written about the subject before (here, here, and here) because, as Roth argues, it’s important. It’s an education policy issue that, played out in the trenches, is very much a social justice issue, if not a moral one—and, I would argue, very much a national security issue. This was the point of my post on Earl Shorris’s Roberto Clemente program for the poor; that the poor deserve a good education too. As Shorris wrote:
If the multigenerational poor are to make the leap out of poverty, it will require a new kind of thinking—reflection…. And that is a beginning. [The study of the humanities is] in itself a redistribution of wealth.
Shorris quotes the great University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins: “The best
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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