A Bad Law Must Be Broken- Why The Possible Chicago Teachers Strike Is Over So Much More Than Pay and Benefits

My classroom is decorated with historical figures who inspire me. Every person on my wall worked to do what’s right, because they envisioned what a better future should be like for all people. These individuals cared so deeply about their country体彩官方app that they put themselves on the line to advocate for others even if what was right was not popular or even legal.

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I became a social studies teacher because of them. These individuals knew that those in power used legislation and laws to control, discriminate, harm, and dehumanize people. People like  who broke an Arizona law that prevented people from saying the words “strike” and “boycott”. People like  who ignored the laws that made it illegal for him to teach his students what their over-crowded and underfunded East L.A. school system was being deprived of and helped them plan mass walkouts. When these activists came across a damaging and controlling law, they would examine it, understand it and purposefully refuse to follow it.

In Illinois, there currently exists a damaging and controlling law, a law that became official in 1995. Known as the , this law was created to silence teachers’ voices calling for equity in public schools.  It gives the mayor full control of the school system and school board. And in an effort to make us look greedy it forbids teachers from striking over anything besides pay and benefits. The law makes it impossible for educators to force the city to admit that having over 30 kids in class is unjust, that not having a librarian  majority Black schools is unjust, that a critical shortage of nurses, counselors, and social workers system wide is unjust.

This insidious law makes teachers look greedy and weakens our power because the city only has to negotiate pay and benefits with us. This law continues to allow those in power to ignore the conditions and lack of resources in Chicago Public Schools.  This law makes the teachers who are on the front lines, unable to get the city to negotiate over truly improving our public schools.

This is why the ,  and even our own school system calls us greedy by perpetuating these opinions. They want us to simply take a raise.They want us to just trust that the Mayor will do right by the students. They want us to ignore the fact that Chicago’s schools have been criminally underfunded for generations. Every student who ever attended CPS knows this fact. Every parent of a CPS student knows this. Every teacher who has ever taught in CPS knows this too.

Our schools should have so much more than what they currently have or have ever had.  This is why many politicians and people in power don’t send their own children to CPS, because the inequities are devastating.

94% of Chicago’s educators just authorized our union to strike. In 2012, when we went on strike we had 90% of teachers vote to strike. In 2012 Chicago Public Schools was trying to take pay away from us. Now CPS is willing to give us our cost of living increases without a fight, so why did more teachers vote to strike this time then in 2012? We are so fed up with looking into our kids faces every day and knowing this city truly doesn’t give a damn about them.  We are done waiting on verbal promises from the city.

Mayor Lightfoot claims . Maybe she wasn’t when she ran but since she’s become Mayor, I hear a whole lot of Rahm in her statements. Rahm called us greedy, Rahm talked badly about us when we had our strike vote and Rahm sued our union when we struck in 2012 because we wanted to negotiate over things besides pay and benefits. Mayor Lightfoot has done all of those things, besides sue our union. But if she continues the failing Rahm playbook I’m sure the city is already planning to sue the Chicago Teachers Union if we strike on October 17th. The city will sue us because as educators we dare to demand that our students have everything they deserve, in writing.

Mayor Lightfoot said a strike would be “” for the students. In a series of posts on Twitter with the hashtag #PutItInWriting, educators and supporters detailed the real catastrophe and decade long catastrophic effects from the lack of funding and resources for our CPS schools and students.

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EVERYTHING that our students and schools deserve, in writing, includes:

  • Place full-time librarians, counselors, clinicians, psychologists, social workers and nurses in every school
  • Make sure all students get special education services they are entitled to by law
  • Hire special education teachers, case managers and paraprofessionals
  • Maintain real class size limits
  • Give us the freedom to plan, grade & be professionals on our teacher preps (the limited time during the day when we don’t have students in front of us)
  • Establish true restorative justice programs in schools
  • Take police officers out of schools
  • Make all schools 
  • Provide mental health services for all students and staff

If the city chooses NOT to give our students these requests in writing, then the city is following in the path of Mayors Daley and Emanuel by ignoring what the students deserve. If this city actually cared about the students it “serves” it would not be arguing with those on the front lines of education, the educators.

If this city cared about its children, it would happily fund our education system. Chicago quickly gave , even though many students, parents, and teachers objected. The city will hand over money to the police department to incarcerate our youth but will not do the same to educate them.

When Bernie Sanders was  recently, publicly supporting public school educators, he said, “…teaching is one of the most patriotic professions that you can do.”  It is our patriotic duty to do whatever it takes to get our students what they deserve.

The Chicago Teachers Union will strike over pay and benefits. But me, and many others, we will be striking to disrupt the status quo. We will be striking against systemic racism and generational neglect in our public schools.

We will be attempting to follow the lead of those people that I have on my classroom walls. The people that I’ve always aspired to emulate. There have always been bad laws used to harm, discriminate, and to silence people. It’s once again time to ignore laws like that.

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It’s time to do what is right for our students.

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To view this piece on SouthSideWeekly click and for ChicagoNow click

Invest in Education? Nope, the Chicago Public School Board Invests in Policing

Recently the CPS Board of Education had a chance to actually be different than the appointed school boards of the past and do right by kids. They were asked to vote on a plan to give the Chicago Police Department . Out of the school board members 5 decided that investing in CPD was a good idea.

$33 Million more will given to policing. $33 Million more given to one of the most corrupt police departments in the country体彩官方app. The Chicago Police Department cost the city $118 Million in police misconduct cases just last year. CPD police misconduct has cost the city over half of a Billion dollars in just the last 8 years. CPD is responsible for codes of silence, black sites, sexual assaults, trauma, torture, and far too many murders.

It’s been researched and proven that having police in schools does NOT make kids safe. It allows the trauma that the police caused on the streets and in the neighborhoods to continue in our school buildings.

Many educators talk and teach their students about ending the school to prison pipeline. But the CPS Board has decided to ignore all of that. Work to end the school to prison pipeline? Nope, the School Board invested $33 Million more in it, ignoring research and student testimony from student organizations such as  and .

It was reported just this summer that . So CPD, after being called out, “promised” to fix it. Our city already gives $4 million every day to CPD. The Justice Department called out Chicago’s Police Department and  within the Chicago Police Department.

Yet a group of people who claim they care about kids, ignored all of that and decided to once again invest in policing over education.

CPS teachers are in the midst of a contract negotiation. We want, in writing, things that will actually benefit our schools and students. We want, in writing, more nurses and social workers. We want counselors NOT cops in our schools. We want a librarian in every building. We want real limits on class size. We want true protections for students with special needs. Our students deserve so much more.
But at the bare minimum every student should feel safe in their school. A Chicago Police Officer does not do that.
We can make kids feel safe in schools by actually having time to work with, counsel, and educate them.

The CPS Board had a chance to change the status quo this week, but instead it decided to ignore students, community, and research. The Board backed the blue and invested in policing over education.

This is just another reason why I will be voting yes to authorize the Chicago Teachers Union to strike.

To read the the piece on Chicago Now click

CPS- A Petulant Child That Feigns Never Hearing “No” Before

When two sides enter into a negotiation, it is expected for the two sides to go back and forth on various points and details. One side will submit a proposal and the other side will reflect on the offer and then come back to the table to discuss what they like or do not like about the proposal.

Our teacher’s contract expired July 1st 2015 and it took until January 28th 2016 for CPS to make their 1st “serious offer” regarding our contract. The teachers that make up the bargaining team of the Chicago Teachers Union had been making proposals for months about how to help our schools, our students, and our teachers, while CPS had been unreceptive and/or unwilling to negotiate in good faith. But now almost 6 months after our contract has expired CPS submits one proposal and we are all of a sudden expected to take it, like it was the greatest gift ever presented to teachers?!

After the teachers of the big bargaining team went through each line of the proposal, they determined that it was not in the best interest of the students and teachers of Chicago to accept this offer. CEO Forest Claypool sent a threatening letter to Karen Lewis saying he now has no choice but to c.

Wait, hold up. It is not like the big bargaining team declared they will refuse all offers from CPS. They just refused parts of this offer. So the logical next step would be to come back to the table and figure out how make a contract for all parties to agree on. Just because CPS claimed it was a “good offer” and leaked parts of the proposal to the press making CPS look ‘oh so generous’ and teachers look ‘oh so greedy’, once again, does not mean it is a good contract.

So instead of continuing discussions, CPS has essentially given the middle finger to thousands of educators in this city. This is a big middle finger to the hundreds of thousands of students and parents who will be damaged by these draconian cuts to schools across the city.

All of this CPS madness comes from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who controls the schools. The same Mayor who is . The same mayor that appointed CEO Forest Claypool (who has no educational experience) after his other appointed CEO got arrested. Both Rahm and Claypool control an appointed puppet school board that meets behind closed doors and ignores all public input to make their real decisions.

So once again I come back to the “serious offer” that CPS made. In the midst of all this corruption, we educators are just supposed to trust CPS and just accept their offer?

Teachers, unlike the Mayor, CEO, and Appointed School Board work with students and parents everyday.

We teachers send our kids to CPS.

We live in the city.

We will do what is best for the kids.

Yes, making sure a teacher is reasonably protected from the craziness that is CPS and paid fairly is still doing what is best for kids. A fair contract helps keep outstanding teachers from leaving this jacked up mayorally controlled undemocratic school system.

So CPS, grow up, realize that in a negotiation there will be times when you hear “No”.

We teachers are the experts in knowing what our schools, students, and profession need.

The contract negotiating process the Chicago Teachers Unions goes through with the big bargaining team and House of Delegates is Democratic. Just because the politics of this city are run by a “Yes, Rahm” mentality does not mean we will follow suit.

We are educated in what Democracy looks like and like it or not, CPS, we are educating you, just like we educate hundreds of thousands of students across our city daily.

This article on HuffingtonPost Chicago

 

Live From the Heartland Radio Show

This is the video version of my radio interview this past Saturday morning on the Live From the Heartland Radio Show on 88.7 FM here in Chicago. I am talking about school closings, unions, and education in Chicago.

The coolest part is that my dad Arny Stieber was on the same show talking about Veterans for Peace and the militarization of Chicago Public Schools his interview starts at 32 mins.