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

Rahm’s Choices Have Given Teachers No Choice But To Make The Strike A Necessity

Photo courtesy of depaulia.com Karen Lewis speaking at the April 1st 2016 Day of Action

 

Recently Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the statement that, “.” Mind you that this is the same tired language that he said during our last strike in .

There is nothing more I would rather do than teach. But unfortunately we are left with no other options but to strike.

Unlike Rahm, we love the students of Chicago. We want them to have fully funded schools, that have counselors, librarians, nurses, working technology, classrooms that aren’t falling apart, sports, limits on class sizes and activities. We want our students to have every opportunity that Rahm’s kids get by sending them to the Lab School. Do our kids not deserve those things?

Legally teachers are only allowed to strike over pay and benefits, which allows Rahm to play the “greedy teacher” card and say things like we are “striking out of choice”. It allows some to state our salaries and imply that we already get paid enough, or to make matters worse, are overpaid.

I will be striking because I do not want my salary cut by 7%. I do not want my wife’s (also a CPS teacher) salary cut by 7%. But even though I am legally striking over salary and benefits here is a list of the many other reasons that all impact our students of why I will be striking:

  • Rahm and the bad leaders in CPS do NOT . As a CPS teacher for the past ten years and also now a CPS parent, this is offensive. If CPS isn’t good enough for Rahm’s kids, then why are they okay for our kids?
  • The appointed school board is made up of people scared to say “no” to Rahm. The “Handpicked-by-Rahm-School-Board” meets at 10am on a weekday, sits on their thrones and pretends to listen to people. They then go into closed meetings to talk freely and make their decisions. This is not Democracy and every one of them should be ashamed of the charade they play and the decisions they make that harm our students. Make this an , be a model of Democracy for our students.
  • has significantly reduced the amount of money that schools receive. This funding system conveniently allows Rahm and his cronies who run CPS to pass the “budget blame” and lack of funding onto the principals, who like us, are working hard to help the students.
  • I’m striking for every student who has died in this city. We teachers are the ones who have to help our students and ourselves cope with the student death from violence, poverty, and the police.
  • I’m striking because there are only 4 crises counselors for the nearly 400,000 students of Chicago Public Schools. When something tragic happens (which happens far too frequently) there are only 4 trained specialists to help schools deal with these tragedies.
  • I’m striking because CPS keeps cutting counselors, social workers, and nurses. These people could aid and help our students deal with trauma, but many of these positions have been cut.
  • I’m striking because the Mayor plans to hire 960 more while firing teachers. You can’t  arrest away the violence problem. Give people job and educational opportunities and invest in the neighborhoods and there will be no need to hire more police. Is it not enough that the Chicago Police Department costs taxpayers ? Or that CPD police brutality payouts have cost the taxpayers over ? Instead of giving our students and citizens opportunities we provide them with an increased and unwanted police presence.
  • Instead of giving more educational opportunities Rahm closed 50 schools in the neighborhoods that need the most help.
  • On top of closing schools Rahm closed mental health clinics. Now the largest provider of mental health services in the entire country体彩官方app is . Close schools, close the clinics, and watch the prison population grow…
  • I’m striking because the police to continue to run a secret detention facility in that has disappeared over 7,000 residents in Chicago. This has been going on for years, but the worst part of it is that it still operates and continues to traumatize residents and students on the West Side of our city.
  • I’m striking because Rahm sat on the Laquan McDonald video for an entire year. I’m striking because of every other police involved murder of Chicago residents like , , and every other victim of Chicago Police brutality.
  • I’m striking because when residents of our city demanded a not only were they ignored, Rahm has essentially kept the same police review board that was not working before and just gave it a new name.
  • and engineering staffs, which has led to filthy, germ infested schools.
  • Refusing to look for any other ideas to fund our schools and city, like the use of that many Alderman support.
  • For having the most militarized school district in the entire country体彩官方app at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of .  Our students do not need JROTC programs indoctrinating them on the military model, because eventually the military model leads to humans being taught how to kill other humans.
  • For , “25% of CPS students won’t amount to anything.”
  • For of teachers.
  • For having 15 months to try to negotiate a contract and CPS refuses to negotiate in good faith. CPS and the Mayor have refused any of presented by the CTU to create additional funding for our schools and city.
  • For having to have parents and community members go on to get what should be standard educational opportunities in all neighborhoods.

There are some days that I think yes, it sure would be easier to just pack up and leave. I have watched as respected colleagues and friends have lost their jobs due to CPS budget cuts.

But through all this mess, we teachers know that what we do is right for the students. Because we spend hours on end teaching, counseling, listening, and learning to and from our students. We send our own children to CPS. We know that the teachers are doing amazing things in our schools. We know what schools should look like for all our students.

So yes, legally I will be striking to save 7% of my hard earned salary, but know that morally I am striking so that enough people realize that the change we educators seek is possible. We are only a few steps away from getting an elected school board, getting rid of this mayor, being more creative with how our schools are funded, and truly working to help the kids that we dedicate our professional lives to.

Of course I would rather teach than strike. But there comes a time when to make change you must be willing to sacrifice. You had better believe that the teachers of Chicago Public Schools are willing to stand up and sacrifice in our latest attempt to make our city better.

For more things that Chicago Teachers are fighting for in this contract please click .

 

To view this piece on Huffington Post please click .