the education justice fight.

[via HuffPost]

Although Chicago’s Public Schools have reached a tentative deal to end the Chicago Teachers’ Strike, the cost to parents, taxpayers, and—above all else—students has already been significant. While there will undoubtedly be further debate on what sort of national implications this ordeal will have, the primary question that must be addressed is simple: “How can we avoid this from happening again?”

The Chicago Teachers’ Union president, Karen Lewis, called upon parents during her Sunday evening speech to “join…in [their] education justice fight.” According to CTU, at stake in this battle are teachers’ evaluations, job security, working conditions, and the broader issues surrounding student violence, homelessness, and poverty. According to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the only contested issues left pertain to principals’ ability to choose their staff and how to balance teachers’ evaluation demands with mandated legislation.

What is most curious about Lewis’ rally to protect students from “exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger, and other social issues beyond [teachers’] control” is that this particular method of protest places those students in the very dangers she claims to be fighting against.

While teachers picket, the Chicago community has been forced to pick up the slack. Faith-based organizations have offered “safe havens,” 144 of the public schools have offered morning activities and free meals for impoverished students, and all administrative police personnel have been deployed to Chicago’s streets in order to offer additional student protection. CTU has acknowledged that these “children are exposed to unprecedented levels of neighborhood violence,” yet they cannot—or, rather, will not—find alternative methods of protest in order to promote the safety of their students.

It is the Union’s position that teachers’ “job security is stability for [their] students.” Considering that stability requires students knowing they have a safe place and meals provided for them, CTU’s actions over the past week have demonstrated clearly that this fight for teachers’ security has come at the cost of students’ safety and well-being. Lewis calls for the Chicago community to “evaluate us on what we do, not on the lives of our children that we do not control.” If what they are doing is choosing politics and personal gain above student welfare, how can we offer anything but a failing evaluation for how the Unions are handling an educational policy crisis?

Certainly, the end of the strike is just the beginning of many continuing conversations about education reform and teachers’ collective bargaining rights. However, it is wholly disheartening to realize that the students have become the true victims of the CTU’s “education justice fight.”

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3 thoughts on “the education justice fight.

  1. Why are teacher’s to blame for the city’s ills? It is the responsibility of the community to be there for their children and for politicians to protect its citizens from neighborhood violence so that the students can arrive fed and ready to learn.

    • Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment! Teachers absolutely are not to blame for these larger issues, but I was raised with the mantra that “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

      Admittedly, there are many parts to this problem, but striking in such a way as to leave 350,000 students—and their parents—without alternative options (while instead allowing the city and its taxpayers to pick up the slack) only demonstrates a sense of entitlement and a lack of consideration for those that these teachers are purporting to serve.

      Your assertion that it is the responsibility of the community to be there for its children is spot-on. Teachers are also a part of that community. It’s a slap in the face when some of the highest-paid public school teachers in America are squabbling over mandated evaluative practices and principals’ right to choose their staff, especially as this bickering ultimately leaves the students without an advocate.

  2. I think we’re arguing for the same thing but taking different approaches. Many teachers are on the front lines in the classroom and have seen the damage done by NCLB and now Race to the Top/Common Core. The evaluations tied to scores from standardized tests developed by multinational corporations based in London such as Pearson are not reliable or valid in measuring the true effectiveness of teachers, especially when it ignores the elephant in the room, poverty. In the big picture, austerity has been declared on the public sector, which is primarily the middle class in America, just as has in Greece, Spain, et al, and teachers’ unions are one of the last groups standing in the way.

    That being said, I respect the issues of social justice and awareness that you tackle in your blog. Please take my two cents with a grain of salt.

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