Teachers Strike in Chicago

Image courtesy of Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune

Monday morning, teachers in Chicago – the nation’s third-largest school district – went on strike after contract talks broke down. If you ask the school board, this is about job security and teacher evaluations; if you ask the teachers union, this is about all that,  plus class size, health benefits, air conditioning and the need for more social workers. Tuesday morning showed that the union and the school board don’t seem to be near a compromise.

This strike is affecting 350,000 students, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling it a “strike of choice” and parents and students are both criticizing teachers and demonstrating along with them.

Some educators feel they had no choice, citing a public education system that favors evaluation by all-or-nothing standardized tests and pressure to privatize public schools as factors. A quote in The Chicago Tribune from union delegate Darryl Reed was indicative of how the union felt cornered: “If you go back to legislation last year making it harder for us to strike, they bragged that we’d never reach that threshold. The attitude they had this whole time gave us the attitude we have had this whole time.”

Of course, this is all over national news. A New York City group called Movement of Rank and File Educators planned to protest out of solidarity on Monday night. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement in which he said, “Teachers’ unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet.”

Some schools are open for half days, acting as both a daycare and a meal provider (84 percent of Chicago’s public school students qualify for the free and reduced meals program). Still, the school year’s stalled before it could really start and no one knows when it will resume.

Are you affected by the Chicago Teachers Union strike? Have you been part of a strike before (from either side)? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.