Chicago Parents Grapple with Strike Fallout

By Michele Molnar — September 11, 2012 1 min read
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Frustrated and confused. That sums up the state of many Chicago parents amid the first teachers’ strike at Chicago Public Schools in 25 years.

“Parents are not taking this well, and this is only Day 2,” said Phillip Jackson, executive director of The Black Star Project, a Chicago-based organization that advocates for excellence in education, in an interview on Tuesday. “I’m basically speaking for black and Latino parents, who are 87 percent of the school-aged population.”

“They’re not angry, not yet. They don’t understand what’s happening, or why it’s happening. Most of the parents haven’t really chosen a side. They just want the strike to end,” Jackson said. “They’re saying, ‘We want our children back in school. Do whatever it takes to get them there.’”

On Monday—the first day of the strike—only 18,000 of 350,000 Chicago students showed up for supervision and meals at schools or other facilities that authorities had opened for children who had nowhere else to go, the Associated Press reported. The story explains how one grandmother accompanied her grandchildren through an unfamiliar neighborhood to take advantage of a four-hour program that would keep them fed and busy.

Jackson, a co-founder of the Million Father March that encourages dads to escort their children to school on the first day each year, also runs Black Star. He says parents are “somewhat disheartened.”

“Even when their children are in school they are still performing at the lowest educational level, with the lowest graduation rate. Parents want them in school, but they absolutely want better performance by their children in school,” Jackson said.

Founded in 1996 to improve the quality of life in the black American and Latino communities of Chicago by eliminating the racial academic-achievement gap, the organization offers many programs to encourage parents to get involved with their children’s education.

“We think it would be very unfortunate if both sides to agree to terms [to end the strike], but actually education isn’t significantly improved,” Jackson said. “It’s because parents are not at the bargaining table. There is no place at the table for parents or the community.”

Do you agree? Do you think parents could help put an end to the strike in Chicago? If so, how?

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.