Teaching Profession

Questions Linger After Day 1 of Chicago Teachers’ Strike

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 10, 2012 2 min read
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Chicago teachers put down their placards at 6 pm, signalling the end of day one of the city’s first teacher strike in 25 years.

The district and the Chicago Teachers Union’s negotiating teams met again today, but details of any progress were not forthcoming by late in the evening.

UPDATED, 10:44 p.m. According to city and union officials speaking after negotiations ended, two major issues remain sticking points: “recall rights” for teachers displaced from their schools due to school closure or shakeups, and the weight given to student growth in an evaluation system. State law requires this to be a “significant” part of the evaluation, but Chicago Teachers Union officials contend such a system would penalize teachers of low-achieving students.

Monday’s big event was a rally down by City Hall, where teachers marched armed with posters and placards and called for the ouster of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“We’re showing Rahm Emanuel we’re strong, we’re united, and we’re getting what schools need, not just what teachers want,” said María Ramírez, a 1st grade bilingual elementary teacher.

Top on her priority list: Working air conditioning, a playground so that the extended-school hours will include a 25-minute recess for her students, and the art or music teachers that were promised to staff the program, which she said haven’t yet materialized.

In a release, the district revealed that it is prepared to offer teachers an average 16 percent pay raise over four years (3 percent in the first year and 2 percent each of the three additional years, plus premiums for experience), new perks like paid maternity leave, and a degree of job security. (Some reports say the union was asking for average raises of 34 percent in total).

Still, much remains up in the air and the factors are likely to change as the strike continues this week. Here are a few questions I’d like answered:

How long will it last? The first day of any strike has got to be invigorating, even exhilarating, for frustrated teachers and even for their supporters; plenty of motorists honked in support at the various picket lines at which I stationed myself. A policeman I chatted with said “Good!” when I told him teachers were marching on Emanuel’s office.

But if this strike drags on, what will happen in the court of public opinion, especially for parents struggling to make plans for their children?

What will the political ramifications be? Again, too soon to tell at this point, but a strike of this magnitude in a Democratic stronghold like Chicago, especially one with close ties to the administration, threatens to throw a lot of bad PR at a vulnerable sitting president. The Politics K-12 blog has more on how the strike could impact the 2012 presidential race.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.