Their fight is our fight!
Chicago has been the focus of corporate school “reform,” but Chicago is now the epicenter of the push back against it. On June 11, 2012, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leaders announced that 89.73% of CTU members—98% of those who cast ballots—voted to give the union authority to call a strike if contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools fail (Chicago Teachers Union). This astounding vote was about much more than a contract. It tapped into teachers’ deep anger at 17 years of neoliberal education “reforms” that have demoralized and blamed teachers and belittled their knowledge, taken the joy out of classrooms, and decimated public education. After 17 years of the tyranny of high stakes tests, business-like management of public schools, school closings and turnarounds by private operators, disinvestment of resources from neighborhood public schools, and moves to pay teachers based on competitive performance measures, teachers have had enough. A new revitalized teachers union, along with parents, students and community members of Chicago are standing up to the assault on public education.
On July 16, 2012, a mandatory fact finder—tasked with making recommendations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board) and CTU—shocked Mayor Rahm Emanuel by finding largely in favor of the CTU. Quickly, the Mayor and his appointed Board backed down on extending the school day without paying teachers for their extra time and agreed to rehire laid off teachers to add more art, music, and physical education classes to the school day. This was a victory for students, community members, and the CTU who have been fighting for a “better school day,” not just a longer day. But the struggle is far from finished. Teachers do not want a strike, but CTU leadership rejected the report noting that it left many key issues unresolved, including smaller class sizes, fair compensation for paraprofessionals, a rehire pool for laid-off teachers, and fair systems for teacher evaluation and compensation. Further, issues of charter school expansion and hiring more nurses and social workers are also at stake.
As a national Network of Teacher Activist Groups (TAG), we believe Chicago teachers are in a crucial battle to defend public education and make schools more equitable and just. The outcome of this struggle will not only impact the people of Chicago, but also set the tone for promoting educational equity across the nation. Their fight is our fight. We are asking educators, school social workers, parents, students, youth workers, and any concerned community members to join us in support and solidarity for the CTU teachers as they stand up to the powerful forces aligned to dismantle public education.
CTU President Karen GJ Lewis Speech May 23 Rally
Chicago Teachers Union Vs. Astroturf Billionaires
CTU members and supporters take their case to the streets
Images from Chicago
On August 8th, 2013 at 6p.m., a Bullied Teachers’ Forum & Protest Art Exhibit will be held at The Keith House in Chicago. The venue is located at 1900 South Prairie Avenue. The work of art called, DYING TO TEACH, will be unveiled at the event, and is a collaborative project made by concerned parents in dedication to bullied teachers – living and dead. Mary Eve Thorson’s family will be in attendance for this special night. Their daughter’s self-sacrifice for bullied teachers and children was the subject of the documentary, DYING TO TEACH: The Killing of Mary Eve Thorson, “Educators Who Bully.” The film was requested by the Save Our Schools organization for their convention in Washington, DC last August. On April 5th, CBS 2 Chicago aired an interview with John and Shari Thorson about the continued impact of their daughter’s tragic death on teachers across the country. Mary’s documentary was also a topic of discussion. If you’ve been bullied by an administrator or know of a colleague being bullied, then please attend and make your voices heard. Teachers are dying figuratively and now literally. This is an opportunity to stand together and show the world that we refuse to be treated inhumanely. If we don’t act now, more teachers will kill themselves and the students who love them will suffer as a consequence.
My school Brentano Elementary is 1 of the 129 schools left on the school closure list. We are fighting to save our school! We have a final community meeting on Feb. 28th at Armitage Baptist Church – 7:00 pm 2451 N Kedzie Blvd. Please bring your support!
Here a link to our blog:
“Let’s concede that we have decided to let our children grow up in two separate nations, and lead two separate kinds of lives. If, on the other hand, we have the courage to rise to this challenge to name what’s happening . . .then we also need the courage to be activist and go out and fight like hell to change it.”
The aforementioned quote was written by Jonathan Kozol, a long time writer about the inequalities of the American school system. Today, as I stand as a Chicago Public School [CPS] teacher on the strike lines in front of my home school and while marching the streets of Chicago, his words ring more true than they did when I first read them at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as an undergraduate preparing to become a public school teacher. Throughout my life, I have had the amazing opportunity of being able to grow up in a suburb that was fortunate enough to have more than enough money to provide me with everything that was needed so that I cold receive a “world class” education. I thank my parents and my community everyday that I was afforded that opportunity, because it has helped me to become the person that I am today. But, what has become more and more evident with each passing year, and even while I knew that this was true when I read Kozol for the first time, is that this is not the education that every child in this nation receives. It is also most definitely not the case of what every child receives here in the city of Chicago. This is why the Chicago’s teachers are taking to the streets of Chicago and going on strike.
Education, from the birth of this nation, was to be a public good that was supposed to be provided to *all* the nation’s children. While it has been provided, it has certainly not been done so in an equitable fashion. With each passing year, and the latest reforms that have hit hard and fast in the city of Chicago, we see our education system become more and more intensely privatized, and children in the public school system continually losing out. Many argue that our fight is strictly a labor dispute and that the children should not have to be taken out of school so that the teachers can ensure a fairer wage, and this is far from the truth. This fight, while it is about labor, is first and foremost about Chicago students’ education. In the Chicago Public School system we see a continual disinterest and disinvestment of the public education system. On a micro level we’re seeing class sizes of thirty-five students which research has shown is not considered good learning conditions; schools go with not enough school psychologists/social workers/nurses, or none at all; there are schools without air conditioners that are in session during the hot summer months; there are classrooms without textbooks; school curriculum is seeing the removal of physical education and arts classes; etc. The same things that Kozol wrote about in Savage Inequalities in 1991, we are still experiencing to some extent more than two decades later. If the system continues to go on as is, our students will have nothing left, except an overcrowded room with a teacher that is completely stressed out and unable to meet the needs of his or her students, let alone get them to pass a high-stakes test.
On a more macro level the disinvestment continues with the evolution of the school into the business model, as neoliberals push through their agenda and make strides to privatize our system: CEOs instead of superintendents, competition to get into the very best schools in the city, big investment bankers and corporations giving money to the schools that claim they can obtain the very best test scores, etc. Charter schools are becoming the go to model, even though in most cases they perform no better than public schools. More importantly, they are an entity that pushes children out of the education system, and are schools that while they are public in name, seem to more closely align themselves with the mandates of a private school. We are beginning to see the start of an educational apartheid in the city of Chicago. Within the Chicago Public System there are schools that receive more money than others, and the schools with lower amounts of money seem to be our same schools that are dominated by minority and students of lower socio-economic status. Tax Increment Financing [TIF] monies that could have been distributed to some of our most blighted schools and communities have instead been put elsewhere to build up the already well-to-do area, or areas that the city has deemed ready to be gentrified as they push families and historically rooted communities outside of the city’s limits. Meanwhile, it seems the only way to get what it is that you want is to take a serious stance as the teachers of Chicago Public Schools are doing now, or go as far as a host of Latina mothers did back in 2001 and on a starvation run to receive a much needed school that they were told they would receive. The children of Chicago deserve to receive as good of and education as any other child in this nation without question, and that is what the Chicago Teacher’s Union [CTU] is fighting for.
I am a Social Studies teacher who teaches my children to stand up for themselves, their people, and their community. In my classroom my students learn about people who fight for their rights and what they deserve. The names of Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama,
Paulo Freire and Martin Luther King Jr. are regular and ever-present faces and names in my classroom. If I did not stand on the lines with my fellow teachers day in and day out, and march through the Loop and to Buckingham fountain to laud the students of the Chicago Public School system and fight for what it is that they deserve, I would be a hypocrite and going against my craft and what I it is that I fiercely believe in. History class is most certainly in session right now. I see red, everywhere, I see my students marching with me and beating drums, I see smiles and friendly acknowledgement and encouragement from my fellow brothers and sisters that what we are doing right now is not only the right thing to do, but what is just. You can yell at me to go back to work, but I am working . . . I’m working harder than I ever have. This is for every student I have had in my class, those that I have only met for a week and who I miss so badly it drives me to tears each night, and for every child that ever sits down in a Chicago Public School classroom. You are tomorrow’s future, and I will fight to make sure you get the best education that you deserve!
Our Board of Education lost in the NJ Supreme Court for changing our health benefits without negotiating. Public workers are a last bastion of organized labor and the middle class (not coincidentally!), and I support your strong stand!
Typo in previous message. The CTU solidarity meeting in Providence RI was on 8-30-12, not 8-23-12 as written.
On 8-23-12, at the Providence RI public library, 40 people attended a public meeting to support the CTU. We heard from local teachers, members of the TDU (Teachers for a Democratic Union) in Providence, from the teacher solidarity network, and a member (via SKYPE) of CORE in the CTU. It was sponsored by the Providence International Socialist Organization, Coalition to Defend Public Education, and Teachers for a Democratic Union.
Yesterday evening (8/30/12) I attended a solidarity event organized by the Coalition to Defend Public Education and ISO in Providence, RI. Forty people gathered to learn more about what’s happening in Chicago and the ways in which what the CTU is fighting against are similar to what teachers and communities face in Rhode Island. Many spoke and shared their stories and perspectives. We heard from teachers, parents, and concerned community members. It was clear that, like in Chicago, there is a well-orchestrated attack on public education in RI. The attack comes in the form of a lack of democracy and transparency when making local policy decisions, the hiring of corporate oriented administrators and consultants assigned to manage “portfolios” of schools, the disrespect shown to classroom teachers when they bear the brunt of the blame for school failure, the support for alternative teacher certification at the expense of already qualified and trained teachers, the narrowing of curriculum, and the peddling of school reform models aimed at raising test scores, but without any holistic focus on what children and communities want and need from their schools. I know we will watch closely what happens in Chicago and I’m excited that the CTU is inspiring more teachers and other community members to believe in their power to stand up for the kinds of schools and classrooms we know our young people deserve. In solidarity.
I am a teacher in Melbourne Australia. I was teaching in the Vocational Education sector , our State govt. has a neo-liberal agenda and ripped $300 million out of funding.
I am a member of the Australian Education Union at the moment. I am not working in the sector in the future, but you have my support. Solidarity!
In New York a range of groups working around educational justice, and lead by the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the emerging social justice caucus of the local union is proud to be having a discussion featuring a presentation by Kim Bowsky, a CORE activist and member of the Chicago Teachers Union.
SOLIDARITY with Chicago Teachers
Thursday, August 23rd
at The Murphy Institute
25 West 43rd Street, between 5th and 6th avenues
18th Floor, Room C/D
Please also support Chicago Teachers by donating to the CTU Solidarity Fund at https://afl.salsalabs.com/o/4013/c/468/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=7204
Public schools, teachers and their unions are under attack throughout the country. The drive to privatize our public schools and strip away teacher protections is only accelerating. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled a promised 4% pay raise to Chicago teachers and proposed lengthening the school day by 20% with only a 2% raise. In addition, Emanuel proposes implementing a merit pay system for teachers–a similar system in Baltimore has led to 60% of teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings. In response, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has refused to back down and has shown the power of solidarity, holding large rallies and forging alliances with community members. The CTU is demanding smaller class sizes, fair pay and a diverse and fulfilling curriculum for Chicago students. This spring, 90% of all CTU members voted to authorize a strike. 98% of those voting authorized a strike.
The CTU’s campaign has met with some initial success. Emanuel recently agreed to hire almost 500 teachers, mostly arts, PE and enrichment teachers. These teachers will be hired from a pool of laid-off, experienced teachers. The result is that a longer school day will not force teachers to work longer and harder with no compensation.
While this victory is inspiring, the CTU’s strike preparations continue, as there has been no agreement on teacher pay, class sizes, merit pay and other important issues. It is urgent that teachers, parents and community members show our solidarity with CTU. We also have a lot to learn from CTU’s struggle.
Come hear a presentation by a CTU member and help organize solidarity for the Chicago teachers here in NYC!
Stand with CTU!
Sponsored by (list in formation): Movement of Rank and File Educators, Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence, Coalition for Public Education, Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), Labor Notes, New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE), New York City Labor Against the War, OWS Labor Outreach Committee, Independent Community of Educators (ICE), Teachers Unite
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to help organize the event or to co-sponsor