The Chicago Teachers’ Union ended their weeklong strike on September 19th. Over the week, hundreds of thousands of students were left with no place to go. Some stayed at home, some went to work with parents, and others found ways to attend one of the 144 schools still open and staffed by non-union employees and former teachers.
Dr. Bruce Torff, Professor of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership at Hofstra University, said he, “favored the Chicago Teachers’ Union’s rights to stand up for themselves and their students.”
According to an article from workers.org, Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen Lewis supported the strike. Lewis said on the “Democracy Now” radio show on Sept. 19 that she felt the CTU won the strike. “…I think that teachers across the country realize how important it is to stand up as a union together and fight back against things that are actually bad for children. And I want to tell you that, as we went through the contract, basically article by article, one of the things that got the absolute most applause of the night was lesson plans — that teachers could do their own lesson plans. They no longer have to follow the wishes of somebody in an air-conditioned building with a spreadsheet.”
CTU’s decision to strike did not come as a surprise to the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, or to Chicago residents. For months the teachers’ union rallied for higher wages, more support in the classrooms, against the continuing budget cuts and the newly enforced longer school day. Their needs were not extravagant but were a costly experience to the students and their families. With their children displaced, many parents were confused and anxious waiting for the strike to end. Dr. Torff suggested that “what parents need is schools where students can get what they need and who know better about what students need than teachers. The parents should be happy to now have happy teachers”.
Now that the strike is over all seems well in the Chicago Public School system. The teachers and students have been reunited and are busy catching up on the work they missed during the strike. The teachers received the sizable raise they rallied for and the talk of more change is still going on. Although the relationship between the Chicago Teachers’ Union and the mayor of Chicago may seem to be a little rocky, Dr. Torff believes that is normal. He said, “Many schools have toxic relationships between the administration and teaching staff and some let that interfere but majority of teachers are professional enough to do what’s best for the kids.”
As the school year continues, the hopes are now high for the Chicago Public School system; the power between educator and administrators has been balanced and hopefully it can remain for years to come.