PSU supports CTU

In Chicago, more than 26,000 teachers and support staff of the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike last Monday morning after talks broke down Sunday night. It is the first in the city in 25 years, and it will be the largest teachers’ strike since Detroit teachers marched in 2006. Teachers are not just striking for their own demands, but also to better the school environment for all, including students. Teachers should be teaching in schools where they feel productive and comfortable, just as students need resources and a positive learning environment.

CTU’s demands echo the broader issues facing teachers’ union and public school systems across the United States. Class sizes are growing; standardized tests are over-emphasized; and tests, not designed for teacher evaluation. are used to blame teachers for poor results in underserved schools.

The host of Democracy Now! Amy Goodman invited Phil Cantor, a strike captain at North-Grand High School, to talk more about why teachers are striking:

We’re striking for a lot of reasons. If you just see what’s in the mainstream media, all they talk about is that teachers want more money. But that’s really far from the truth. We’re fighting for reasonable class sizes. We’re fighting for wraparound services for our students. I teach in a school with a thousand students; we don’t even have one social worker in that building for most of those kids. So we’re fighting for the education our students deserve in Chicago. We’re fighting against reforms that we see, from the classroom level, are not going to work.

There is a lot at stake in the Chicago Teachers’ struggle. If Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former adviser for President Obama, wins this confrontation, it could set the stage for a major setback for teacher’ unions across the nation. If teachers demands are not met, it affects how effectively they can educate young people in their classrooms. Without a satisfactory end to this struggle, we can be assured that students and teachers will both suffer consequences.

Pauline Lipman, professor of education policy studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, perhaps said it best in her interview with Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!:

What is happening here in Chicago is also strategically significant nationally. [Chicago] was the birthplace of the neoliberal, corporate, top-down education reform agenda—privatizing public education, closing and sabotaging public neighborhood schools, high-stakes testing, paying teachers based on test scores—that whole agenda. And Chicago is now the epicenter of the fight back against it. What happens here in Chicago will really have an implication for whether we are able to turn back this national agenda.

If teachers can succeed in this struggle, students are ensured a better education with more productive teachers. The impact of a successful mobilization could be far reaching and set a precedent for the respect all teachers, and the educational system at large, deserve.

As contract talks continue to two steps forward and one step backward, the city’s 29,000 public school educators enter their fourth day of a labor protest that has shut down schools across the city. An independent new poll indicates the majority of the public and parents support the teachers strike and blame Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school board for the District’s education woes.

We, at PSU, stand by teachers who are fighting for reforms that will make their schools better. If our teachers are treated with equity and respect, they will be able to teach our students more effectively. It’s reasonable for teachers to expect that if they are working more hours, they’ll get paid more. It’s reasonable for teacher to expect a suitable working environment. Finally, it’s reasonable for teachers to express their opinions in a public way and demand their right to serve their students under the best conditions possible.

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