Chicago teachers went on strike Monday for the first time in 25 years. They are in an intense dispute with Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago. The issues this dispute are centered around are teacher evaluations tied to student test scores, a longer school day, and other education policy changes.
Over 29,000 teachers and support staff joined the picket line after union leaders announced they were unable to come to a resolution in this contract dispute. Nearly 400,000 students were out of school on Monday leaving parents scrambling to find supervision. It appears they will most likely need the same on Tuesday.
The school district has requested assistance from community organizations in providing programs and structure for these students. The teacher’s union is calling the plan of care a “train wreck” and have concerns for an increase in gang-related violence in some areas.
It appears the main conflict is Emanuel’s insistence that teachers should be evaluated based on student performance on standardized tests. Karen Lewis, Union President, referred to Emanuel as a “bully” and states standardized tests do not take into account inner city poverty as well as hunger and violence in the streets.
The Union fears that over a 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs if they are evaluated based on test scores. Emanuel has said that the evaluation would not count in the first year and the teachers and administration would work together to work out any issues.
Although the impact of this strike may not be immediately obvious, there is a possibility that it could have a very negative impact on the students involved down the road. Labor unions have made extremely important contributions to our society over the years especially in workplace safety. However, when it comes to our children’s education, I believe these battles should be fought behind the scenes by those hired to do so. The teachers need to be in their classroom and the children at their desks, in a safe environment and obtaining an education they deserve.