Since as far back as I can remember there have always been debates about how much teachers should make, how underpaid they are for as much work as they do, and how often they are blamed for everything. In telling people that I want to be a high school English teacher, I am more often given a bad remark about teaching back. “Are you sure?” “Aren’t you just asking for it?” “You couldn’t pay me to go back to high school!” “Teenagers? You’re crazy!” I’m sure we have all heard these remarks at one point. I haven’t even started teaching and I’m already not being supported by a lot of people. This idea of not being supported and not being respected is some of the driving forces behind the teachers who have gone on strike in Chicago this week.
In the article, “Teachers’ Strike in Chicago Test Mayor and Union”, that appeared in The New York Times, it talks about what has led 350,000 students to be without teachers this week. This week, thousands of teachers went on strike, the first in twenty-five years for Chicago. Negotiations have gone on this week between Chicago Public Schools officials and leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union to resolve this issue. This strike has gained a lot of support in other cities giving a “glimpse at a mounting national struggle over unionized teachers’ pay, conditions, benefits and standing” (Rich 1). This topic has even reached presidential candidate Mitt Romney who released a statement saying, “Teachers’ unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet” (1).
Issues at debate besides the obvious salary increase and teacher benefits are “how to evaluate teachers and whether teaching openings should automatically go to laid-off teachers” (1). The New York Times reports that the average teacher in Chicago makes $76,000 a year.
This caught my attention because I have heard more and more about teachers being upset about teacher evaluations that weigh so heavily on student test scores. This, and all the issues raised in this strike, are all issues that are applicable to teachers all over the country. What the teachers in Chicago are fighting for are what teachers all over the country fight for everyday, except they still do their job. I understand the importance of the issues and what these teachers are trying to do but I cannot help but think of the students in this case. Coming off of a three month summer vacation, these teachers are starting the year off on the wrong foot. Teachers constantly preach that they want the support of parents, but in putting 350,000 students out of the classroom, they are not getting on parents good side. Where are all these students supposed to go? Parents work, summer camps and programs are over, and college babysitters are back in school. These parents, especially those with young children, are being forced to call out of work themselves and as a result losing pay. What is most scary for these parents is that they have no idea how long they are going to have to find an alternative for their children. As this strike gains support across the nation, parents across the country are forced to ask themselves if this could happen to them and what would they do?
As much as this strike is supposed to hopefully bring about much needed change you can’t help but wonder about the chaos it is currently causing…and for how long?