Sunday, September 23, 2012

Back to Back to School--Chicago Teachers' Strike Recap

After 7 days on the picket lines, CPS and CTU reached a compromise on the Chicago teachers' strike and classes resumed Wednesday.   We still have a long way to go, to create a stellar school system that's fair and fabulous for all neighborhoods.   Public support for the teachers was huge.   The city had to take notice at the public outcry to fix what's dysfunctional, provide basics, limit over the top standardized testing and stop selling off our schools for private profit.

One of my favorite stories about the end of the strike came from my son's 6th grade teacher.   When news of the strike's end came on Tuesday, Mr. Z and his wife were at home, doing a happy dance and singing that the strike was over, when they heard a little voice from the other room saying "Boooooo."   Their pre-school daughter wasn't quite as elated to be going back to school as her dad was.   

Our kids had mixed feelings.   They were glad to get back to friends and back to school-especially my studious son, Du-Jay, who read, wrote and kept up with school work every day we were out.   The kid even took homework to RIOT FEST!   I figure that's how the kids of punk parents rebel, eh?

Still, we had a great strike break.   We spent family time at the free lakefront archery range and the beach, walked the picket lines with the teachers, kept up with reading and educational games, and Sage went to 4 days of camp at Girl Scouts' Journey World.   We're very relieved the walk out didn't last for weeks like the last CTU strike in the 80's, which dragged on nearly 20 days.

ChiIL Mama will be celebrating the end of the strike with some sweet back to "back to school" features including:

  • Pinch me I'm dreaming:   Back to School With Dream Dinners

  • Back to School Funky Fun With Gutzy Gear

  • Back to School Back to You With Kmart

Brief Basics of What We've Won Via CTU:

Chicago Teachers Union members’ determination and your support during the strike forced the Board of Education to agree to:
  • Hire over 600 additional teachers in Art, Music, Phys Ed and other subjects
  • Maintain limits on class size, increase funding for smaller classes
  • Add a parent voice on class size committees
  • Make textbooks available on the first day of school
  • Increase racial diversity in hiring at CPS
  • Lessen the focus on standardized testing – keep the focus on teaching instead of tests
  • Provide more attention from school Social Workers and Nurses
  • Increase funding for Special Ed teachers, social workers, psychologists, classroom assistants and counselors in schools with high caseloads.

The strike is not the end of the fight for the schools Chicago’s students deserve. We need a better school day, not just a longer one. We will keep working together to stop the Mayor’s plan to close 100 schools.  The Board of Ed will continue starving schools in low income neighborhoods, denying them air conditioning, libraries, playground facilities and resources unless we fight back. We need your help to continue the fight for Educational Justice in Chicago.
We are in this together – for the schools Chicago students deserve.

(from CTU's web site

How You Can Help Via Raise Your Hand:

We are happy to transition back to school and finally settle into a routine. As you know the House of Delegates of the CTU voted to suspend the strike but they didn’t yet vote to approve the contract. Most everyone we heard from expressed great relief that their kids are back in school. There remain different opinions regarding the purpose of the strike and what it signified or didn’t. The press keeps asking who “won” and who “lost?” People have asked what the kids got out of it. These are complicated questions. If nothing else, the events of the past ten days have worked to elevate the discussion around public education in this city and nation, which is a good thing. We think this will prove to be an intangible positive but we don’t think it can be distilled to a “win” or “loss”.

Regarding some of the details, CPS added two extra weeks to the school year this year, so our kids will not have less school than they had last year. Many are happy with that change. We do not know when or if the missed days will be added to the calendar but will let you know as soon as we find out.

Despite some of the wins touted by both sides, RYH still has the same concerns we had two weeks and two years ago.
  • There is still no sustainable plan to fund education; We would like to help get a state-wide referendum on the ballot in 2014 to ask the public if they want a graduated income tax; We want to look more at TIF reform to see how changes can be made to improve funding to the school
  • There is still no mechanism to employ democratic decision making in how policies are formed at the district level with our mayoral-appointed school board. We need policy experts, teachers, parents, community leaders, etc. to help shape public education here. For too long in Chicago, decisions have been made in a vacuum. That’s why we’re continuing to work on an elected school board campaign.
We hope you will sign up to help on one of these campaigns this year. We need your help. Consider making a donation to help power our efforts this year. We have a multitude of costs and need support to take trips to Springfield, create materials and signage, run our website and much more. Think about making a $10 or $25 donation to help us fund these campaigns this year and please email us at info@ilraiseyourhand.orgto help join the effort to transform public education.


9/27 (1pm) Last chance for public input on new CPS Arts plan; Art Institute, Ryan Ed. Ctr., 159 E. Monroe 1pm. Free but preregister here.

9/27 - (6pm-8pm) RYH co-sponsoring a discussion with Jonathan Kozol at NW Law School on his new book: “Fire in the Ashes: Twenty Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America. He is the author of "Savage Inequalities" and a nationally known voiceo on the perils of corporate education reform.
Northwestern Law School - 375 E. Chicago

9/27 (7pm) Author
Kevin Kumashiro (contributor to CREaTE piece about teacher evaluation) is having a talk on his new book:
Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.
Revolution Books, 1103 N. Ashland.


Why Charter Schools Aren't A Great Idea

Check out the free documentary, "The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman", which provides an insightful analysis of charter schools.

Teaching Rahm from Right

We were embarrassed that Mr. Rahm Emanuel spent 1 million dollars to spin the strike, with an ad staring himself.   Think how many school supplies that would have bought in underserved communities!!    Check out the full story here on Huffington Post.

ChiIL Strike Coverage

Check out my CNN op-ed here and our photo filled strike coverage here.

Strike Day 5-neighborhood march

Strike Day 4-photos from the picket lines

Strike Day 3-Chicago Teachers' Strike Day 3--Books & Sites To Explain Strikes To Kids of All Ages

Strike Day 2

Strike Camps

We've got our beloved teachers back...Now how 'bout those striking Blackhawks?!

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