At the time of the interview we didn’t know if we would be teaching with a new contract or striking yet the next day. My interview starts at about 1:30 of this segment.
Photo courtesy of depaulia.com Karen Lewis speaking at the April 1st 2016 Day of Action
Recently Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the statement that, “Teachers are striking out of choice, not necessity.” Mind you that this is the same tired language that he said during our last strike in 2012.
There is nothing more I would rather do than teach. But unfortunately we are left with no other options but to strike.
Unlike Rahm, we love the students of Chicago. We want them to have fully funded schools, that have counselors, librarians, nurses, working technology, classrooms that aren’t falling apart, sports, limits on class sizes and activities. We want our students to have every opportunity that Rahm’s kids get by sending them to the Lab School. Do our kids not deserve those things?
Legally teachers are only allowed to strike over pay and benefits, which allows Rahm to play the “greedy teacher” card and say things like we are “striking out of choice”. It allows some to state our salaries and imply that we already get paid enough, or to make matters worse, are overpaid.
I will be striking because I do not want my salary cut by 7%. I do not want my wife’s (also a CPS teacher) salary cut by 7%. But even though I am legally striking over salary and benefits here is a list of the many other reasons that all impact our students of why I will be striking:
- Rahm and the bad leaders in CPS do NOT send their kids to CPS. As a CPS teacher for the past ten years and also now a CPS parent, this is offensive. If CPS isn’t good enough for Rahm’s kids, then why are they okay for our kids?
- The appointed school board is made up of people scared to say “no” to Rahm. The “Handpicked-by-Rahm-School-Board” meets at 10am on a weekday, sits on their thrones and pretends to listen to people. They then go into closed meetings to talk freely and make their decisions. This is not Democracy and every one of them should be ashamed of the charade they play and the decisions they make that harm our students. Make this an elected school board, be a model of Democracy for our students.
- Student Based Budgeting has significantly reduced the amount of money that schools receive. This funding system conveniently allows Rahm and his cronies who run CPS to pass the “budget blame” and lack of funding onto the principals, who like us, are working hard to help the students.
- I’m striking for every student who has died in this city. We teachers are the ones who have to help our students and ourselves cope with the student death from violence, poverty, and the police.
- I’m striking because there are only 4 crises counselors for the nearly 400,000 students of Chicago Public Schools. When something tragic happens (which happens far too frequently) there are only 4 trained specialists to help schools deal with these tragedies.
- I’m striking because CPS keeps cutting counselors, social workers, and nurses. These people could aid and help our students deal with trauma, but many of these positions have been cut.
- I’m striking because the Mayor plans to hire 960 more police officers while firing teachers. You can’t arrest away the violence problem. Give people job and educational opportunities and invest in the neighborhoods and there will be no need to hire more police. Is it not enough that the Chicago Police Department costs taxpayers $4 million dollars a day? Or that CPD police brutality payouts have cost the taxpayers over $200 million dollars? Instead of giving our students and citizens opportunities we provide them with an increased and unwanted police presence.
- Instead of giving more educational opportunities Rahm closed 50 schools in the neighborhoods that need the most help.
- On top of closing schools Rahm closed mental health clinics. Now the largest provider of mental health services in the entire country is Cook Country Jail. Close schools, close the clinics, and watch the prison population grow…
- I’m striking because the police to continue to run a secret detention facility inHoman Square that has disappeared over 7,000 residents in Chicago. This has been going on for years, but the worst part of it is that it still operates and continues to traumatize residents and students on the West Side of our city.
- I’m striking because Rahm sat on the Laquan McDonald video for an entire year. I’m striking because of every other police involved murder of Chicago residents likeRekia Boyd, Cedric Chatman, Paul O’Neal, and every other victim of Chicago Police brutality.
- I’m striking because when residents of our city demanded a Civilian Police Accountability Council not only were they ignored, Rahm has essentially kept the same police review board that was not working before and just gave it a new name.
- Privatizing our custodial and engineering staffs, which has led to filthy, germ infested schools.
- Refusing to look for any other ideas to fund our schools and city, like the use of TIF funds that many Alderman support.
- For having the most militarized school district in the entire country at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of $17 million per year. Our students do not need JROTC programs indoctrinating them on the military model, because eventually the military model leads to humans being taught how to kill other humans.
- For Rahm saying, “25% of CPS students won’t amount to anything.”
- For firing massive amounts of teachers.
- For having 15 months to try to negotiate a contract and CPS refuses to negotiate in good faith. CPS and the Mayor have refused any of the ideas presented by the CTU to create additional funding for our schools and city.
- For having to have parents and community members go on hunger strikes to get what should be standard educational opportunities in all neighborhoods.
There are some days that I think yes, it sure would be easier to just pack up and leave. I have watched as respected colleagues and friends have lost their jobs due to CPS budget cuts.
But through all this mess, we teachers know that what we do is right for the students. Because we spend hours on end teaching, counseling, listening, and learning to and from our students. We send our own children to CPS. We know that the teachers are doing amazing things in our schools. We know what schools should look like for all our students.
So yes, legally I will be striking to save 7% of my hard earned salary, but know that morally I am striking so that enough people realize that the change we educators seek is possible. We are only a few steps away from getting an elected school board, getting rid of this mayor, being more creative with how our schools are funded, and truly working to help the kids that we dedicate our professional lives to.
Of course I would rather teach than strike. But there comes a time when to make change you must be willing to sacrifice. You had better believe that the teachers of Chicago Public Schools are willing to stand up and sacrifice in our latest attempt to make our city better.
For more things that Chicago Teachers are fighting for in this contract please click here.
To view this piece on Huffington Post please click here.