The Chicago Way!Published:October 31, 2019
Score another victory for teachers! As of today, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement (pending union member approval) which will end an 11-day strike in the third largest school district in the United States.
More than 25,000 teachers took to the streets in an effort to push Chicago Public Schools for a commitment to adequately fund education.
We love to see education receive a stronger commitment from government officials around the nation, but teachers feel frustrated when they must fight for the resources our nation’s children need.
So what did these rabble-rouser Chicago teachers demand?
Reduced class sizes — Teachers in the Windy City want to help their students, and class sizes between 30 and 40 students make achieving that goal extremely difficult. Children learn more and achieve more when they work in smaller classrooms. They receive more individualized attention and feel more able to participate fully in the class activities.
For a teacher to effectively manage the learning outcomes and behavior of 40 children in one classroom is a Herculean task which creates a stressful situation for both the teacher and their students.
Proper staffing — One of the deficiencies which will undoubtedly assist in reducing classroom size pertains to staffing each building with more teachers and support personnel. The City of Chicago, for many years, shortchanged the budget and continually eliminated positions while student population increased.
According to reports from multiple news outlets, the Chicago Teachers Union’s demands included staffing each school with a nurse, social worker, and librarians. Is this such a radical notion that one of the most significant cities in this nation (and the world, for that matter) could not commit to doing this until 2019?
Programs to assist students — When a school district has more than 300,000 students, problems crop up regularly that most other districts do not encounter. The union is asking for the city to create special programs to assist homeless students and to help students deal with the personal traumas they experience.
Prep time — In perhaps the strangest request from teachers (strange as in “why didn’t they already have that?”), they wanted a certain amount of time built into the work day so they may prepare for students, make copies, grade papers, call parents, lesson plan, and collaborate with other teachers.
Teachers in Chicago start out at just over $52,000, but the cost of living in the area makes this salary not as attractive as it would be in other parts of the United States. Also, the annual pay increases of teachers stalls after year 14, making stagnant wages an issue for veteran educators. Teaching assistants and clerks in schools also needed raises to establish a living wage for these jobs.
Health insurance benefits present a problem that Chicago Public Schools has not adequately addressed and a critical need for any employee.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey adequately expressed the popular sentiment of nearly all teachers when he noted that teachers do not want to strike and would much rather be in the classroom working with students. However, a movement of solidarity among teachers and support staff are precisely what was needed to shame Chicago’s officials into doing the right thing.
The end result for Chicago Teachers Union was worth the fight:
- Over 200 additional social workers
- Over 250 additional school nurses
- An additional $35 million annually to reduce class size
- Rescinding an earlier increase on health insurance contribution
- Additional funding for teacher recruitment and support personnel
- More time for special education teachers to plan IEPs
We love seeing students and staff in Chicago getting the attention they needed!
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