Chicago strikes deal for education
By Amanda Horner
On Wednesday, Sept. 19, almost 400,000 students returned to school after the Chicago Teacher’s Strike was suspended. After an 8 day strike, local teachers voted to do so, because, like Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said, “There is no such thing as a contract that will make all of us happy, and we’re realistic about that.” Originally, the teachers union was demanding a 30 percent raise, in addition to the removal of a program which would put more emphasis on student test scores. The compromise was quite favorable for the teachers; a 16 percent raise over the next 4 years, and student test scores will count for a lower percent on teacher evaluations.
Originally, the district had wanted student’s test scores to account for 50 percent of the evaluations, but in striking the deal — no pun intended — it will now only account for 30 percent.
One item the teachers did lose in the deal with the district was that the school year for Chicago students will now be extended. Both the day and the year will be longer. A student who begins next year in Chicago public school will add an entire two years to their education this way. This is by no means a negative thing. As far as the outcomes which impact the students, the result of the strikes are very positive. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said, “In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more.”
It’s a bit ridiculous for the CTU to demand a raise, but still fight against extending the school day. After all, isn’t the profession of teaching about the passion for education; the love of the students? Of course, cost of living continues to rise across the nation, and it’s excellent that the raise occurred to get this accounted for. However, it is also good that the school day and year were extended. More instruction time could make a great impact on students’ education, which should always be the focus in deals between teachers and districts, or teachers and cities.
A Gallup poll shows that confidence in U.S. public schools is at an all-time low: only about 29 percent of people have “a great deal” of confidence, compared to 1973, when almost 60 percent of people were confident in schools. Well, extending the time children will be in school will provide teachers with more opportunities to do projects and other activities that usually aren’t available due to time constraints. The American public school system is falling behind in almost every aspect. By the time a student in the U.S. reaches high school, their mathematic and scientific reasoning, knowledge of history and perspective on global affairs are all considerably lower than their European counterpart.
Before a solution can occur, the problem must be acknowledged. More emphasis needs to be put into the education of students of all ages. Our nation’s children must be prepared with the skills and tools they will need to take on a daunting and difficult world. Teachers should be compensated for the hard work they do, but also be willing sacrifice a lot to ensure their students are learning and thinking critically from a young age. It is indeed, an undervalued profession, and the U.S. needs to show encouragement and support for the entire public school system. Supporting teachers, such as those involved in the Chicago teacher’s strike, shows placing value in the education system.