Chicago teachers strike.
I was watching the news last night and was ashamed of my City. In the midst of what is obviously a heated situation, I saw Karen Lewis yell at reporters and chide one who dared to bump her with a microphone. I saw Mayor Emanuel, the candidate that got my vote, face the cameras and call out the Chicago Teachers Union time and again. He was backed by a bevy of City big wigs representing schools, police, negotiators, and the Board of Education.
Between 10 PM and midnight, there was much casting of blame, much discussion of text messages, and a lot of work trying to curry the favor of Chicagoans from both sides.
I support labor. I come from a long line of union workers. My Mom’s uncle was shot in Chicago’s Memorial Day Massacre around striking steel mill workers. My sister, a PhD labor historian, just published her first book about the labor movement, Eyes on Labor. There is a lot of union blood that runs through my veins.
But still, I was not happy with everything I saw. When adults choose to bicker through the media about who is sending whom text messages, I shake my head on behalf of all of Chicago’s children. When the CTU puts out a letter condemning the City’s contingency plan as a “train wreck,” I’ve got to wonder. If the CTU believes Chicago’s children are unsafe in said contingency plan, then stay at the table. If they think the kids will be cared for in a ‘good enough’ fashion, then don’t put out alarmist rhetoric.
As for the contingency plan, the irony of administrators highlighting that there would be one adult for every 25 children just made me angry. If a 1:25 ratio is valued and of importance, then why are teachers expected to work with numbers that far exceed that ratio? What is good for the goose must be good for the gander. For our children to succeed, not only do our kids need more time in school, they need to be in schools that are conducive to learning. And, yes, that includes air conditioning.
I heard David Vitale, president of the Board of Education, this morning, hemming and hawing on NPR that the BoE wants air conditioning for all Chicago public schools, too, but if they pay for air conditioning, they can’t pay for people. No joke. This is 2012, Mr. Vitale, and your boss is pushing for school year round. A/C is as necessary in Chicago as heat is in January and February. You can thank global warming for that. And my guess is that the BoE offices are nice and temperate year round. Again, if it’s good for the goose, it must be good for the gander.
Last Friday I was named an “Our Town, Our Hero” by GM. I got a cool plaque and a nice Visa gift card, and the use of a pretty sweet Buick for a week. GM asked some supporters of our charity, Donna’s Good Things, to help support me at the official passing of the keys, if you will. A bona fide first photo op. Well, I am not much for photo ops, but I reached out to Katie, the Director/Owner of the dance studio where we fund scholarships, and she went to town for me. At the award ceremony, Katie had arranged for not only the Alderman to be there (nice to meet you, Ms. Silverstein), but invited the teachers of Rogers Elementary School to support me.
Rogers Elementary is the Chicago public school where Donna’s Good Things is funding weekly dance education for every student for the 2012-2013 school year. The administrator has been fantastic to work with on this initiative. The faculty has been so supportive that every single one came out last Friday to support me and DGT at the GM ceremony. This was Friday at 3:30 PM, just as their strike was looming.
I had never met these teachers before and they don’t know me, Donna, or my family from Adam, but there they were. They are an enthusiastic crowd. I chatted with many and none wanted to strike. Their wish was to be in the classroom this morning. But on a Friday afternoon, long after they could have gone home for the day, there they were, supporting a stranger who is working to support their classroom kids.
I was moved beyond belief.
Those are the teachers I support. Those teachers who are invested in the education their classroom kids receive. Those teachers who want very much to be back in the classroom, doing their jobs. Those teachers who don’t get a hell of a lot of support from the Board of Education or the Mayor. Those teachers who are responsible for the next generation of Chicagoans. I support those teachers. All of them.
Now let’s get them back to work.
And as for Rahm and Karen Lewis? Well those two both got to get it together. Their egos are MASSIVE. Huge, bullying individuals, both of ’em. They need to stop thinking about who will win and who will lose in this negotiation. They need to work together, modeling behavior for the students they both profess to worry over, and get it done. No more cheap shots. No more sparring through the media. Just get it done, do their jobs, and prove that Chicago is still the City that works.
The teachers, parents, and students of Chicago are waiting. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.
You see what I did there?