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The Chicago Teachers Union strike, and the recent rallies held in conjunction, speak to a problem larger than the conventional meme of pay increases, tenure, or pensions.  Chicago Teachers want better working conditions. They realize as no other employees might; the environments in which they work fashion the future of our nation.  Our children's education is at-risk.

Twenty-five years have passed since Chicago Teachers Union members have gone out on strike.  These Educators realize as do all workers. Unions today are not the powerhouses of yesteryear.  According to a study by Sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, unionization among private-sector full-time employees fell by 40% between 1984 and 2002.  Indeed, as cited in Unions, Norms, and the Rise in American Wage Inequality, "From 1973 to 2007, private sector union membership in the United States declined from 34 to 8 percent for men and from 16 to 6 percent among women. Inequality in hourly wages increased by over 40 percent in this period."

The reasons are stark.

Beginning in 1938, the Supreme Court ruled that while workers could not be fired for striking, laborers could be "permanently replaced." (National Labor Relations Board v. Mackay Radio and Telegraph 304 U.S. 333) For decades, the threat was understood.  In reality, however, until more recently, employers respected the rights of those in established unions.  

Almost abruptly, in 1981 attitudes and actions changed.  President Ronald Reagan, without hesitation, fired striking Air-traffic controllers. "Workers" were summarily dismissed from their jobs for taking a stance, asking for improved working conditions." The swift disciplinary response set a tone.  Decades of conservative Court and National Labor Relations Board decisions empowered elected officials and employers. Each of these quickly adopted policies that allowed for aggressive attacks on union workers. Today, Democratic Mayors and Republican Governors routinely exercise this power.

The situation in Chicago reminds us of our history and reveals the effects.  Weakened by a climate of intolerance union memberships decline.  A less unionized labor force led to an increase in inequity across the American landscape. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our local neighborhoods and in turn, in our schools.   The wealthy and high-wage earners live in affluent enclaves.  Their children attend higher quality schools. The middle-class, whose wages have decreased with the decline of unions, do the best that they can to provide a quality for their progeny.  The poor, well, they are left behind.  

Communities and education are now stratified. There are layers.

The first stratum sits on the surface.  Any visitor to a Chicago public school can see what the Teachers do.  
• Children are stuffed into over-crowded classrooms.  Studies verify that smaller class sizes, especially in the early grades, are necessary for student achievement.  It is well documented that large class sizes hinder a child's ability to learn.  Smaller classes have proven to narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor children.

Despite this research, class sizes in Chicago - under Democratic mayors - have increased steadily over the past two decades.  Kelly Farrell, a kindergarten teacher at Higgins Elementary on the city’s South Side, spoke to a New York Times reporter.  Ms Farrell said her classroom does not have enough chairs to seat all her students. “They are 5 years old,” she said. “They want their teacher’s attention, and there is one of me and 43 of them.”

• Crumbling plaster and paint, lack of climate control conditions within the classroom do not foster learning.  A dearth of air-conditioners exacerbates the situation. This is true particularly in the poor black and brown neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago.  Conditions necessary for learning are far from ideal. In reality, few of us learn well when we are placed in precarious places or positions.

Let us look beneath the surface; let us examine what exists behind the crowded and crumbling facades that are our city schools.  Peer into the eyes of our children. Lift that veil behind their shiny eyes.  Look at the numbers that do not appear in a superficial examination.

Preparedness. In communities such as the city of Chicago, students, through no fault of their own, come to class less than fully prepared for learning.

More so than in the past, parents' earnings have not kept pace with price increases.  Moms and Dads struggle to put bacon on the table or food in a child's belly.  Safety too is sacrificed.  Rents in comfortable communities are high. All  that contributes to physical sense of well-being is costly.  These are the sorts of things that a casual observer cannot see from the street or when sitting in an office assessing schools and their test scores.

•  One third of Chicago's children live in poverty.  Eighty plus per cent of students in the Chicago school system qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.  The determination is made based on family income, and offers a glimpse into the measure of poverty within a household.

• In Chicago, 32 per cent of the homeless population, are children.  Unaccompanied youth, without a home, account for 7.3%.

These are our children.  The providence and problem with Chicago’s schools, like public schools in urban areas all throughout this country, is the same, enrollees.  Students are a blessing; each is innately eager to learn.   Mentally every child comes prepared for education.  Indeed, from birth we all crave knowledge. We look. Listen. Think and Learn; our surroundings, parents, people teach us.

Teachers understand this; supposedly the public school system does as well.  We, as a people want to provide our progeny with The Schools Students Deserve.  Unlike the conventions common among Charter Schools, public schools turn no one away.  Chicago students, however, and those in other cities, suffer from the predictable and hidden hindrance, poverty.  Innumerable children live in homes where there is no place to study.  More lack parental support for studying at home. Tax cuts left our children behind.  The dollars needed to employ a satisfactory staff  and resources have been reduced greatly over the last two scores.

• Today Inequity is the issue! About 42 percent of the city's 400,000 public school students are black and 87 percent are low-income, according to district figures.

Children living in impoverished community's', such as the city of Chicago, are inadequately served.  The Department of Education cites arts and music programs as being  "particularly beneficial for students from economically disadvantaged circumstances and those who are at risk.” Only forty-two percent of Chicago’s elementary schools have the needed resources to support an arts education.  

• Chicago schools also lack sufficient financial support for physical education.  Equipment is an after thought.  In 2011, only 13 percent of Middle School Principals reported having facilities for their students. Tests?  Schools have these.  Examination materials are abundant.  The Chicago Public Schools administrators and the Mayor have decidedly shown that there are funds for test publisher, but not for pupils. The wherewithal needed to provide a quality education. Is not forthcoming.

If the Chicago Teachers strike speaks to money, that money can be characterized as our invisible strata, an authentic investment in education.  

The teachers ask; will we truly serve our youth, fund our schools, and endow education. Will we as a society reach for the skies or will the people serve themselves with tax cuts and enrollments in selective Charter Schools?  Will communities, such as Chicago, serve the young or budgetary needs?  Educators have chosen.  A career in education offers little in the way of big bucks. What is rewarding is the gratitude seen on a child's face when he or she grasps a bit of information that earlier seemed too complex.  When a learner exclaims with glee, "Now I get it!" a Teachers heart is filled.

An Educator's wages, while meager in contrast to the salaries garnered by the corporate elite, are not what moves the Chicago Teachers to strike.  Disparity for their students is the primary concern.   Teachers know that what they do daily in their classrooms and on the picket line makes a difference. Teachers care. Teachers reach the minds of avid learners.  Teachers teach.

Reference and Resources…


copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Originally posted to Bcgntn; BeThink on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 03:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by I follow and I Quote Meteor Blades in my Diary Group, Education Alternatives, In Support of Labor and Unions, Teachers Lounge, Mental Health Awareness, Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  T&R (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bcgntn, trs, JanL, Ozzie, bnasley, AuroraDawn

    and thank you.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 04:11:40 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for putting this out there. (8+ / 0-)

    Of course, all the "reformers," Emmanuel, Rhee, Gates and Duncan, they all know this. That's why they had their slogan, No Excuses, ready when they began their attacks on teachers.

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 04:11:48 PM PDT

  •  So what did the Chicago teachers do... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, bobtmn, Sparhawk, PubliusPublicola

    ...to improve student conditions....

    They took a 17% pay increase, on top of their average annual salary of $76,000.

    With a school district somewhere near a $1 billion annual deficit.

    Sorry, this diary just doesn't ring true.

    •  And they aren't supposed to take a pay increase? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bookgirl, Ozzie, DonVila

      Look, I don't like everything the unions do but asking for pay increases in today's economy makes sense. Prices are rising on EVERYTHING. Teacher's deserve good pay.

      What doesn't ring true is that communities are unwilling to raise revenues for schools because they think schools are failing. It's a chicken and the egg proposition. No one wants to throw more money into a system that is broken. It's not teacher's that broke it. The entire system is outdated and focuses too much on students and teachers as cogs in the system rather than as living human beings.

      •  Re (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical
        Look, I don't like everything the unions do but asking for pay increases in today's economy makes sense. Prices are rising on EVERYTHING. Teacher's deserve good pay.
        What private worker is likely to have his/her salary increase 17% in the next 4 years?

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 01:05:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Does that matter? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badscience, Ozzie

          Why should there be equality across the board?

          Look, my husband is a public employee. For years, the government tried to increase salaries like his, a military one, up to the civilian equivalent. Well, we finally made it but not because he kept getting raises to get him there but because corporations started paying less. The idea of equivalency changes all the time. Better we focus on paying fair wages in all walks of life, even when the civilian world starts falling behind.

        •  Don't buy into the view (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ozzie

          that everyone except the "job creating" 1% must sacrifice and do more with less. The fact finder recommended even higher raises. Why because they were being asked to more work - longer day... Certainly this would seem to an incredible increase in today's world and private sector standards for working people, Of course, if we look at CEO salaries... this kind of increase would seem modest. Do you suppose there might be a connection between demise of unions in private sector and the end of increases in real earning power?

          If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

          by itisuptous on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 04:42:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Inflation is extremely low (0+ / 0-)

        check out the CPI data

    •  Why must teachers and children bear (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bookgirl, Chi, JanL, quill, Ozzie, DonVila

      the brunt and the blame? Why can't teachers, who are part of a highly-educated and highly-trained workforce, demand fair wages? Why should teachers sacrifice their own well-being "just because?" The mayor is a public servant and you can bet he makes more than a teacher.

      If you have ever spent time in an urban public school, you know this diary rings true. You are a troll.

    •  You pay for what you get. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, quill, badscience

      Want quality? You have to pay for it.  Isn't that a fundamental basic truth of a free market?  Also do you understand basic statistics?  The average does not reflect what everbody makes. In fact, many teachers make much less.  Two better numbers to look at are the actual salary schedule of the public schools and the average age of teachers.  The younger the teacher the lower the salary.  Finally take a look at the education/salary stratus of teachers.  Their average salary should be compared to that of other Chicago workers with advanced degrees.  Most teachers have Master's Degrees.  

      Also historically, Over the past 70 years, the US has had the best schools in the world in large part because of the quality of our teachers.  Even now the wealthiest public schools in the US are as good or better than any other nation's schools in the world.  

      The problem aint the teachers it's poverty.  Idiots like you just don't want to believe the US has a serious and ever growing problem with poverty and that poverty has a permanent negative effect on a child's ability to suceed in school. Did you skip sociology class in college, or just avoid taking it so you could stay blissfully ignorant?  Either start learning about how the world really works or go back to your Fox News Fantasy World.

      I take political action every day. I teach.

      by jbfunk on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 07:12:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  BREAKING! Nearly 50% are below average! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk
         Also do you understand basic statistics?  The average does not reflect what everbody makes. In fact, many teachers make much less.  Two better numbers to look at are the actual salary schedule of the public schools and the average age of teachers.
        What makes you think that Balto doesn't understand "average", and that you do?   You are insulting Balto, but you are not making your case.
        Their average salary should be compared to that of other Chicago workers with advanced degrees.  Most teachers have Master's Degrees.  
        The reason there are a lot of Masters degrees is that the union pay scale rewards them with more money.   That does not mean they are needed, or that holding a masters degree means very much.  A masters degree in one discipline is not comparable to others.   Education degrees are much easier to get than most other fields.   There is a whole industry devoted to giving teachers graduate level credits for the least possible work.   Education departments typically have much lower requirements to entry.  

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 08:10:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  attacking (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ozzie

          The average pay is a right wing talking point that confuses people and distracts from the deeper issue which is teachers are underpaid.  Exactly where does your stat come from that states 50% of teachers are below average?  Bet I won't hear from you on that one.  In reality there is now quantifiable way yet too evaluate teacher effectiveness.  It doesnt exist and there is no magic formula so any measurement is faulty.  

          A masters degree is a masters degree regardless of field. There are alot of bad law school programs out there and this is true of all fields.  If you want to discuss the quality of a degree that is an entirely different conversation.  By making the point that less education is better than more education, you betray your own ignorance.  And, as usual a retort of your kind yet again avoids the central issue:  POVERTY. I guess you didnt take sociology either.  Makes me question the value of your education.  

          I take political action every day. I teach.

          by jbfunk on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 12:27:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re (0+ / 0-)
            A masters degree is a masters degree regardless of field.
            No it isn't. People with a masters degree in electrical or mechanical engineering laugh at "education" degrees. There is just no comparison at all.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 01:07:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Are those (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ozzie

              Same electrical and mechanical engineers capable of handling a classroom? Im guessing not many.  Have you ever managed a classroom?  Also they all needed teachers going all the way back to kindergarten to put them on the path to those degrees.  

              I take political action every day. I teach.

              by jbfunk on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 06:59:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  WTH!! Apparently you do not have an education (0+ / 0-)

          degree and everything you just wrote is nonsense!

          Education degrees take over 5 years, just for a BA in education because you must also complete the 4 years of academia plus field work and hundreds of hours in the classroom before you get that diploma.   Most teachers have an education degree as well as a degree in a certain content area, especially if they teach above 5th grade.  Even teachers who specialize in elementary education, often have separate degrees in early childhood education, child psychology, or social work.

          After you have your degree(s) you must still pass up to 5 exams that cover ALL fields of study from mathematics to history to literature and the methods to teach EACH subject.  After those tests, you are required to "certify" in  each grade level or subject you wish to teach, thus more testing.

          After you get a job, you are required by law to continue you education every other year you teach, hence the amount of teachers with advanced degrees....you will find plenty of PhDs teaching your 3rd graders.

          Entry into my education department require multiple background checks, fingerprinting, a 3.5 or above (on a 4.0 scale) in any lower level degrees and honors destination.  I also had to complete multiple interviews, take a 7 hour test and have 5 written references from principals, educators with advanced degrees and/or professors prior to entry.

          Give me a break and please go tell it to someone else because you are obviously ignorant.

    •  Cheer Up (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, quill, badscience

      If you don't count step increases, the actual raises in the contract are about 8% over three years, so they are just enough to keep up with inflation and not actual raises.

      Chicago teachers will continue to be severely underpaid, and CPS will continue to keep their budget a secret and pay for whatever politically connected programs they want to.

      You're getting exactly what you want, which is underpaid teachers. I hope that fills you with joy.

      "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

      by Reino on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 07:28:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Your comment doesn't ring true either (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badscience, Ozzie
      They took a 17% pay increase, on top of their average annual salary of $76,000.
      How do you get 17%? That's not even close. The agreement calls for 7% over three years with an option for 3% in year four. That's 10% over four years maximum. And they gave back 4% that was contractually agreed upon last year, so in reality it's actually 6% maximum over five years.

      That's significantly less than inflation. CPI in 2011 alone was 3.0%.

      Those greedy bastards!

      Note the difference between median and average salary. "Average" is intentionally misleading. This "average" salary also included all extra duties beyond the classroom such as coaching or running a club after school.

      Imagination is more important than knowledge. Albert Einstein

      by michael in chicago on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 07:50:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Chicago teachers are working (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badscience, Ozzie

      a day that is 20% longer and an additional 10 days a year.  They should receive a pay increase that reflects that which 4% a year does not.

      “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

      by musiclady on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 08:55:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Teachers are prohibited by law (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badscience, quill

      to strike for anything other than wages.
      But you probably know this already, as your intent is dubious, to say the least.

      Unlike CTU, which is tired of seeing its charges shit upon by a privatization contingent led by the mayor.

    •  Teachers Pay? (0+ / 0-)

      Dearest Balto ...

      I apologize for my delayed response.  I was away from cyberspace all day. Peace actions beckoned.  Rather than share anecdotal information I thought i might offer a bit of research.

      Outrageous Teacher Pay? The Chicago Teachers' Union strike may be over, but it has reignited the broader debate over education reform. Behind Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s negotiation stance is that underperforming schools are caused, at least in part, by underperforming teachers, and improving those schools requires better teachers who work harder and are easier to fire. Bad students just need better teachers, the thinking goes. It’s was part of the policy stance behind the attitude of former Washington, D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, and was popularized in the hit documentary, Waiting for Superman.

      If reformers are starting from that idea, then it must seem ridiculous that part of the Chicago contract negotiations hinge on paying those teachers better. There’s a popular idea that all of these teachers, who, after all, get summers off, are overpaid. We can’t answer the policy questions, but it’s pretty easy to see whether teachers are overpaid compared to other certified professionals with bachelor’s degree. The Prospect decided to look at how teacher pay has changed since 1997, which was the oldest year for which we could find data online, until 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and compared it with how pay has changed for similar professions—accounting and nursing. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teacher pay started off at a lower level nationally, and rose more slowly in the past 14 years.

      What about the idea that Chicago teachers are getting paid outrageous amounts? For that, we went to the National Council on Teacher Quality, a “teacher reform” organization that collects data on teacher pay and other components of collective bargaining agreements. (It is nonpartisan, and is funded by private big shots like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but it “was founded in 2000 to provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations,” i.e., teachers unions. Still, it provides useful information on teacher pay across the country.)

      The Prospect compared Chicago to eight other of the largest school districts in the country, and looked at the entry-level pay and the highest step on the salary schedule. Chicago annual pay starts about $10,000 higher than the biggest counties in Florida, which dominates the chart with its many large school districts. It also reaches higher than all the districts other than New York City. The median salary for Chicago teachers is $67,974, which is just south of the exact middle of the bar in the graph below to Chicago.

      Since the article mentions Florida, I will share what I experienced firsthand. I am Educator, and have been for more than a score.  I moved to Florida a few years ago. I was astounded by what I saw in the schools here, more so, by the wages. I thought I might begin as a "Guest Teacher," substitute classes as I pursued permanent employment.  I was abundantly familiar with the process and the position.  What I did not expect were the conditions and more so the pay. I have a Graduate degree. My studies extend beyond.  I am also Credentialed in more than one subject. Still, I was paid less than a part-time worker at McDonald's! I was willing to settle for less pay.   As a lifetime Educator, living on few funds was my norm. However, sadly The tale goes on. What was worst for me, was to see students short shrifted.  

      Resources, even in an affluent District were few, the quality of which was far between.  Most spoke of felling imprisoned when in school.  No doubt!  I felt it too!!! Computers and classrooms were on constant lock-down.  Doors to the outside world, physically and metaphorically were securely sealed. Any attempt to stray beyond what was allowed, mentally, physically, or imaginatively, even for Teachers was thwarted!  Students were like wounded animals. Young learners were either resigned and passive, eagerly willing to learn, while being exceedingly cognizant of the limits, or acutely ready and willing to rebel. In all my years teaching, I never saw anything like it.

      Upon reflection, I realized I could not be surprised. My first day in Florida I went to the District office to complete the hiring process, which I began months earlier from a distance.  I was astounded when I was told, everyone, regardless of the reason for their "visit" must empty their pockets and pass through a metal-detector.  Welcome to Florida schools!

      May life bring you peace, prosperity, pleasant dreams becoming the best of your reality. May your life reflect the goodness that is you . . . Betsy

      It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson.
      Betsy L. Angert BeThink

      by Bcgntn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:16:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Outrageous Teacher Pay. The Images... (0+ / 0-)

        According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teacher pay started off at a lower level nationally, and rose more slowly in the past 14 years.
        Photobucket
        What about the idea that Chicago teachers are getting paid outrageous amounts? For that, we went to the National Council on Teacher Quality, a “teacher reform” organization that collects data on teacher pay and other components of collective bargaining agreements. (It is nonpartisan, and is funded by private big shots like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but it “was founded in 2000 to provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations,” i.e., teachers unions. Still, it provides useful information on teacher pay across the country.)
        Photobucket

        It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson.
        Betsy L. Angert BeThink

        by Bcgntn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:30:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And how could the strike do anything about (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TRPChicago, bobtmn, Sparhawk, Be Skeptical

    poverty, inequality or preparedness of kids? Of course, teachers didn't even make any demands related to these issues b/c it would have been ridiculous. Nothing wrong with union members demanding better working conditions and more money but I don't see how it does anything to address the issues you bring up.

    •  test based 'evaluation' waste 10% of budget (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badscience, bookgirl, Chi, JanL, quill, FG

      1 Opposition to over-emphasis on the poorly designed, corporate meme of creating a constant demand for test prep was an important port of the strike.

      These systems aren't thought through at all. They divert teachers from teaching and into rote learning exercises.

      This pressure is particularly cruel to kids in urban districts who are least prepared - instead of getting brought closer to standard they are just taught to waste time in these ridiculous test.

      2 Presumably class-size caps are also part of the union demands.

    •  If you don't get it (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, badscience, FG, Ozzie, quill

      Then you haven't been paying attention. The narrative has totally changed, and focused upon the need for better school and a better school day, giving all kids the same opportunities to learn that Rahm's kids get at his high priced charter school.

      Before the talk was just a longer day and all about money. Now the talk is about more often how the money is spent, where it is spent, and how closing public schools so charter schools can be opened diverts this education dollars.

      The strike put these issues on the national narrative and have Rahm falling over himself to look like these are his issues too.

      They're not. So the fight continues.

      Imagination is more important than knowledge. Albert Einstein

      by michael in chicago on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 07:54:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think that this issue is complicated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean

    and both sides should really work to find common ground instead of trying to demonize the other...Given the enormity of the job, I don't think $76k is too pay (many folks on Wall Street who add virtually little, if anything to society, earn many multiples of this...)

    Teachers should be evaluated, but I am not convinced that student performance on test scores is the proper measuring stick (or, that it should be the sole measuring stick)---this leads to teaching for the test, cheating scandals, neither of which contribute to the cause of education.

    Also, everyone shld keep their eye on Rahm...He is a DINO...Actually, his tactics are pretty consistent with the Democractic Party...Pretend to be for the middle of America while actually enacting laws that favor the 1%...Privitization, standing along, is not the answer.

    Just a note to all of the smarty pants on both sides---how long have we been using the current educational system? As others have said, we need a change.

  •  I get so tired of teacher-bashing and (8+ / 0-)

    union-bashing trolls who think that making a decent wage as a teacher is greedy, and who think that the tales of crumbling infrastructure and community poverty "don't ring true."

    Firstly, average teacher salary is not what every teacher makes. Secondly, if you were to average the salaries of college-educated professionals in a community you would find that the teachers would be making less than most others in that group. Thirdly, if you value education for your child and for the children of your country, you would pay what it takes to attract the best to the profession (to whit: Finland). You wouldn't pay them pittance, make them do janitor's work because there are no janitors, and evaluate them on the ability of their students to take a standardized test that elite schools admit is without value. Rahm's children in private school do not take these high-stakes tests and their teachers are not evaluated based on high-stakes test results.

    Children who are poor, who are homeless, who are disabled, who are abused, who are hungry, who are tired, who are scared do not learn well. Public school classrooms are over-filled with children that come with different skills and challenges. What they achieve is not measurable on a high-stakes standardized test.

    If you had 40 new children for 9 months of the year with widely-differing start-points in their abilities and ongoing threats to their ability to learn, you probably wouldn't want your ability as a teacher to be measured by those kids' ability to take a bubble test.

  •  Unions serve their members, not the public (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    This is one more diary trying to make the case that Teachers Unions exist to serve the students and the society as a whole, or that somehow, satisfying the demands of teachers will lead to social benefits for everyone.

    This is the same argument made by other groups who want the public to accede to their demands.    This argument is just like "clean coal" or the worship of "job creators".  

    Teacher union supporters are saying, in effect  "We are better than you, and you must not disagree with us.  If you do, you are a right wing troll, or an ignorant know nothing."  

    I will remain opposed to the teachers unions until they stop bashing responsible critics and offer some way to identify and get rid of the poor performers in their group.

    Every other professional group seeks to identify and weed out the poor performers.   Teachers unions seek to protect them and grant them lifetime employment.

    What Chicago students need now is lots more charter schools.

    Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

    by bobtmn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 07:51:09 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, sure (5+ / 0-)

      You totally mischaracterize the issues.  Thia 'argument' is not a 'demand' to the public.  What is happening in Chicago is a negotiation between unionized teachers and their public sector bosses over REASONABLE pay, working conditions, and evaluation.  

      Having a nice weekend, are you?  Thank unions for your 8 hour day and 5 day week.  Hurt on the job ever? Thank unions for your worker comp payments.  Lost your job ever? Thank unions for your severance and unemployment comp.

      How would you like to work in unsafe, unsanitary conditions?  How would you like your job evaluation to be based on tests that judge factors over which you have no control?  How would you like to be a highly educated professional and be treated like a commodity?

      For years, public sector bosses (from local to national level) have had the bully public and have mischaracterized the nature of problems with American education to skew contract negotiations on their favor.  

      No doubt unions have abused their power in the past and will continue to do so if unchecked.  But an honest person would admit that, on the whole, the work of unions has resulted in enormous benefit to ALL working Americans.  

      This Chicago strike was a perfectly reasonable response to unreasonable management demands.

      •  I love that "public sector bosses" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badscience

        characterization.  Public sector union "bosses" are the employees themselves.  My public sector union boss is a high school English teacher.  The other "bosses" consist of a middle school technology teacher, a middle school math teacher and a 4th grade teacher.  What a bunch of thugs!

        “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

        by musiclady on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:06:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Nonsense, you have no idea what the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, lilypew, badscience

      hell your talking about. Charters have shown no benefit over traditional schools in study after study. Teachers unions do fight for kids and classroom conditions, I know several who are very concerned about over crowding, lack of textbooks etc. Finland and Japan, two of the top systems in the world, have teachers unions, it's not about the unions.

      It's about a political system that is looking for scapegoats because it has driven the U.S. economy into the ground. It is about hedge fund managers with tons of cash who want ever more by getting into "for profit" charters- like they tried to get approved in New York last year. Amazing! Thirty years of war on the middle class in this country, driven by neoliberal market fundamentalism and you think the answer is more.

      Matt Farmer says it better than anyone, by the way, this is why they want more charters. Rahm has no problem with dicing up the education system for his corporate buddies, his kids have it good- get a clue. This is about CLASS WARFARE.


    •  To your points... (3+ / 0-)

      Who, in your view, are "responsible" critics?  Too many critics have been shown to have a vested money interest in demonizing public schools/teachers - most notably charter school backers in the political world who are not, and could not, teach school.  (I am thinking of Michelle Rhee here.)
      As for weeding out unqualified or poor teachers, systems are in place across all public schools to identify and either help those teachers or move them out of teaching.  Unions do insist on a due process for depriving someone of their livelihood.
      Charter schools are a boondoggle of epic proportions that do not serve the children any better than public schools, and often do far worse.
      You really don't seem to have any data behind your assertions and I suspect that is why you are being called a troll.  
      Good day to you, I have read enough of your hateful opinions.

      Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

      by JanL on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 08:38:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Worst teacher? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        I read the reference you gave.  This is an anecdote with no names, and no verifiable references at all.

        Even if it were verifiable, it does not make the case against charter schools.

        The reason I like charter schools is that they offer a way for more parent and community input into the education process, including hiring and pay scales.  

        I like charters because they are better than vouchers, since charters have to accept everyone and cannot charge tuition.

        I hate the idea of vouchers going to private schools, because then we will have good schools only when parents can afford to pay tuition on top of the voucher.

        I think the only  thing that will improve schools is for parents to have choices between competing services.     Parents come before teachers, in my viewpoint.

        Personally, I cannot imagine working in a system where my individual value and contribution is measured by the certificates I have and the years I have put in.   I value a chance to be judged on my performance, even though I have sometimes felt that I was unfairly judged, or inadequately rewarded.   Once I got a promotion that required me to take responsibility for a team of 12 instead of my previous team of three.   My boss took me to his country club and told me what a wonderful opportunity he was giving me.   He announced my promotion to the group in a big meeting the next day and everybody congratulated me and thought I would do a good job.

        The next Monday, my boss told me that all this new responsibility came with a 4% raise.  I said "that's not very much"  He said If I had a better offer, I should take it.    I gave him my two weeks notice at that time ( I DID have a better offer).   He said I didn't need to stick around and I should leave right away.   I did.

        Within nine months, all the other project leaders had quit too.    We all got way better offers and moved out of an environment where we were not valued.   That company went under about five years later.      

        If you want to follow private sector professionals, that's the way it works.  Sometimes you don't get appreciated, but if you are any good there is someone eager to pick you up.  

        If teachers continue to defend a failing school system, vouchers is where we will end up, and that is bad for everyone.

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 11:01:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Matt Farmer & Lab School (0+ / 0-)

        I just listened to Matt Farmer, and he made and eloquent argument for the best possible schools.  I agree with him 100% on the importance of a well rounded, enriching public education.

        He compares Chicago schools to the  Univ Lab School.  It seems the Lab school is an example of a well run and challenging public school.

        http://www.ucls.uchicago.edu/...

        What makes the lab school so much better?  

        Do they have to hire teachers based on Seniority?  Do they have to take teachers who go laid off from other schools?   Are their teachers CTU members?

        I truly want to know

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 12:06:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You do understand that the Lab School is a private (0+ / 0-)

          school that can charge high tuition, right?  That its students are among the best off and most 'enriched' kids in this city, right?  That the school  probably has little management-teacher strife because teachers aren't being evaluated on false criteria, right?  

    •  Teachers' jobs are to serve the students (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL

      The unions job is to support the teachers so that they can do that.  Teachers' working conditions are the same as students' learning conditions.  I still don't understand why some people don't get that.  Having a teacher be denied the necessary tools to do his/her job, a salary that requires him/her to work a second job to make ends meet and not providing the necessary support personnel certainly does NOT benefit students.  Teachers' unions are fighting to right those wrongs which will definitely be good for students.

      “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

      by musiclady on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:02:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  First are you a Democrat? And with that attitude (0+ / 0-)

      do you expect that if Democrats think like you do labor is going to support Democrats in the future? My brother is in the operators unions and he makes well over $125,000/year plus benefits. He retires at 55. But if he took a wage cut think of how much money taxpayers would save on road building projects. Why is he so selfish and why won't he think of all the poor people who need roads. In fact he is also in the painters union so he gets a double pension. So why will he not sacrifice for the public good? You know like the teachers? And give up his bargaining rights. And encourage nonunion contractors with no experience to come in and build roads. I'll bet they got some really good ideas about innovation and construction projects.

      Why do we not turn lose the creative genius and unleash creativity in the building trades? You know get rid of the pesky regulations and unions bosses that stand in the way of progress?

      /Snark Off

      Why do we pick on teachers and let others escape without examination? Like the bankers, finance and insurance guys, real estate experts and economists. And construction workers. If a teacher is overpaid at $70,000/year and shit benefits then what about the construction worker in a less skilled trade making $125,000/year and great benefits. Not that I begrudge tradesmen it just does not seem fair.

      •  We pick on teachers unions because (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badscience, JanL

        there is a lot of money to be made by privatizing public education and the unions are getting in the way.  Funny thing is --it's the teachers that actually care about the kids.  They are in the classroom every day with these kids and they have relationships with them.  The privatizers could care less.

        “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

        by musiclady on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:10:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Union does not equal Democrat (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        I have no beef at all with private sector unions.   It is the private sector unions who won all those benefits for working people.

        They never claim to be representing everyone.  They fight like hell for their own members.   They don't pretend to be fighting for me or my kids.

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 10:35:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Forgot a point... (0+ / 0-)

          I meant to say that the unions do not always support Democrats.  I do not consider unions to be reliable Democrats.

          I am a reliable democrat, even when they sometimes seem to care more about public employees than they do about effective teaching.

          Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

          by bobtmn on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 10:38:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well if anti-union sentiment grows in the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badscience

            Democratic Party you can kiss union support goodbye. Do you have any idea what unions supply to Democratic campaigns? Unions supply precinct walkers, money, phone banking, signs and posters. They supply bodies for meetings and rallies. They supply meeting space for local Democratic organizations. They are a part of the machinery of the Democratic Party at the national, state, and local level.

            Have you ever actually volunteered to work for Democrats other than posting on a web site? Have you ever walked a precinct or phone banked. Because it seems you have a poor understanding of how Democratic organizations actually run and win campaigns.

            Can you imagine the Republican Party telling the Chamber of Commerce to f*** off? Because that is what you are saying to the labor movement.

            •  Yes, I have (0+ / 0-)

              I have walked precincts in every election.  I have made phone calls and donated money in every election.    My first involvement was in the McCarthy campaign as a teenager.

              The Democratic party existed, and was stronger, before the advent of  public employee unions in the seventies.  

              Public sector unions pitted public worker against  the taxpayer and user of public services.  This has soured lots of people against unions in general.

              Private sector unions were stronger before the growth of public sector unions.  

              Unionized people share interests that affect the entire citizenry.   Global warming, women's rights , clean air, clean water, energy efficiency, quality public education, civil rights, justice, peace, safe workplace, safe food, bridges, traffic control, public transportation, city parks, state parks, national parks, protection of endangered species, religious freedom.    

              If I believed your thesis that the Democratic party could not exist only on the strength of those issues, I  would quit tomorrow.

              The Democratic party would be stronger if we returned to our roots of supporting issues important to everyone.   If public union workers do not share those Democratic party values, they are welcome to join the other party.

              Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

              by bobtmn on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 07:13:53 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Children at the Margins Deserve Better Teachers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Be Skeptical

    The author observes: "These are our children.  The providence and problem with Chicago’s schools, like public schools in urban areas all throughout this country, is the same, enrollees.  Students are a blessing; each is innately eager to learn.   Mentally every child comes prepared for education.  Indeed, from birth we all crave knowledge. We look. Listen. Think and Learn; our surroundings, parents, people teach us.
    Teachers understand this; supposedly the public school system does as well. . ."

    But do they? Many teachers are prepared with very worn outdated and ineffectual preparation; primarily for two reasons (a) there certification programs are ineffective and (b) the vast majority of teachers do not actually experience the same conditions as their students. Even when teachers may reflect the populations of theirs students (very often not the case), they often do not even live in the same neighborhoods or communities as their students (not sure about Chicago, but in Minneapolis/St. Paul, nearly 95% of the teachers in urban schools live outside of their districts). This observation is not criticism of this article, but intended to supplement the nature of the problem. For example, the charter school movement and the online education industry exacerbate the problem of distance between students and their educators only making outcomes even worse.

    Without recognizing that teachers are ill-prepared and often beleaguered in their classrooms not solely because of the problems of their students, it will always be difficult to convince communities and parents that "good teachers need more and better resources". Today, the nature of schooling from the point of view of children is that if they are lucky to have that ideal "good teacher" who believes in them, they may get the support they need. However, because such teachers are too few and far between, education remains what amounts to a game of "rolling the dice". There are entirely too many teachers who will not frame the problems of their students in terms of teacher inadequacy. It is far easier to blame "resources" and corporatist politicians like Rahm Emmanuel. It is easy to do so because it is so frightfully true. But it is not the whole truth. Until teachers recognize that they must question their own competencies and, most important, their assumptions of their students and students' communities, they will fail at what they are trying to accomplish.

    For example,  let's say CTU had gotten all its demands--explicit and implicit--in this last contract. Does anyone really believe that if we eliminate forced, ineffective, and pejorative evaluation of teachers that things like academic disparity will go away? What if Obama all of a sudden actually got his head on straight and began to fund education like he funds the military now (thereby removing the impetus for war and improving the lot of children all at once)? Would all those available resources, with less inappropriate evaluation (and, let's say a teacher-oriented and directed evaluation system) bring about a different result by holding the competence of teachers--at the moment--as a constant?  Some may say yes, but most anyone who is truly an educator would know better.

    Malcolm X once noted that you can't "make a chicken produce a duck egg . . . unless it is a revolutionary chicken". He was referring to so-called "progressive" politicians, but in other terms, without revolutionizing the educator and her curriculum, revolutionizing the school and the classroom will simply not be enough.

    I certainly can agree that the context in which schooling is conducted is paramount, but that context follows the teacher as much as it does the student. We can not really afford to hold teachers as good "by nature" when they are created by design. That design must be addressed and a vibrant united teachers union is indeed an essential ingredient. It simply will not be enough.

    •  Here is an argument against what you have to (0+ / 0-)

      say right here:

      without revolutionizing the educator and her curriculum
      Sexist much?

      In addition to that, teachers don't develop their own curricula. They are generally set by an administrative board somewhere, state and federal mandate. NCLB was not the brainchild of teachers who felt it was a great way to assess learning and teaching. Private-sector testing companies had a lot to do with that legislation.

      In addition to that, when the educator (male or female) is forced to do things that are not helping improve teaching or learning (like cleaning the room, cleaning other facilities, doing mindless paperwork, dealing with top-down mandates from non-teacher administrations and school boards, and administering hour after hour of high-stakes multiple-choice tests) the problem with education isn't primarily the teacher.

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