Teachers won't take it

Letter to the editor

05/30/2012 10:00 PM

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Courtesy Powell Photography, Inc.
Chicago Teachers Union members rally in the Auditorium Theater before marching last week.

More than 7,500 proud members of the Chicago Teachers Union held a rally at the historic Auditorium Theater and marched downtown on Wednesday, May 23. Teachers, paraprofessionals, clerks and clinicians are tired of being scapegoated and disrespected by politicians and business-types who are not educators, many of which refuse to send their own children to our schools despite their clout and connections.

We, the educators, the people who work with students and their parents and are invested in our schools’ communities, know what must be done to improve CPS. We marched to show that our schools are not failing because of us or our effort; rather the past 20 years of policies and administration of both 125 S. Clark St. and City Hall are failing the students. The achievement gap grows wider each and every year since these so-called reforms began; they are the status quo. Yet the endless expansion and prioritized financing of charter schools occurs despite claims the district is 700 million in the hole, and now CPS can’t afford to lower class size or provide the 300-plus schools without full-time art and music or 180 schools without functional libraries which our children cry out for.

Further complicating this issue is the convoluted and ill-conceived Board of Education contract proposal to the members of CTU Local 1 which more than 90 percent of the district’s staff believe will cause irreparable harm to our students, schools, communities and our careers. We want to teach, mentor, coach, and provide services for Chicago’s youth.

We do not want to be forced to implement the newest, latest, ineffective, and untested educational policy that comes from astroturf so-called educational advocacy groups that say they speak for the children or reform. These groups’ political goal is to scapegoat school staff and their unions, as well-influence Springfield legislators with millions in campaign contributions to do their bidding.

Then the onslaught came in the name of the children: The cancelling of a contractual 4 percent raise; major school closures and turnarounds based on hard-to-decipher performance policy criteria and that were subject to unethical town hall forum participation (the paid protestors); and a push for a longer school day next year with little promise of increased preparation time, let alone a modest cost-of-living raise.

When we didn’t agree quickly enough, the mayor pushed schools to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement with a financial incentive (he got less than 1 percent of schools to agree). Next year CPS will also implement a new curriculum and a dramatically different new teacher evaluation system based, in part, on student test scores, which both CTU and hundreds of area university researchers agree is faulty.

And this is on top of the regular struggles of teaching in a poorly financed school system rife with needy children and occasional gang violence.

In the course of caring about our students, we have to care about ourselves. We have to care about the policies that we are asked to implement. We have to care about our compensation and benefits as educators. We do not receive Social Security, nor do we receive assistance for continuing education. We care about rich curriculums that our youth deserve, not the endless onslaught of federal, state, and district exams that increase every year and take away from valuable instructional time. We care about schools being properly staffed with counselors, psychologists, and social workers to heal the wounds of inequality in Chicago. We want to work in a school system that value, respect, and support every child, no matter where they live. We want to serve, but until we are allowed to work and feel that our students’ best interests are at heart, we will march and stand strong. The proud and unified 30,000 members of CTU Local 1 will continue to educate, organize, build our natural coalition with parents, but above all else seek justice for the youth of Chicago.

Martin L. Ritter
Chicago Teachers Union member, Whitney Young Local School Council member

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