Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicago teachers strike over class size, wages

It all sounds so familiar. Under the false guise of "austerity" and "student's first" the Chicago public school board wants to eliminate teacher pay increases, increase class sizes and lengthen the school day.

After a summer of failed bargaining, Chicago teachers are today on strike for the first time since 1987. That also struck a familiar ring - the recent one day strike by BC government workers was also the first strike since 1987.

I have a feeling of cautious optimism. Optimism because after a very long time, and after many years fighting school closures (also sound familiar?), privatization through charter schools, and deteriorating working conditions, Chicago teachers are saying enough is enough. Cautious because as in so many so-called democracies these days, I am worried that there will be government intervention used to try and end the strike.

The changes that the Chicago Board wants to impose indeed mirror changes brought in by government's all over the planet. As Lois Weiner, a professor at New Jersey State University writes:

Though the titles and acronyms of policies differ from one country to another, the basics of the assault are the same: undercut the publicly- supported, publicly-controlled system of education, teachers' professionalism, and teacher unions as organizations. The very nature of education is being contested: the Fourth World Congress of the international organization of teacher unions, Education International (EI), held in Brazil, explored the theme "Education: Public Service or Commodity?" (see http://newpolitics.mayfirst.org/node/40)

The Chicago situation has all the tell tale signs:

* attempt to demote the profession by reducing pay and increasing working hours
* introduce a competitive (rather than collaborative) model for teachers using merit pay
* reduce the level of service and the quality of learning by increasing class sizes

To support Chicago teachers, you can find information on the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ChicagoTeachersSolidarity

Here is a good backgrounder on the issues in this strikc:
http://labornotes.org/2012/09/behind-chicago-teachers-strike

1 comment: