Thursday, October 17, 2019

On the way to the picket line...

William Estrada, CTU member, Visual Arts teacher, Telpochcalli Elementary School. (Alan Maass)
It's a cold and blustery morning in Chicago. We're heading over to walk the picket line with my teacher/daughter and her colleagues at Telpochcalli Elementary in Little Village. Telpochcalli is one of the few remaining original small schools started by activist teachers, including Jennifer, back in the '90s. Its dual-language curriculum is focused on Mexican culture and the arts. My grandson Oscar, now 19, went there.

As we always do when there's a teacher strike, Susan & I will stop first to pick up a box of coffee and some donuts for the teachers (and me).

The Nation begins its story on the strike by interviewing Telpochcalli art teacher William Estrada.
Estrada teaches visual arts to classes [at several public schools-m.k.] as large as 36 students, and he doesn’t have enough chairs to go around, much less supplies. “The chairs that we have in my classroom, we actually got them out of storage from other schools that closed down because we didn’t have enough money to buy them ourselves,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re given the resources that we need in order for us to do our job and to support the students and the needs that they have.”
Yesterday, CTU Prez Jesse Sharkey told the teachers to prepare for a "short-term strike". I hope so but I'm not so sure. I don't know how he is either. Soon after union leaders had announced that they saw a path to a settlement and agreement on a contract, talks broke down and the strike was called. It seems like the list of unresolved issues is always changing and being argued out with lots of heat and not much light, mainly in the press.

I'm hoping that both sides stay focused on achieving a fair contract and on the important teacher issues, such as teacher pay, smaller class size, and staffing, including librarians, nurses and social workers, and that attempts by some in the media to frame the collective bargaining process simply as a power play between CTU leaders and Mayor Lightfoot fail.

By some, I mean Greg Hinz at Crain's, who writes:
In the end, maybe it had to come to this. A strong-willed rookie mayor who needs to establish her bona fides as the leader of a tough city vs. a labor union with new leadership and a chip on its shoulder, seeking to reclaim some of its lost glory.
It didn't help that AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten flew out for a CTU rally and announced, “We’re about to teach the new mayor a lesson.” I'm not sure what "lesson" she plans on teaching Lori Lightfoot but the idea of Weingarten teaching a lesson to Chicago's first black, gay, woman mayor sounded patronizing at best and...well I'll leave it at that. I hope she apologizes.

Yesterday, the parent group, Raise Your Hand, issued a statement on the strike which made a lot of sense.
Please remember to be good to each other out there. At the end of this contract negotiation, we are all parts of school communities that are part of a larger community, the Chicago Public Schools. Our children need all of us working together.
An ABC/Sun-Times poll appears to show nearly-half of surveyed voters supporting the teachers and also giving high marks to Mayor Lightfoot. That pretty much sums up where I'm at.

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