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At a birthday gathering Saturday night, I overheard a conversation among several decade-plus Rochester City School District elementary school teachers. They joked about being the last to leave their school building at 7 p.m. They talked of never going out for dinner or drinks during the week because of their stressful workload. One said she was frustrated her teacher friend in high-achieving Penfield got a preliminary rating of “highly efficient.” Another said, “I’ll never be rated above ‘developing.'”

These teachers are working hard in high-poverty schools with minimal parental involvement. They’re tired of having a target on their backs when their students fail, despite their long hours and best efforts.

Teachers in Chicago are on strike today for the first time in 25 years. The Chicago union is the first to wholesale rebel against the “education reform” sweeping urban school districts across the country.

After marathon talks mostly resolved “economic issues” (The district says it offered what amounts to 16 percent raises over four years), teachers walked out anyway. They’re worried about job security amid the craze over standardized testing and teacher evaluations. The Sun Times reports:

Key disputed issues in the talks were teacher cost of living raises, additional pay for experience, job security in the face of annual school closures and staff shakeups, and a new teacher evaluation process that ties teacher ratings in part to student test score growth.

“Evaluate us on what we do, not on the lives of our children we do not control,” (Union chief Karen) Lewis said Sunday, denouncing the online process by which teacher evaluators were being trained.

CTU officials contend that CPS’ offer of raises over the next four years does not fairly compensate them for the 4 percent raise they lost this past school year and the longer and “harder” school year they will face this school year, with the introduction of a tougher new curriculum.

The union also has pushed for improved working conditions, such as smaller class sizes, more libraries, air-conditioned schools, and more social workers and counselors to address the increasing needs of students surrounded by violence — all big-ticket items. CPS officials contend they are seeking a “fair” contract, with raises for teachers, but are limited by funding and the threat of a $1 billion deficit at the end of this school year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls this a “strike of choice.” The school system will likely be in utter chaos as the district set up 144 half-day sites staffed by administrators and nonprofits. The strike will place a tremendous burden on families and students.

If Chicago Public Schools Jean-Claude Brizard had remained in Rochester, where teachers overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in his leadership and gave him scathing marks on a survey, would things have gotten this bad?

Brizard is among the “reformers” who want longer school days, more flexibility in hiring and firing, merit pay and tough evaluation metrics. They have a singular focus on tests, which comes at the expense of art, music, libraries and physical education. They don’t like to talk about the concentration of poverty, believing their methods will level the playing field. They believe they’re leading a civil rights revolution that calls for drastic measures in dire times.

This strike is about so much more than money. It’s about how to teach poor kids.

Links of the Day:

– The killing of college student Greg Fickess remains unsolved, 19 years later. I was in high school and remember the fear and racial animosity this case stirred. His parents now run a ministry.

– A Rochester student loan debt collection company is doing quite well.

– Imagine living in a house New York State has been threatening to demolish for two decades.

– In Kansas City, getting poor people to sign up for Google Fiber has become a civic cause.

– Let the baby cry it out, so you can get some sleep.

9 Responses to Strike

  1. September 10, 2012 at 10:39 am theodore kumlander responds:

    one of the problems in urban school districts is one of embarrasment. after the 1958 brown vs board of education landmark decison it was expected by white liberials[me] and blacks that blacks would intergrate into the white school system and achive equality quickly.

    that is not what happened for alot of reasons good and bad, but it is diffcult for white liberials to admit failure and for blacks to admit the failure on their part. So we keep hearing that poverty is no barrier to succsess and it is the white teachers that are the problem. Add in the fact that private education companies are trying to take over public education to get their mitts on the tax dollars they love to hate, so they keep renforcing that bit of propganda and you have a mess that is just getting worse with no end in sight.

  2. Rachel, I don’t know if anyone has pointed it out to you, but your links have been getting mixed up recently, e.g. today’s link about babies takes you to the strike story.

  3. not fixed yet..

  4. Vouchers its just that simple.
    I wonder when will we hear it reported that Rahm Emanuel sends his kids to private schools at 25K per child? But he’s of course against vouchers. Why don’t those parents who’s kids go to Chicago schools, who voted for Rahm have a problem with this? IS it they don’t know as the media is not pushing this issue? The schools aren’t good enough Rahm’s kids? Do as I say not as I do. Too bad for you if you can’t afford it?

    Aren’t the DEM leaders just the best Hippocrates there can be? But people still vote for them. Amazing.

  5. Vouchers, vouchers, vouchers… like a broken record! What vouchers do is give middle class parents the money to send their kids to private schools because they can make up the difference in tuition. To a family who doesn’t have enough to eat a voucher might as well be nothing because their income can’t make up the difference for that same private school tuition. What you are left with are even more middle class parents fleeing urban education and more kids being segregated in urban public schools.

  6. Ah Diane still like the taste of that Obama DEM Kool aid?
    McQuaid is 13,000 Per Yr. We pay 23K per student to send them to Franklin or any other city school.
    You automatically assume the voucher will be small? Won’t cover say McQuaid … who says? who Knows? I think a 18k voucher is more than reasonable. Don’t use that scam to try and put vouchers down.
    Middle class wont be the only ones to flee, all those that care about education will as well, and those that don’t care.. who cares?

  7. Hey, Orielly, will all the kids at Mcquaid stay there when all the kids from the city want to get in with their voucher? And how many of the kids who want to go there from the city will be able to keep up? Kind of hard when you’re 16 years old, in 8th grade and read at a 4th grade level. But that’s the teachers’ fault right? Has nothing to do with the fact that said kid missed 90 days of school, stays out until midnight, only comes to school to see friends, etc. But vouchers will suddenly “solve” those issues right? Instead of spewing your crap on these websites, why don’t you get certified and take a teaching job in the city. Might help you shake these delusional ideas you cling so tightly to. Food for thought.

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