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Chicago is now ground zero in the nation’s debate over education reform. Teachers have filed a 10-day strike notice, meaning they could walk off the job for the first time since 1987. The district is led by former Rochester superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, but the city is under a mayoral control model.

Teachers in the country’s third-largest school system are angry about pay, evaluations, longer school days and a general lack of respect. The Huffington Post reports:

(Union President Karen) Lewis claims the public schools administration “seems determined to have a toxic relationship with its employees,” saying teachers have been belittled and demoralized. She pointed out that a previously negotiated raise was canceled and changes have been made to the way teachers are evaluated.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard issued a statement saying students “cannot afford to be removed from the classroom” just as they’re starting a new longer day, and said the district will meet every day with the union to try to avoid a strike.

The school district has offered teachers a four-year contract with raises of 2 percent a year, which school board spokeswoman Becky Carroll said would cost $160 million. Lewis has repeatedly said the raise offered by the board is not acceptable.

The district may open for half-days if teachers strike. That puts parents in a position to decide if they will cross a picket line. The district is asking the state athletic association to waive a rule canceling sporting activities if there’s a strike.

A strike could provide super fuel to critics of teachers and unions. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took aim at teachers during his convention speech, saying, “They believe in teacher’s unions, we believe in teachers.” If the vast majority of teachers in a large district support a strike, will Christie believe them? Something tells me, no.

One thing is certain: Strikes are incredibly hurtful and divisive to all parties.

UPDATE: Brizard may be fired. The Chicago Tribune reports high-ranking city officials and the school board are angry with his handling of a myriad of issues.

Links of the Day:

– Rochester and Buffalo are “underrated hotbeds of innovation.”

– The Dome Arena in Henrietta is for sale and the Monroe County Fair has to move. My guess is a new buyer will knock it down and build housing and retail.

– When a mall declines, communities suffer. Taxes go down. Buildings deteriorate. Hoping to prevent another Medley Centre, Senator Chuck Schumer demanded answers about redevelopment and future plans from the owner of a mall in Syracuse. No one did that for Medley or Midtown.

– Both Syracuse and Rochester have arenas managed by SMG, but the deals they cut with local governments remain secret. Open records experts say that’s baloney.

– Assemblyman Vito Lopez allegedly likes his staffers to leave the bras at home. 

– The Jonathan Child House in Rochester is undergoing renovation.

– Go to 1:08 into this video. It’s so me.

5 Responses to All Eyes on Chicago

  1. Having a school system under one man’s control is very damaging. Is this an democracy? What does Rahm Emmanuel know of education anyway? Or any mayor in history?

  2. August 31, 2012 at 12:02 am Cary Barnhart responds:

    Chicago teachers have the shortest school day in the country. Their pay is comensurate with other teachers. They are so lucky to get 2% a year. Illinois needs a Taylor law to reign them in. The teachers don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. The public has been had for years. What they forget is what we all know…the kids are not learning anything. Excuses are not a mandate for a pay raise.

  3. August 31, 2012 at 12:57 am Mike Hoag responds:

    I still remember the RCSD teachers striking while I was a student at school #40 on Lagrange Ave. We had to report in the morning, they took attendance in the hallway, and then sent us home pretty much immediately after attendance. I was a dork on the safety patrol, so I got to stand out there crossing students across Lagrange for like 45 minutes, go in for attendance for 20 minutes, then immediately go back out to my post so I could cross students again! Such fun – like an extended summer vacation, but we still had to get up in the morning!

  4. NY should thank the stars for the Taylor Law or every union representing public employees in the state would’ve and should’ve been on strike over the past 20 years. Kids aren’t learning anything because parents aren’t holding them accountable, not because teachers are lazy. Murders aren’t down because people don’t hold their neighbors accountable, not because cops aren’t trying. And on and on. Blame everyone you want but in the end it is YOU, the citizen, that locks yourself away from reality and blames everyone else. That expects more from others than you do yourself. I hope they strike, just so the arrogant anti-labor people of America in BOTH parties wakes up and realizes that it is WE THE PEOPLE, not We the Company, not We the State, not We the party faithful or donors, not We the Obama or Romney. YOU tell ME what YOU have done to change America for the better and if you can only say that you paid your taxes than you are saying ‘I pay my taxes and therefore default to those earning a paycheck from them to make decisions’. That is fine, but don’t get mad at them for doing what they feel is needed to do their job fairly and efficiently. And if you do nothing more than that you had better expect those being paid via you taxes to stand up and do what they think is in YOUR best interest because the elected AND appointed officials will only do what is in their own best interest. Don’t be ignorant enough to think it’s about civil servants making themselves rich. If you are over 40 think way back to when you were 6-9-12-15-18 years old…. what made school and society so different? It wasn’t the teachers or schools, it was accountability from parents and the system as a whole, not the individual workers who showed up every day. The same can be said for industry. Now it is ‘who can I blame?’. Don’t be a coward, accept responsibility if you’re responsibile. If not, let the chips fall where they may.

  5. August 31, 2012 at 5:51 pm Orielly responds:

    Yea I would like to have the chips fall where they may. Make the students and their parents customers. Put in vouchers tomorrow.
    The biggest thing in education yesterday was not whats going on in Chicago. Nope.
    Its Romney and Ryans push as a key party platform..to support vouchers.

    Once students are viewed as customers with a check behind them and their parents, the whole dynamic changes. And once students know they can be kicked out of that school for mis-behavior the dynamic in the classroom changes as well. Its called competition. In business we face it every day.

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