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Kenzo Shibata

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Chicago Loves Teachers (and So Does Matt Damon)

Posted: 06/04/2012 3:11 pm

How many big city mayors are in our family?

How many of your friends are executive directors of Astroturf organizations?

Are you on a bowling league with any members of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board?

Some of you reading this may have a few of these elites in your life. Most of us don't.

Now, how many teachers do you know and love?

Matt Damon, although not a Chicagoan, loves teachers.

We know that the public loves its teachers. Why would anyone want to be a teacher if it meant spending an average of 58 hours a week around students and parents if they didn't like you?

The public is behind educators even though the corporate education reform establishment continues to try to drive a wedge between teachers and the public they serve.

Although this is common sense -- in our data-driven world, people want to see numbers. Chicago Teachers Union conducted a poll of Chicago voters in early spring that showed nearly three-quarters of Chicago voters had a favorable impression of Chicago public school teachers and a solid majority of voters also holds positive opinions of the CTU. CTU shared its poll with the Tribune. Of course the only thing people like more than numbers are their own numbers, so the Tribune conducted its own poll where they found:

On the question of who voters sided with in the more comprehensive debate over improving the city's public school system, [Chicago Teachers Union] scored a better than 2-1 ratio over the mayor, who has had a testy relationship with the union's leadership.


Among all respondents, 40 percent sided with the union, compared to 17 percent who backed Emanuel... Among public school parents, 48 percent sided with the teachers union and 18 percent sided with the mayor.

That should settle it, right? The mainstream media now has to open its eyes to the fact that people love teachers.

Everyday Chicagoans talk about their favorite teachers.

However, the Tribune doubled up its efforts against teachers in its May 24 editorial, where editors pleaded with the union against taking a strike authorization vote.

This editorial was published the day after CTU organized a massively successful rally where thousands of teachers and supporters took to the streets. The theme of the rally was "Respect." Teachers and school staff felt beaten up by the corporate elites and needed a coming out party.

The Tribune must have seen such successful organizing as a threat to the status quo of slash-and-burn school reform.

Perhaps the Tribune is starting to think that this kind of unity will lead city educators to not only take on but also achieve the 75 percent vote required to go out on strike.

This editorial is an emotional appeal to divide the public from the teachers, paraprofessionals, and school clinicians they love.

The Tribune went so far as to insult teachers by implying that even thinking about voting takes a focus away from the classroom.

What they may not want you to know is that when the vote is taken members will not immediately go on strike. The vote will give CTU leadership the latitude to call for a strike if negotiations have reached impasse. Currently the union and the board are in the middle of a 75-day "fact-finding period." Once this period has concluded, it could take up to another two months for an actual strike to occur. Everyone is still at the table, including CTU's 40-member rank-and-file bargaining team.

Members of the CTU Negotiating Team describe their experiences at the table.

Furthermore, voting takes less than five minutes. Teachers can still spend their 10-hour workday writing lessons, teaching, coaching and mentoring. They just have to visit their union steward one morning and check off a box that says "yes."

The Tribune may not get it, The board may not get it, Astroturf groups definitely do not get it (they aren't paid to get it), but parents, students, and other taxpayers know why we teachers were in the streets last week.

One parent, Matt Farmer showed how he gets it in a Huffington Post blog:

Teachers and their union representatives are simply gearing up -- outside of the classroom, mind you -- to fight for their professional lives this summer, and I'm glad they're finally getting engaged.

I say that both as a longtime CPS parent and as a local school council member. I talk to a lot of teachers around the city, and from Rogers Park to Gage Park they're angry.

Matt Farmer addresses 4,000 CTU members at the May 23 rally.
They're tired of being made scapegoats for the devastating effects of the generational urban poverty that Emanuel and his aides would rather not talk about. They're tired of having their students used as over-tested lab rats by an ever-changing cast of out-of-touch, out-of-town "reformers" who specialize in "public education by press release." But what really angers the teachers I've talked to is the absolute lack of respect that this mayor and his hand-picked team have shown them during the last year.

The Board of Education saw 6,000 teachers in the streets and another 4,000 supporters holding their heads up high. Onlookers cheered them on. Police ordered to control the rally cheered on the protestors. It was like a coming out party for the city's educators.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, and school clinicians: keep your heads up. The board knows how much they can take if they crush our spirits. It's calculated.

 

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