Breaking the teachers union

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There is very little argument about the need for Chicago Public Schools students to have more classroom time, better classroom time or even more recess time. The amount of time our students spend in a classroom, getting instruction, is an embarrassment, a

There is very little argument about the need for Chicago Public Schools students to have more classroom time, better classroom time or even more recess time. The amount of time our students spend in a classroom, getting instruction, is an embarrassment, and it should have been addressed years ago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean Claude Brizard seem to be on a mission to reverse this situation, and, if you would believe the hype, they are fighting against the Chicago Teachers Union to make this happen.

Don’t believe the hype.

The nasty battle between Emanuel and the teachers has absolutely nothing to do with the length of the school day and year.

What we have here is a concerted, deliberate battle to break down the CTU.

If this war for public opinion were a football game, the mercy rule would have been invoked. Two weeks ago the Chicago City Council – which was so pro-union it kept Walmart jobs out of the city for years – voted unanimously to support a longer school day. Seeing members of the Pastors United for Change cozying up with Ald. Richard Mell (one of the Vdrolyak 29) was particularly disheartening. Even some of the city’s labor union heads – most of whom don’t send their kids to Chicago Public Schools – came out in support of a longer school day.

Why target CTU? Hopefully it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that 76.6 percent of CPS teachers are female. Hopefully it has nothing to do with the fact that 29.6 percent of CPS teachers are African American (down from 40 percent in 2002). But a union with such a large Black female membership is not enjoying any union solidarity from other unions dominated by white males. A union that has helped create a Black middle class in Chicago is under attack, and even Black aldermen aren’t out there defending the teachers.

This is not a battle about money. Though the district is trying to close a $200 million budget deficit, and has reneged on a negotiated 2 percent raise for the teachers, that is not the rallying cry for the district.

Instead, CPS sends out notices trumpeting the fact that teachers at individual schools are voting for longer school hours, succumbing to the siren call of 2 percent bonuses offered by the district. If all of the schools voted that way, it would cost $100 million, according to CTU, which would pay for the raises. So far, nine schools (out of 650) have taken the bait, even though it undermines the only weapon a union has to advocate for its members – solidarity.

The union fell into the trap of expecting to be paid for the extra 90 minutes in the school day. But it was the wrong argument completely, and it helped turn some parents – who think teachers work a five-hour day and have the summers off – against them.

CTU is steadfastly supportive of a longer school day. They want the kids they have in their classrooms to get the most out of the experience, and get the most out of their expertise. This is not about classroom time; it is not about money. It is about breaking the union’s hold on the 30,000 members of CTU, and the children are being used as pawns.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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