CPS Strike: A Teacher’s Perspective

CPS Strike: A Teacher's Perspective

Alexus Brown, Staff Writer

For the first time in 25 years, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) went on strike. This made national news.  For seven days over 350,000 students were out of class.  After intense negotiations between CPS and the Chicago Board of Education, a compromise was formed, and school was back in session on Wednesday, September 19.  The question remains do strikes really work? In this case, the answer is yes. There were many critics, like the Chicago Board of Education claiming CPS teachers wanted more money, but that was just part of the truth. According to current CPS teacher Roselyn Williams, the strike was about being respected as a professional.

“I wanted to avoid skyrocketing health care insurance and a pay increase reasonable with the cost of living in Chicago,” Williams said.  She was one of the thousands of teachers in Chicago who worked a few months without an agreed upon contract.

There have been numerous complaints about Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. When asked if the Mayor is condescending towards CPS teachers, Roselyn Williams responded “he’s like that to everyone; teachers, police, and firefighters.”

So far, the new contract has been well received by CPS teachers because of the belief of a fair compromise by both parties.  Certain changes that most of the teachers wanted to be approved of were left out, such as air conditioning in every classroom. However, various modifications have occurred.  From now on, an updated version of the teacher evaluations shall be used.  The old teacher evaluations program were based on students’ performances, whether or not they came from a high or low income neighborhood. CPS students will have a longer school day however, and teachers worry about the children’s safety.

“My students live in very rough neighborhoods, filled with violence, and they don’t have transportation to take them to school,” Williams said. “Longer school hours would put their lives in danger.”  During the strike, a majority of parents sided with the teachers and were understood the predicament.

Unlike the previous teacher strike, the CPS teachers’ home life was unaffected since it was only a week.  Retired teacher Greta Nathan has been working in Chicago Public Schools for over forty years.  She sympathizes with CPS teachers, knowing how difficult it is to educate children with unsuitable learning conditions.

“Sometimes, if a student had a particular traumatic experience it can hinder their learning capability,” Nathan said, as she explained the hardships of being a teacher.

“We pay the Chicago taxes just like everyone else. We have a family to tend to,” Nathan spoke her defense for the educators. “Teachers rightfully earn their benefits without any explanation, but Mayor Emmanuel forced them to strike. He forced them to march.”

Chicago Public School Teachers actually deserve a 30% raise, according to an assessor hired by the Mayor over the summer break, but the teachers only asked for 3%.  They are fully prepared to make up the school days using vacation time.  While critics claim that the strike disrupted various students’ lives, one thing is clear; CPS won the dispute.