For the last seven days, teachers and students of Chicago Public Schools have been out of school, while the teachers union waited to see if their demands for better education for students was taken seriously. While students may have been thrilled about an unexpected seven day holiday, teachers were busy picketing for better resources for their students.
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Members of the teacher’s union were inspired by the strike and the strong public support, especially the support that came from low-income African-American and Latino parents. The seven-day strike was a success and will serve as a model for the future. Because of the efforts they took to organize leadership and members far in advance, they also managed to get support from parents and the public. This strike drew national attention to the tension between two different visions of school reform.
These teachers have won a much better contract than the one being forced on them by the Chicago Public School bosses and Mayor Rahm Emanuel–a man who wants to destroy teachers unions and public education. This contract may not be perfect, but it is considered a truce between two parties–the teachers and the Chicago Public School bosses.
Check out this list of gains as a result of the teacher strike in Chicago:
1. Principals are able to hire the teachers they want and offer some job protection. And laid-off teachers have better job opportunities than district officials had proposed.
2. An increase in pay over what Chicago Public Schools was offering.
3. Needed textbooks will be available to students on the first day of school instead of six weeks after the start of school.
4. Promotion of racial diversity in hiring at Chicago Public Schools.
5. An appeal process to the evaluations of standardized test scores was added.
The teachers will have to continue fighting to defend and expand the gains in the contract if it becomes reality. The bigger battles ahead include fights over Chicago Public School’s plan to close 80 to 200 schools and open more charters, fair funding for the schools and proper implementation of the contract.