As the labor history lesson plan otherwise known as the historic Chicago teacher strike veered off course Sunday night, I tried to steel myself and my children for another week of life as a pawn. "I'd rather be a rook," my 13-year-old son said. I told him that according to CTU, it's the Pritzkers who own the castles in this town.
With the framework for an agreement between the district and the union tentatively reached on Friday, most CPS parents went to sleep that night hopeful that both our and Ms. Lewis' prayers would be answered with teachers and students back to school on Monday.
By Sunday morning, some parents found themselves believing that the strike that was never about money would be settled by a school district that never actually had the money to pay for the concessions that were perhaps never strikeable at all.
Or so it seemed in the confused state of parent life in CPS. But Sunday afternoon brought with it news that the union delegates wanted more than a framework. They were demanding that all 180 pages points of the agreement be fully digested, vetted by attorneys and circulated to 800 delegates before attempting a vote.
Meaning teachers wouldn't be back in classrooms until Wednesday. Maybe. Assuming the court order issued by Mayor Emmanuel doesn't change the game altogether.
Which brings me to the many conversations I've had this week with one of my neighbors, a veteran CPS teacher who works with some of the most challenged children in one of Chicago's poorer neighborhoods. His classroom is overcrowded and he has little to no administrative or parental support. I spent much of the week assuring him that parents like me fully realize that he and the thousands of teachers exactly like him are part of the solution and not the problem with Chicago public schools.
And it was obvious on Sunday that this teacher was passionate to return to his classroom. 350,000 Chicago school children were ready too and this contract, no matter how well crafted, will never address the larger issues of poverty, joblessness and social injustice that are the real factors behind our failing schools.
We parents who want an educational system that can rescue those most at risk, realizing that no contractual agreement will solve those glaring inequalities. Real reform involves shifts in the economy that will take a groundswell of public support, collaboration, research and planning to accomplish. Most parents realize it is not what is happening in Chicago. If CTU continues to position this strike as a referendum on decades' worth of failed public policy while keeping our children out of school, you risk eventually losing my trust and support.
So delegates, please understand. We agree that it is critical that teachers have found their voice. And we know that you will be using it forcefully in the rounds of school closings next on the agenda. But trust or no trust, it is time, past time, to bring this chess match to its end. Finish this strike, claim your victory and let our children return to their classrooms where they belong.
This blog post is part of HuffPost Chicago's "State of CPS" series, which features perspectives from Chicago Public School teachers, students, administrators, staff, parents and others experiencing recent changes to the district firsthand. Interested in sharing your take? Email us at email@example.com.
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