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Six Chicago Teachers' Voices: The Pros and Cons of the Day of Action

At a time when the Chicago Teacher's Union is planning a one-day strike, it's important to remember that while we as teachers may support or oppose the strategy of a Day of Action, we're united by a common set of values around education.
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At a time when the Chicago Teacher's Union is planning a one-day strike, it's important to remember that while we as teachers may support or oppose the strategy of a Day of Action, we're united by a common set of values around education. We believe that education opens the door to opportunity, and that this door needs to be open whether students live in Lawndale or Little Village, Englewood or Edgewater. We believe that every child deserves a well-trained, effective teacher. And we believe that funding challenges are limiting our city's ability to serve all of its students well. We are aligned on these values - even if we have different ideas about how to achieve them.

We Support the Day of Action:
While jailed for protesting segregation, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." We are proud that the Chicago Teachers Union has refused to stay silent. The CTU's House of Delegates has voted in support of a 1-day strike on April 1st. This Day of Action is about putting students first. On April 1, Chicago's K-12 educators, college professors, community organizations, labor organizations, and others will stand together to collectively raise an alarm that the citizens of this state can no longer ignore. In the last three years, Chicago has closed 50 schools, cut hundreds of staff members, and frozen teacher pay. Many of our schools lack art classes, after school enrichment, or sports. The city and state are selling out the future of our children by refusing to embrace and argue for additional revenues.

Chicago Public Schools is broke and has exhausted its capacity to borrow. There are two possible paths forward for the district: 1) severe staffing cuts, dramatic increases in class sizes, and more neighborhoods torn apart by school closure; or 2) serious revenue solutions like a progressive income tax. We oppose any solution that does not include additional revenue because of the dramatic effects it will have on our students.

What's more, our recent graduates are now at risk of dropping out of college due to decimated state funding, including suspension of MAP grants. These cuts mean that students have less access to career choices, are less marketable, less competitive, and are less likely to have upward mobility. That is a future we cannot accept for our students, and that is why we support the April 1st Day of Action.

- Casey Fuess (Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy)
- Andrea Parker (Robert Fulton Elementary)
- Jim Staros (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr College Prep)

We Oppose a One-Day Strike:
We believe that the Chicago Teachers Union wants to do what is right for Chicago's children, but that the union's tactics are misguided. Our schools are severely underfunded, and we believe that CTU wants to protest against the decisions of city and state leaders that threaten our students' education. However, we are concerned that the lack of clarity around the Day of Action will cost us the support of many teachers and the public - because we fear that the public will wonder, as we do, what the purpose of the Day of Action truly is.

First, there has been no clarity about whether teachers are sending a message to CPS or the state. Is CTU protesting against a reduction in the pension pickup, the declaration of three furlough days, or state underfunding? Second, while CTU originally stated that the purpose of the Day of Action is to protest the furlough, it is illogical for this day to fall a week after the furlough. Why not protest on the furlough day itself, or on our professional development day on April 8, and avoid another day that students miss school? Finally, the union has also stated the purpose of the strike is to protest the state's inability to fund its schools adequately. We agree, but then wonder: why we are we protesting in Chicago and not Springfield?

Moreover, we are concerned about the long-term consequences of tit-for-tat and politically-charged actions, particularly at a time when the district and the union are facing a common challenge. The heart of the problem lies with inadequate local and state school funding, and with pension inequity. At this point in our state budget stalemate, creating a unified front to protest at lawmakers' doors will highlight the role that the state has played in underfunding education at every level, from kindergarten through college. We support a unified protest in the state's capital with other unions--and even with CPS -- to fund the education that our students deserve.

- Gina Caneva (Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy)
- Paige Nilson (Alexander Hamilton Elementary)
- Alexander Kmicikewycz (Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy)

While we six teachers differ on whether the union should proceed with the Day of Action, we are unified in recognizing that the current situation cannot continue without hurting the students we serve. Teachers should be at the table to help find an answer to the district's precarious finances, building a coalition to apply pressure on both the city and the state to create sustainable funding solutions. We must stand together to reject separate and unequal educational opportunities. All children--no matter the color of their skin or the wealth of their parents--deserve adequately-resourced schools.

The teachers are Fellows and alumni of Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship.

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