Teacher strike highlights neglect of public schools

While the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school board continue to negotiate an agreement over a new contract, the real issue facing the country is the current state of the inner-city public school system.

The CTU has said it believes that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new plan to evaluate teachers based on students’ standardized test scores is an unfair way to “comb out” the good teachers from the bad ones. Although Emanuel’s proposal is to improve the educational quality of high-poverty school systems, his method of evaluation is not an efficient way to correct the educational reform problem.

Under his proposed plan, up to 6,000 public school educators could lose their jobs. Emanuel said he believes that by closing down “failing” schools and increasing the number of charter schools, students will benefit from better educational opportunities and graduate at higher rates. According to ABC News, only 8 percent of students in Chicago public school systems receive four-year college degrees.

While school boards want to pinpoint public school problems on under-qualified teachers, they ignore other factors that contribute to poorly performing schools, such as low budgets for after-school activities or funding for new textbooks.

Emanuel wants to suppress public school unions and increase the number of public charter schools. Public charter schools are publically subsidized but do not have unionized teachers and do not require the same amount of funding as a public school.

Emanuel putting blame on the teachers for the public school system’s low performance rates will repress the teacher’s unions and decrease the amount of funding they receive.

Republicans like former Gov. Mitt Romney have also pushed for CTU’s suppression.

Romney said, “Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples of that yet.” Like most Republicans, Romney criticizes the teachers’ unions because they are one of the most noted groups to donate to the Democratic Party.

Public response to the teachers' strike has been met with responses that teachers are ungrateful, greedy and selfish to the demands of the students. In actuality, they are trying to preserve and improve the schools they work in and students attend. Many media outlets, especially conservative ones, are skewing the strike to be about teachers who are unsatisfied with their paychecks and are preventing 350,000 students from going to school.

But the struggle to come to an agreement is a huge wake-up call for the country to realize there is an obvious problem with the way the public educational system is run, especially in urban areas. Changes need to be addressed, starting with creating smaller classrooms, having more one-on-one teacher-student involvement and providing better quality school supplies.

By supporting the Chicago school strikers, we are supporting the role of educators in public schools nationwide. Because we are part of a public school system, we can identify and relate to the importance of improving the future for both teachers and students in public institutions.