CHICAGO – The teachers of the Chicago Public School system ended their first strike in 25 years, but even after the negotiations ended, teachers and officials still feel uneasy.
The strike began on Monday, Sept. 11 and lasted through Sept. 19th. The union was demanding salary raises, and negotiating was getting nowhere.
The strike affected 144 Chicago Schools, which all enacted contingency plans, opening their doors to students from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The strike was sanctioned by 90 percent of the union, which consist of over 25,000 members.
“We know a strike is really going to be painful,” Jay Rehak, union delegate, told The Chicago Tribune on the first morning of the strike. “People will be hurt on both sides.”
While both sides took a blow, everyone seemed to walk away with something to smile about.
“You had teachers standing up for what they need to teach and what students need to learn,” said Randi Weingarten, with regards to the closing of schools and standardized test evaluations. Teachers were fighting for their teaching ability to not be based off of standardized test scores. This is how many school systems rank teachers and has long been disputed.
After the union’s long strike-drought, this sudden change of pace might leave people listening for more. After all, the last teachers strike of this proportion was in Detroit in 2006. Chicago teachers have not had such an event since 1987.
“It certainly gave them attention and power that two weeks ago people weren’t really considering,” said Christine Campbell, a policy director at the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education of this year’s strike.
While the focus of the strike was the teachers of the Chicago Public School system, educators are hoping that this will be an example for unions across the nation.
However, in many areas, teacher’s and public-employee’s unions are forbidden to strike. In these areas, teachers are required to teach and provide for the community.
“They missed school. They missed their teachers. They missed their friends,” said Iquasai Carpenter, a parent of two children in the Chicago Public School system, to The Huffington Post.
Carpenter has a valid point. With teachers on strike, there were over 400,000 students out of school for a week. While many parents agree that teachers deserve a pay raise, it is also difficult to sympathize when their strike leaves children without education.
Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, kept close tabs on negotiations prior to and during the strike. Emanuel has an assertive approach to school reform, which the strike was attempting to rebuke. He eliminated a raise in teaching salaries shortly after taking office in May of 2011.
However, reform advocates are saying that Emanuel did not stick to his guns during negotiations, and according to B. Jason Brooks, director of research at the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, “unions clearly came out the winners.”