“We said that we couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract,” Lewis said. “And it was time to end the strike.”
–Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis
Today, classes resume in Chicago. The teachers strike is over, pending a full vote of the membership. Despite those who would claim otherwise, the CTU flat-out lost on their biggest issue. From today’s Wall Street Journal:
The draft agreement for the first time links teacher evaluations to student test scores, giving city officials what they say is a more rigorous system to identify the worst-performing teachers—and fire them if they don’t improve. And the deal would let the city lay off teachers based on performance, rather than simply based on how long they have served.
The full story is here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443816804578004652048007358.html
Yes, there are caveats. Those are there to make sure that CTU leadership can claim “VICTORY!” in what can only be described as defeat.
For the first week, parents were willing to support the strike; however, that support hits the point of diminishing returns after about one week. “What am I supposed to do with these kids?” would soon overtake “Teachers have it hard.” Worse, we see Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff was willing to resort to Wisconsin-style Republican tactics if necessary. From today’s Inside Higher Ed blog:
What is equally if not more threatening, though, is the mayor’s attempt on Monday to seek an injunction based on the rationale that teachers are only legally able to strike over economic issues. While strikes should always be the last effort, it seems clear that in many municipalities, unions — and teachers on the whole – -really have reached the end of the road. They have been largely ineffective in countering a political movement that has been incredibly punitive towards teachers while doing too little to address the systematic economic and social challenges of many urban areas.
THAT paragraph painfully foretells the future of teachers unions. The unions have outright failed to fight off a political trend that punishes their membership for the vocation they chose. That court injunction was the BIG threat, both immediate and perennial: losing even the spectre of collective bargaining over non-economic issues. It happened in Wisconsin, and the unions took their message to the streets and the voters who lived on those streets. Voters eventually sided against unions, bringing a Republican majority back to the Wisconsin legislature. To have a court injunction (or worse, a later ruling) stripping the CTU of non-economic bargaining rights would be enough to gut most teachers unions’ power.
Teachers don’t leave because of low pay as much as they leave due to working conditions. Those conditions worsen yearly through the pervasive disrespect they receive from students, parents, administrators, and the press. It’s what makes teaching the third least happy profession in America. Overall, unions have done very little to mitigate that situation. Today, the CTU acquiesced to that disrespect. They had no real choice at this point. They have reached “the end of the road.”