“Is it really worth it? Is it going to make that much of a difference for your ultimate goal of getting more funding?”In a blog post, another CTU member tried but failed to make sense of the CTU’s decision. DNAinfo, an online media outlet in Chicago, quotes several teachers opposing the strike who are fearful they could be kicked out of the union for crossing the picket-line. One teacher put it bluntly: “I think we are being used as pawns.” Meanwhile, the kids, who are already losing a day of learning because CPS can’t pay its bills and has ordered furloughs, will now lose another. The parents of more than 300,000 students will also have to make accommodations. CPS is arranging activities for kids at parks, libraries and schools. And, while there probably won’t be much teaching and learning taking place, the students may take from the whole experience a few lessons about adult dysfunction. On the other hand, they may see the day as an important civics lesson and a chance to voice their frustrations. Student protests have had an impact on education politics in cities like Newark and Boston recently, though it’s not clear how much they were genuine expressions of student voice or whether they were put up to it by activists. Attentive parents may also notice that, while their traditional public schools are closed on April 1, Chicago’s 130 charter schools, including the 25 percent that are unionized, will be open, serving about 60,000 kids. The walkout may in fact fuel demand for more charter schools, which is one of the things the union is fighting. It could also feed the agenda of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, who is openly encouraging CPS to consider declaring bankruptcy in order to get out from under teacher contracts and pension obligations and restructure debt. Let’s also remember that CTU President Karen Lewis faces a union election in May and despite her apparent desire to cut a deal with CPS and avoid a strike, Lewis is being pushed by hard-liners to take a tough stand. Maybe that’s the point after all. [pullquote]Despite rhetoric about economic inequity and educational injustice, maybe this walkout is really just union politics.[/pullquote] If so, it will be a missed opportunity for labor and management to come together, pressure Springfield, and secure a real and lasting victory for Chicago. Let’s hope.
Peter Cunningham is the founder of Education Post and serves on its board. He served as Assistant Secretary for communications and outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration’s first term. Prior to that he worked with Arne Duncan when he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Peter is affiliated with Whiteboard Advisors, a DC-based education policy, research and communications firm. He serves on several non-profit boards, including Oakland-based Great Schools, which provides school quality information to parents through a national online platform, The Montessori School of Englewood, a Chicago public charter school, Manufacturing Renaissance, a career education program that trains public high school students for jobs in manufacturing, Unbounded, an organization supporting teachers in schools that are transitioning to higher standards, and Foolproofme.com, which is focused on financial literacy for students. Peter founded Cunningham Communications, serving public, private and nonprofit clients, worked for political consultant David Axelrod, and was a senior advisor and speechwriter for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. A native New Yorker, Peter began his career as a journalist with small weekly newspapers in New York. He earned an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in philosophy from Duke University. He is married to artist Jackie Kazarian, and they have two adult children who are proud graduates of the Chicago Public Schools. Peter joined the Education Post board in 2018 after stepping down as the organization's Executive Director. Meet our board →
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