Many of you have emailed us with questions about what is happening in negotiations and what needs to be resolved so that our children can get back to school. Raise Your Hand has heard a range of opinions from you since Sunday night and we know that it is very easy to believe that either one side, CPS or CTU is to blame for this conflict, and we ask that instead you try and take a look at the individual issues at hand. Illinois School District 299 must find a better way to work together in the near future, after this strike is resolved.
The question is, how is that cooperation going to happen? We know that the district and the union are still bargaining over a teacher evaluation policy and the teacher recall issue. We know that teachers want to be able to bargain over the teaching/learning conditions of the classrooms. This is a tough process as state law prohibits the teachers from broaching subjects like class-size and facilities issues and whether they can have their lunch-break protected, etc. Still, the two sides may be havingconversations about these things in negotiations. We are not at the bargaining table, so we just don't know.
One of the main issues from our perspective is, no matter what you think of the public personas in this conflict, our teachers and parents have historically not been consulted in the policies that impact our children. We see this strike as a referendum on the culture of this district, in part, which desperately needs changing. Not to mention a statement about the direction that public education has taken nationally. These are big issues.
That said, we believe there are short-term contract issues that must be figured out swiftly. Many of these long-term policy issues just cannot be resolved immediately. On the funding front, the sad fact remains, Illinois is now 50th in the nation for what the state governnment kicks in towards education.Illinois has cut $800 million to education since 2008. Local revenues have declined. All of the problems that ail our schools will not be fixed at this bargaining table. Take a moment to voice your concerns as a parent by calling your state reps/senators, our Governor, Mike Madigan and John Cullerton and ask them why our state is 50th in funding and what their plans are to change it. Call your alderman and ask if they support any kind of TIF reform to help address the issue.
We encourage dialogue between teachers and parents. It is always the best way to go. So many of our problems at CPS stem from a culture that does not foster decent dialogue.
We all hope that a contract can be finished immediately. We wholeheartedly understand that the teaching/learning conditions of Chicago Public Schools must be addressed but that they all can't be addressed today. We want a district that engages stakeholders to create policy. We are disappointed to hear that the Mayor has not stepped in to negotiations once.
Our strike camp in Lincoln Square will be open today at 2500 W. Wilson. Parents in Hyde Park also are operating a camp at Nichols Park (Kimbark/55th) and many community orgs have similar set-ups around the city. See our website for more options: www.ilraiseyourhand.org.