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Teachers On Strike

September 11th, 2012

Teachers strike in Chicago, September 2012. Photo credit: peoplesworld via Flickr/CC

School just started up again but nearly 400,000 kids aren’t going to school these days in Chicago. And it’s not clear when they’ll be going again.

Teachers and public school officials haven’t been able to come to an agreement, for now, about the some of circumstances of teachers’ jobs.

So, on Sunday night, teachers announced they wouldn’t be going to work until there is an agreement. This is called a “strike”. And it’s creating a big problem in Chicago. It’s the third largest school district in the country.

Nearly 29,000 teachers and support staff are part of the strike. Many are holding signs to bring attention to their situation.

This strike is a big deal. Kids are out of school and not learning. Parents are scrambling to find a safe place for their children to go while they’re at work. Those who can’t are at home with their child and can’t get paid at their jobs.  The teachers, school board, parents, kids, and the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, are unhappy.

And, according to reports, about 80% of these kids there get their main nutrition at school — breakfast and lunch.  Many schools and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club have made special arrangements to make sure those children are getting fed and have a place to go.

How did all these teachers come together? Teachers in Chicago, and in many parts of the country, are part of a what’s called a “union”. As one mom in Chicago explained it to her young child , “Unions are groups that look out for safety and fairness for workers … (Teachers) love their students and love to teach but their union is upset with their situation right now.”

What are some of things teachers are upset about?

– How teachers are evaluated is a big issue. Teachers get graded too, just not by students. But some of it is based on how students do on those standardized tests you may have taken.  And the two sides don’t agree on how much that should count for how well a teacher does his or her job. And who has the power to make those determinations.

– How safe a teacher’s job is — “job security” — is another issue.

– How much teachers get paid, benefits like health insurance, and pensions (money for when they retire) is another. This is usually a big issue in strikes but pay isn’t the main one in this disagreement.

Special Education teacher, Mike McCormick, said about the strike to NBC Nightly News, “We’re advocating for the education our students deserve and that all students across the nation deserve.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also says his plans are what’s best for students but said the two sides were close enough to an agreement that it didn’t have to come to this. He called it a “strike by choice”.

One thing we hope they agree on? That they figure it out soon.

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