Dear Chicago Teacher’s Union: Put Children First

I am a proud Chicago Public Schools parent. Like many Chicago parents, I mostly like what I see happening in my child’s school. My daughter is a good student and has the support of caring teachers and a principal who is trying new things.

But like many Chicago parents, I’m frustrated by the political and financial problems that now threaten to overwhelm our schools. Solving those problems will be difficult and will require patience and compromise from city leaders, the state and the Chicago Teachers Union.

I’m very worried that CTU leadership is pushing for a strike vote so early in the negotiations. I understand and respect teachers’ desire to stand up for their beliefs. But when standing up for your beliefs jeopardizes others, especially children, that becomes a problem.

My daughter is in 7th-grade this year. In Chicago, that’s one of the most pivotal years of a student’s K-12 career.  That’s the year high schools will look at for grades and test scores when she applies for admission. If we do have a strike, how will that affect her grades, her admission prospects, and most of all her learning? I don’t want anything to jeopardize her staying on track.

She’s earning all A’s and B’s now, but she freezes up on tests. That already puts her at a disadvantage in applying to King College Prep, her top choice right now.  Wherever she goes, I want to make sure she is in a good high school, because going to a good high school means she will be ready to go to a good college later.

And like all the parents in the district, I’m worried about how to take care of her if there is a strike. Just because the schools are striking won’t mean my job is striking. I have a good support system, but I can’t rely on them forever. The last time there was a strike it lasted more than a week. If that happens again my daughter will need a place to be safe and looked after. Even 7th-graders still need tending-to.

I admit I don’t really know all the ins and outs of why there’s such a push to get ready for a strike now, but I do know that nobody in any job gets everything they want. I work in social services, with seniors. Governor Rauner and the state legislature haven’t passed a budget yet, which means my agency isn’t getting paid. Fortunately, we have deep reserves, so I think my job is OK for now, but if the state budget crisis isn’t resolved, sooner or later it will affect me. Already, the budget problems are affecting seniors and the services they need. I’m pretty frustrated, but I’m not on strike.

In any job there are problems and times when professionals don’t agree with their superiors. I don’t think a strike is necessarily the answer. A strike won’t just affect teachers, it will affect children as well. If the school year is disrupted, they won’t get a do-over. If Chicago Public Schools and the CTU can work it out so the kids don’t miss school, I say go for it.

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Wilbella Greer

Wilbella Greer is the mother of a 7th-grader in the Chicago Public Schools and lives on the South Side.

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