We Can Support Our Teachers and Still Call B.S. On This Chicago Strike

You know what? It’s a real shame that people can’t seem to separate politics from public service. Because if one more person comes on one of my social media pages trying to argue down my stance on this latest Chicago Teachers Union strike, I might be compelled to pop off.

Here’s what’s going on. 

The CTU is on strike over contractual demands they couldn’t settle with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools—some demands that legally, they can’t even strike over.

As I’ve done since the 2012 strike, I start calling B.S. on the union—not teachers—and here come the red shirt avengers to defend teachers’ rights, needs and their beloved union.

Listen, I know and understand that the teachers are striking for smaller class sizes, more support staff and pay. And for the umpteenth time, I support good teachers and believe that they should be well compensated and work in comfortable school environments. After all, they’re public servants—they do the very difficult and selfless work of ensuring our kids are academically successful. 

So, teachers, I’m not talking about y’all. Please have a seat—preferably at your desks so our kids can go to school.

But I am talking about union leadership because nothing will convince me that they’re primarily striking just for educator and student needs. 

Don’t get me wrong, they support and protect their teachers—good and bad—but their motivations are driven by increasing membership and power. They’re politicians.

First, let’s call a spade a spade—the CTU is salty because they put almost $300,000 into Toni Preckwinkle’s mayoral campaign for her to suffer an embarrassing loss to Lori Lightfoot. Now they’re trying to hit Lori with the big payback, make her answer for years of negotiations gone left with the former mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and flex their waning power. 

They’re like a lover scorned taking their baggage and hangups out on the next boo-thang. 

Also, considering the fact that they’ve lost 10% of their members since 2012, it’s no wonder that even though the mayor has promised an increase in librarians, nurses and other support staff, they want her to put it in writing, guaranteeing that they’ll recoup that loss through a potential 1,000+ new CTU members. 

And this strike stunt that they’re referring to as a social justice fight—insulting. 

Look, I’ll give it to ‘em, their messaging is very effective—and it would work on anyone who’s unaware of the union’s fickle stance on other social justice issues impacting the students for whom they claim to advocate.

Like, where was the CTU when allegations of sexual abuse against CPS students were running rampant? They were nowhere to be found! Jesse Sharkey—CTU President—had nothing to say, despite being contacted multiple times for comment.

Why aren’t they working with their teachers to reconcile concerns around implicit bias that parent Natasha Dunn says is hindering her kids in schools? Isn’t that a big social justice issue?

With such concern for south and west side families who endure the most disparities, did they consult any of those parents? Or did they just survey those who are part of community-based organizations they donate money to for standby advocacy?

Because south-side parent Willie Preston opposes the strike due to concerns about it interrupting the flow of his son’s first year in high school.

And before I go, listen to this craziness—the CTU pushed contract negotiations a step further to demand affordable housing for teachers

via GIPHY

As if we all aren’t drowning under Chicago’s ridiculous taxes and high costs of living! 

Who’s going to relieve the rest of us from our bills? Better yet, what students will teachers have to teach when more Black families join the more than 300,000 who have already left because they can’t afford to pay taxes, pensions and $100,000 salaries for teachers? How is that social justice?

In 2012, people were red shirt fanatics—but not me. And I’m glad people are wising up to the games because when it comes down to it, this is a political strike orchestrated by the union.

But just because more and more people aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid, that doesn’t mean we don’t want what’s best for teachers. We can support our public servants and fight the politics that ultimately undermine the interests of our communities.

So from here out, we’re not going to allow our kids to be used as pawns, our communities to be drained of schools and resources or our voices dismissed because we’re not classroom educators.

Chris Stewart said, “If they get to be Badass Teachers, then we get to be Goodass Parents demanding a balance of powers in public policy rooms.” And we will do just that regardless of opposition from any union or member because our kids are our priority.

An original version of this piece appeared on Education Post as We Can Support Our Teachers and Still Call B.S. On This Chicago Strike.
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Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post. She was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. She blogs elsewhere about Hope and Outrage. As an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University, Tanesha began to develop a passion for and understand the importance of public service. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, she returned to Chicago with a new perspective on community, politics and civic engagement. Tanesha then attended and graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in public service management and urban planning and development. Throughout her professional career, Tanesha has used her education, passion and experience to navigate a number of nonprofit, political and independent ventures, advancing her mission to educate and empower marginalized populations. Prior to joining Education Post, she also managed her own consulting firm specializing in community relations. Tanesha’s vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or zip code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. Find her on Twitter at @PeeplesChoice85.

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