Chicago Teachers Strike for First Time in 25 Years

For the first time since 1987, Chicago’s public school teachers went to picket lines this morning instead of classrooms.

25,000 public school teachers went on strike after contract negotiations Sunday night failed to reach a compromise. Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, said that negotiations on wages were not the main points of contention, but that health benefits and a new teacher evaluation system caused most of the disagreement. According to Lewis, the new evaluation system, which emphasizes standardized test scores, “could result in almost 6,000 teachers – or nearly 30 percent of our membership – being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable and leads to instability for our students.”

Chicago Public Schools has instituted a contingency plan for the strike which opens 144 schools for half days, but without teacher instruction. Instead, students will have supervised activities and meals. It is uncertain how long the teachers union is prepared to strike or how long the Board of Education can last without its teachers. The 1987 teacher strike in Chicago lasted 19 days.

Gloria Steinem, feminist activist and co-founder of Ms. Magazine, released a statement in solidarity with the teachers union. She said, “Tonight, I proudly wear a red t-shirt in support of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. As an 87% female workforce, and one that is nearly half African American and Latino, the Chicago Teachers Union know what their students need. This is why this country needs unions, collective bargaining, and mayors who recognize, honor and fairly pay the people our children know – and who know our children.”

Media Resources: CBS News 9/10/12; New York Times 9/10/12; Women’s Media Center 9/9/12

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