Education Editorial: Chicago teacher strike

By: Bill Bosher - email

Following seven days of a teacher strike in Chicago, there are numerous questions about "Why?" "Who won?" and "Where were the voices of former Chicago heavy weights, like the President and Secretary of Education?"

The President of the striking teachers union was praised for giving courage to her colleagues. As the Washington Post noted, "The strike is one of the few weapons available to the powerless. Without the union, the teachers would have been ignored, and the politicians would be free to keep on reforming them again and again and again."

This is about reform! At Gov. McDonnell's recent K-12 Summit on education reform, Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City schools, an educational reformer, former Clinton administration official, and attorney, stated that one of the most important elements in reform is to change the teaching from a trade to a profession.

What was left unsaid was that the abolition of teaching as a trade would abolish teaching trade unions.

While unions clearly had a place for employees who were being abused… it is unlikely that "reforming again and again and again" is abusive. When the safety of schools is a daily challenge, it also seems unprofessional to call the strike a 'weapon.'

And perhaps another question, "How did the powerless get President Carter to create a United States Department of Education in exchange for their support?"

As for the powerless, the President of the Chicago Board of Education best drew attention to them…the students. The next time I hear a cry for employee rights punctuated with, "this is for the little children", I will be tempted to yell, "Remember Chicago!"

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