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Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Why this parent blames the mayor for teachers strike

I think the mayor is just plain wrong and at fault for the current strike. I think he set out to demonize the teachers and imply they were overpaid and under-performing.

My kid is in a Chicago public school—a really good one, with selective enrollment, great teachers, and a great new “green” school building that is LEED-certified - but has no air conditioning. And here’s the thing: It's getting warmer earlier--in the 80's last March, and hot in school. You know what? It's hard to learn and to teach when it’s too hot. The heat makes it difficult to concentrate.

Why is this relevant? The lack of air-conditioning in some schools is just one of the issues that have been raised by teachers in the current strike. In Track E schools, students were in non-air conditioned schools during several days of over 100 degrees and weeks of over 90 degrees. Were the kids there to actually learn, or to make the Board of Education feel good that they’re providing extended school hours for them?

The extended school day is another issue.  It's fine to say we need longer school days to meet current educational standards. It's not fine if you have no curriculum for those extended days-- no art, no music, no physical education, no recess.

Plus, everyone agrees that teachers should be evaluated. Teachers want evaluation so they can improve their teaching skills. But how do we know if a teacher is good? If kids like the teacher? Some kids don’t like good teachers because they enforce discipline and make them work. If the principal likes the teacher? Some principals play favorites, or penalize teachers who have spoken up about things that aren't going well. If the test scores go up? Surely test scores are unbiased data points, right?

Well, let's examine that. My kid’s school has great test scores. It also has great teachers, kids who are motivated, parents who are supportive, a new building, textbooks, computers, art and music classes, and PE. But take the same school, the same teachers and principal, and plop them down in a violent neighborhood, take away the selective enrollment, and what happens? Test scores go down. Are the teachers suddenly less qualified, less talented, less caring, and worse at teaching? No. The environment has radically changed. Introduce factors like poverty and crime, and suddenly it becomes very difficult to teach and for students to learn at the same rate.

Then what happens when a school “fails?” It's shut down, and likely re-opened as a charter school with non-union teachers. Undoubtedly, some charters are better than the schools they replaced—but overall, charters are no better.

Why disrupt neighborhoods, close schools and fire teachers just to open charter schools that perform no better?  Seems like the answer is 1) to bust the union -- the trend these days is very much towards blaming public sector unions for all our financial ills; and 2) turning public money into profit centers for individuals and corporations.

However, if you fire all the teachers, who will be left to teach? If you fire just the bad teachers, can you replace them all with good teachers? Or will you find mediocre teachers, compliant teachers, disengaged teachers, and call it an improvement? Who will go into teaching if the Board of Education and the mayor routinely put down the entire teaching profession and call into question their honesty, their commitment to their students, their quality as teachers? Who will go into a profession that demands constant continuing education if you are just told that your education and your degrees are worthless and you are paid too much?  And why is a middle-class income too much money to pay our teachers?

Failure of leadership, not teachers

When you talk to teachers, what you find is a deep anger over cuts in education funding and the feeling that the children are not being served well by the system. They argue that every school needs a social worker and a school nurse, and text books on the first day of classes, not six weeks in. They argue that the emphasis on testing forces them to teach to the test and to teach students how to fill in little circles on a form—not to teach them critical thinking, or creativity, or love of learning.  They argue that kids need art, because it unleashes creativity. They argue that kids need music and physical education, because these are lifelines for students who are otherwise drowning in the stress of their daily lives. They argue that no one should be expected to work 24% more per day and then take a pay cut. They argue that cutting health benefits means more sick days for teachers, more disruptions in the classroom. They note the major disrespect they feel from the mayor and his hand-picked Board of Education. They've been made to feel that they are at fault for everything that is wrong in the schools.

Meanwhile, Illinois is 50th in the nation in education funding. Let that sink in. And TIFs have been a major force in siphoning off money from education and into the hands of private developers, with little accountability for how those TIF dollars have been spent.

So perhaps the current situation isn’t all the teachers’ fault. Perhaps it is a major policy failure on the part of every single politician who has ever voted for a budget in the state, city, and county. Perhaps the appointed Board of Education is at fault for applying business models to education, with no basis in any research in education that has ever been done.

Perhaps the failure comes from the leaders, not the teachers.

Meanwhile, CPS parents have routinely seen their concerns dismissed by that same Board of Education. CPS parents have attended public hearings to argue forcefully against having their neighborhood schools closed, against sending their kids to other public schools and either placing them in unsafe environments or forcing them to travel through unsafe environments.  The board has consistently gone ahead with their predetermined plans for school closures, teacher dismissals, principal dismissal and the labeling of schools as “failures” even as significant improvements were being made.

For all these reasons, I think the mayor is just plain wrong and at fault for the current strike. I think he set out to demonize the teachers, imply they were overpaid and under-performing.  I think he wants to break their union so he can stop paying middle-class wages to public employees, and instead create profits for his friends in the charter industry.  I think he’s a Democrat in name only-- just like Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, he wants to break all public unions, and the police and fire-fighters unions are next on the list.  He thinks he can get away with it—but here’s hoping that he doesn’t.  

Do non-union schools perform better? Richard D. Kahlenberg, writing for the New Republic, notes otherwise:

“The theory that a non-union environment, which allows for policies like merit pay, would make all the difference in promoting educational achievement never held much water. After all, teachers unions are weak-to-nonexistent throughout much of the American South, yet the region hardly distinguishes itself educationally. Indeed, the highest performing states, such as Massachusetts and New Jersey—and the highest performing nations, such as Finland—have heavily unionized teaching forces.”

Thank you to the Chicago Teachers Union for teaching us all this past week about what the real issues are, and what the "education reform" movement is all about.  We don't need Democrats who mimic Republican talking points on education or fiscal policy.

Melissa Lindberg is a CPS parent.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

To go to UNO parents must purchase a $100 uniform--

No uniform, no UNO. parents or guardian at the neighborhood schools cannot afford $100 for a uniform. Or money to buy books-magazines. heck, CPS is making neighborhood schools ask parents for paper towels and toilet paper. Clerks in CPS do transfers to charter schools from the neighborhood school will attest that the child with failing grades and low test scores does not transfer into a charter. When CPS closes more schools due to performance, the charters should be right there with them. Charters are political strongholds--watch, they will get more passes than they already have been given.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

thank you

thank you, to the author of this article for stating the truth. Mayor Emanuel is a bully who consistently wants his own way. He does not care about the children he only cares about himself. Tell me, where do his children go to school????
I am 71 years old and when to Chicago schools until the age of 12. At that time the schools were so advanced so wonderful and we had recess, Gym, art and music. answer this for me where did the money come at that time?
Kudos to the union because they truly care about the education of our children and grandchildren. Not just about test scores so the federal government and the state government will give them more money for each school. This is an educational matter not a financial matter. Look what the financial geniuses of this country have done so far. May God be with the teachers and guides them to this terrible time

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

to Klem....

Klem....I don't "know a lot of SN kids who go to" Charters. I am a doctorate level clinician who actually works or has worked for the past decade in Charter Schools (I have spent years in at least one from each network, and in many stand alone contract schools) as well as in the neighborhood schools. My experience has been that when a child with an IEP is admitted to these schools, the IEP is not followed by the typically young, inexperienced teaching staff or enforced by the administration who KNOW NOTHING about education or working with children, especially those with special needs. Accommodations and modifications on the IEP are seldom followed, everything from the simple (seating) to the not-so-simple (use of equipment). I have been the sole voice for many of these children through the years. When they do not succeed or the parent gets frustrated enough, they are returned to the neighborhood school (in my opinion, the goal of the Charter all along). I have worked tirelessly for my students in these schools, more often than not with little cooperation from the teacher or principal, only to see them "counseled out" for not making adequate progress or tranferred by the parent because they cannot take it anymore. So, excuse me if I don't take what you write seriously, I actually work in these schools with these kids. It can be heartbreaking to see them fail because they can't be accommodated by a teacher who may or may not actually be a certified teacher, cannot manage a classroom of 35 students (yes, they lie about class size too) and knows nothing about Special Education.

klem wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

You must not work with CICS, Learn, Locke, Noble Street, etc.

Because I have students in my program who have IEPs and attend those schools. And they are doing better.

Much better than if they were at CPS with the IEP, which means almost nothing. Maybe 15 minutes, two times a week for a pullout session. Yes, reams of paper generated writing up the IEP, but next to nothing is done for the student in school. Which is why they come to my program.

What exactly is so great about CPS special ed?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


If you were in my class we would debate how 20% + 20% + 20% added up to 100%.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Charlotte Danielson

She states to hold off using high stakes testing because scores can't be directly linked statistically to one teacher. So reading score could have been the previous teachers work, (April, May, June after testing is complete) the after school reading program, special ed teacher, It is not statistically significant so why is there a push to link that score to that one teacher when we are not sure that they deserve it whether the result is positive or negative. Teaching is a team effort and must be collaborative. Then what is to ensure that elementary teachers will concentrate more on reading and math and not start to abandon SS or Science. Is that better for students? What if a teacher wants to be innovative, will this stifle teacher creativity? Don't get me wrong, teachers should be evaluated but they are being used to try to get rid of teachers who might be really good individually but not on a good team.
This is a really good article that brings many of these issues to light. I think people are content to send their kids to a school with no art, music, or foreign language when our suburban counterparts have those. And we are to be competitive with them?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

My blood is boiling

...reading your last comment, klem. My son had an iep starting in 3rd grade. At that time we had him in Catholic school and he was bussed to our neighborhood public school 3x a week for 40 min. each time for
reading, math, and speech. After 2 years he was diagnosed with autism, and we decided to transfer him to the public school for increased services. He received 240 min. per week and also had an aid in with him for every class. I had constant updates from his special ed teacher and social worker, and the school counselor. I cried when i had to say goodbye to this wonderful, caring environment. I am tearing up now thinking of how they went above and beyond for my son.

teacher wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

aren't working longer hours?

Last year swipe in time was 7:57 AM and swipe out time 2:55 PM. This year swipe in at 8:00AM, swipe out at 3:30PM. Do the math. It is longer hours. No "extra" teacher takes over for me at any point of the day.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Lovely counter-argument, but

Lovely counter-argument, but I'm afraid that though you're trying to separate the teachers' contract from an education plan, the two are inextricably linked by virtue of the fact that it is the very livelihood and well-being of those teachers that good education plans come from. I know, educators being in charge of educating- crazy idea, right? To deny teachers of basic job and health security is to undermine their efficacy to the point where public schools WILL fail, and give Rahm Emmanuel et. al. opportunity to continue the gradual dismantling of the Chicago Public School system, which as Lindberg points out serves Emmanuel's interest in privatizing public services. Yes, those CICS and KIPP schools are currently the only schools properly serving children in many areas of the west and south side, but that is a reflection of the abysmal state of education funding and legislation that Illinois politicians and administrators have created (as a by-product of their efforts to further their own political and material profit). And the Teachers Union is going to stand by and take it no longer.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

charter schools scores

Don't charters get to make up their own standards? So of course they are going to claim their students score well! Who knows how these made up standards match up to the rest of the state?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


I love the article. My child just graduated from a neighborhood CPS school and got a seat in a specialty high school. I do not want the Charter Schools for my child as I don't want him in an unstable environment. He did very well on his assessments andI want him to continue with highly qualified teachers who stick around for more than one year. I want him to have a life outside of school and not go to school from 8 to 5 with 3 hours of home work.

I believe in our CPS teachers and think they deserve respect as well as a fair contract.

Former Charter Teacher wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

To be fair, it's not entirely

To be fair, it's not entirely a myth that Charters deny students in need of specialized learning services. I've worked at two west side elementary Charter Schools with enrollment sizes comparable to the CPS school I now work at but at each of the Charters, the total number of students with an IEP was substantially lower. Additionally, at each of the schools, it was rumored that students in the "lottery" who had an existing IEP from their CPS schools weren't selected. Clearly, the actual number of enrolled students with an IEP supports the fact that Charters can select their enrollment and will leave students deemed as more challenging behind, which impacts their overall achievement. Believing in high quality special education for all students is what brought me to the CPS neighborhood school I am now so proud to be a part of.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

The principal at Waters ES

The principal at Waters ES (Titia Kipp), never observed anyone. And when our evaluations were due, she made them all up, falsifying dates, etc. The running joke was to make sure we had actually been in school on those days. And what about the one drama teacher there who is so mean, she routinely makes the children cry? That teacher is on the LSC. She protects the principal, and the principal protects her. There was also a teacher there who slept in class everyday for years. The school had to hire another teacher to teach while she slept. There is so much corruption everywhere. If these things were all happening in just one school, I can only imagine what other stories other teachers in other schools could tell. John Q Public has no idea what is really going on in the schools, and neither does the mayor and his board.

klem wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Congrats! You got CPS to do its job.

But come to the west or south side of the city. You can barely get them to test the kids. I have over 20 students with IEPs in my program. None of them get more than 15 minute pullout sessions at their CPS school.

When a student has learning disability that has them reading 3 or 4 years below grade level, 15 minutes sessions twice a week are not enough. Nor is simply dumbing down their curriculum and assignments.

klem wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Reasons why charter schools have lower IEP numbers?

One is that there is this rumor about charter schools not taking kids with IEPs...

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

you said a mouthful Klem,

you said a mouthful Klem, Amen

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

My sons' school is on the

My sons' school is on the south side. I don't know what goes on in other south side schools, just speaking of our experience. It really bugs me when people generalize an entire system based on only their experiences.

Don Washington wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Charter Schools are not Putting Up the Best Scores

Klem in replying to Ms. Lindberg's letter had the temerity to say charter schools are putting up good test scores. This is likely because Klem is terribly uninformed. There are Chicago Schools that rank in the top 100 in the state... NONE of them are charter schools. In fact you have got to dig pretty deep before you find a charter school that is outperforming the better neighborhood schools. To be fair Nobel Street ranks 256 making it the highest ranking Charter School... lower than King Prep & Lincoln Park both neighborhood schools and a host of magnet schools. They rank 256 w/ more money than God, selective enrollment and creaming out their lowest performing students... which may make them worse than say a neighborhood school that scores higher without all that help.
Here's the link: and now you are Dangerously Informed.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


Your information is incorrect. Teachers ARE working longer school days as well as a longer school year. The extra teachers hired are NOT coverage for a longer day. They are supposed to be additional teachers to make it not just a longer school day but a better school day. Teachers now have a 45 minute lunch. Until now many had a 20 minute lunch which they had to eat with their class.

A teacher wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

in re: Charlotte Danielson

That part of CPS evaluation is called the "CPS Framework," a knock-off of Charlotte Danielson. The CTU evaluation team tried to curb the rewording and the melding of domain components that were written mostly by a Board employee who is no longer there. Compare the CPS Framework with the original or revised version of the authentic Charlotte Danielson.

A teacher wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Still no citation? Only advertisement?

Sure, Klem, you like your school. Wherever it is. Actually, the initial ideas about charters had to do with taking care of challenging students in an environment tailored toward needs, not elitism. So, charters could have been directing more of their attention toward working with students with traumatic brain injury or behavioral problems or glitches in learning styles. Instead, they're the latest hedge scheme that's designed to pit teachers against each other and the public against public school. Face it: the head of an association of Illinois charter schools said that charters were made to combat the constraints of collective bargaining. They're not for the students as much as they're used to bust unions.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Selective Enrollment

You tout "selective enrollment" as if that is something to be proud of. Sounds pretty exclusive...not like a public school.

Don wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

@ Don Washington - School Rank

Don Washington said: "There are Chicago Schools that rank in the top 100 in the state... NONE of them are charter schools. In fact you have got to dig pretty deep before you find a charter school that is outperforming the better neighborhood schools. "

2012 ACT - 2009 Explore:

1) Northside – 7.2
2) Noble Pritzker – 6.7
3) Noble Chicago Bulls – 6.4
3) Noble UIC – 6.4
3) Payton – 6.4
6) Noble Rauner – 6.3
7) Young – 5.9
8) Noble Rowe Clark – 5.7
9) Noble Muchin – 5.6
9) Noble Golder – 5.6
11) Jones – 5.4
12) Noble Comer – 5.2
12) Noble Noble St. – 5.2
14) Urban Prep West – 5.0
15) Chicago Academy – 4.8
16) Lane Tech- 4.7
17) CHGO Math And Sci. – 4.5
18) Lincoln Park – 4.4
19) Von Stuben – 4.2
20) Lindblom – 4.1

EONS wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


There are years of research that show that some charters are good and some are bad. Overall there is no real significant difference between charters and for profits than public schools except that charters and for profits cost more and put public money into private pockets.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


Klem, I work in a track E school and have not received a duty free lunch or recess. WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH TEACHERS / EXTRA STAFF TO COVER THE WHOLE BUILDING. I work a full 7.25 hours WITH KIDS (and THEN I can take a restroom break) and then I work 3-4 hours unpaid after the kids leave.


I work about 7am-6pm (give or take) each day. That is 11 hours. I also do from 1-2 hours extra work at home. Lets just estimate on the low end for this. So 1 hour a day at home + the 11 hours I am at school = 12 hours a day. 12 hours x 5 days = 60 hours The school year is about 38 weeks.

(Mind you, I usually go to unpaid PD every summer for 1-2 weeks. Mind you, I usually go in 2 weeks before the school year starts to get my classroom ready. Mind you, I usually go in on SATURDAYS when the school year begins. Mind you, I usually go in during fall, winter, and spring breaks to get my classroom and lesson plans ready for when kids return. I wont even include those extra, extra, extra times in this argument.)

If I work 60 hours a week for 38 weeks, that is 2280 hours. Lets take 2280 hours / 52 weeks to get an average of 43 hours!

I also didn't mention how I spend a good $3000-$4000 of my paycheck for school supplies, books, food, clean clothes for my students, etc, etc.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Please don't generalize about

Please don't generalize about ALL charter schools - Chicagoans (on both sides of the charter debate) are already doing way too much of that. I agree that the majority of charters in Chicago do not perform on par with, or outperform, many neighborhood CPS schools. Having worked with teachers in the CICS (three campuses), UNO (Nearly all campuses), KIPP (Ascend), Noble, LEARN (all campuses), and Catalyst (two campuses) networks though, I can say that to my knowledge, only one of those networks implements fines for student behavior, and a very, very limited number of individual campuses (and likely ones who have strayed from their original missions) hand pick students. In fact, I know that several of the schools I mentioned, including KIPP Ascend, actively recruit students who have struggled in other school settings. I'm not saying that your concerns are invalid, and I certainly don't believe that Charter schools are the answer, but I ask that people make sure they don't generalize across an entire system of diverse and individual schools. I know it's equally as unfair and invalid when people do that about CPS schools and apply generalizations to the school I work at.

Lane Tech mom wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Response to bobloblaw

As a Lane Tech mother, I can assure you selective enrollment CPS schools are NOT like private schools. Please inform yourself before attempting to make derogatory comments. Our children in selective enrollment schools have to demonstrate early on that they are good candidates for this type of schools. Not all kids in 8th grade are offered the selective enrollment test required to apply to this schools. Not all of those kids who take the test get to attend a selective enrollment school. And not all of them get to attend the school of their choice.
As a CPS mother, I have had a chance to ask some of the Lane students what they would like to see change with this strike. The FIRST thing they all say is AC in the class rooms!! It makes no sense to me that in prisons, criminals have better cooling systems than our children do. No matter how much of an overachiever my daughter and the majority of selective enrollment kids are, trying to learn in un unsafe environment does not help at all.
I support CTU 100%. The excuse of "children missing school" most parents have for being discontent with the strike is just that. Kids will make up for the days missing, and we as parents are still responsible for teaching them. So to those parents complaining about their kids missing school, how about you grab a book, sit down with your kid and teach them something! In my house, my kids are still learning, getting ahead on their lectures and supporting their teachers ;-)

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Its may be a contract but it's a start to reform education

This may be a contract, but do not tell me that privatized interests like charter schools on the west and south side of Chicago are making an educational difference more than a cps school. Most of the schools closed in the last 10 years were all on the south and west sides of the city, leaving parents with no options but to send their kids to a charter school. Students sign a contract to perform at certain levels, and if they can't because they are learning impaired or didn't understand the work, they are ousted from those schools. Where are they supposed to go when the neighborhood school doesn't exist anymore because it had to make way for a charter school?
How are charter schools safer when they are in the same area with the same population. Answer me this... How many times in one year has a charter school had a report of assault on students? The number will baffle you. Most cases get swept under the rug, or the teacher gets fired to keep the story from leaking. Now let's go outside into the same community. Oh, that's right. It's the same community with the same crime rate, the same poverty rate, the same, the same!
These TIF funds can more than make up for the deficit you talk about. They are being illegally dispersed to businesses that have political associations with private sectors. These are public funds that are supposed to used for public schools and the improvement of communities. Tell me that improving the neighborhood schools wouldn't be in the best interest of our communities and future generations.

Please research your facts and become a more informed citizen instead of believing what you hear from your friends and the media.

Kevin wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Teacher from Massachusetts weighs in...

My sister and I are both teachers. We both earned our education degrees from state universities here in Massachusetts. My students consistently score in the top percentile on our MCAS tests. My students earn 4s and 5s on AP exams. My students earn in the high 700s on SAT exams. On the other hand, my sister's students have a difficult time passing her class never mind MCAS exams and AP tests. Am I a better teacher? No, not at all. Then what is the difference? I teach in a wealthy suburb of Boston where parents are involved and tend to be highly educated. Their children have access to enrichment programs and tutors. My sister on the other hand teaches in Boston. Many of her kids come from single parent homes; live in public housing; come to school hungry and go home after school to empty houses as their parents work. So I ask again; am I a better teacher or do I teach in a better situation?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I just want an elected board,

I just want an elected board, not appointed by mayor. Education should not be mixed with politics and business ( 2 member of board have stakes in charter schools). Conflict of interest should disqualify from serving on board.

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