Most public school students across the U.S. are currently under way, but for Chicago this is not the case.
Fo the first time in 25 years, the Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU), have instructed their 26,000 members in the city to hit the picket line after failing to come to an agreement with government officials on Sunday night, leaving over 400,000 students out in the cold.
The president of the CTU claimed they were striking over contract negotiations, teacher evaluations, smaller class sizes, teachers placement and better school conditions such as air conditioning in classrooms.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, however, had a different perspective, saying in his press conference that the strike was "totally unecessary" and was a "choice" the union made, adding "our kids do not deserve this."
The former White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, who had developed a reputation of being somewhat of a "bulldog," was visibly emotional during his speech.
The mayor said the unions should not have the power to tell principals who they should hire, for they are the ones held responsible for their school's performance.
One principal, Steve Perry, calls the strike "reprehensible" on the part of the Teachers Union, saying on CNN that the unions are a "politcal juggernaut" who in a critical time in our political system and with the city in financial and social crisis, should not be pulling a stunt as this. He didn't mince words, when he said that $75,000 a year salary is more than enough from a city that is millions of dollars in debt.
Perry, who is an author, motivational speaker and head of the very successful Capital Preparatory Magnet charter school in Connecticut and known for his no-nonsense, comprehensive approach to public education, added that the strike could hurt president Obama's chances of re-election.
He said the unions, which are big Democratic supporters, should know that ochestrating a strike less than two months before the general election could make Mitt Romney look like the savior who can come in and save the day.
Perry has long been an outspoken critic of the current public education system, which he says hurt the children they profess to help.
However, supporters of the union say there has been a systematic gutting of unions by both Republican and Democratic mayors and governors across states and have also accused President Obama of missing in action after he had once vowed to "walk the picket lines" with workers. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is one of the prime examples of union gutting where public workers had their bargaining rights stripped. Incidentally, Walker was welcomed as a sort of hero at the Republican National Convention in Tampa two weeks ago.
Restructuring of the public school system as well as privatization and a push to more charter shcools, are also on many agendas. Teachers in Chicago reportedly had a very lucrative contract with the previous mayor Daley, where they received a four percent raise for 4 years. Rahm Emanuel reportedly offered three percent for this year, with a two percent for the next 3 years in light of the city's $712 million deficit.
While some parents side with the teachers on the strike, even carrying placards on the picket line to show their support, many are angry at having their children miss school, plus the additional stress of finding places for their children while they go to work.
Some churches have set up alternative programs for kids throughout the city.
For additional information, read here: Teachers Strike After Negotiation Fails.
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