My kids goto school in Chicago…for the moment. You see their teachers may walk out on Monday. Why? Because the Chicago Teachers’ Union and the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools have yet to come to an agreement about a fair contract. Why are we here? Well, there are a number of issues according to the one sheet I got from teachers at one of my children’s schools yesterday. The bullet points they highlighted:
- Reduce Class Size
- Provide Social Services Children Need
- Invest in all schools
- Support Teachers as Professionals
Now for those of you who follow me on facebook you know that I have not always had the best experiences with all of my children’s teachers. I have been vocal about situations that I feel are unfair. I have even taken action when it seems necessary. But on the flip side I have also been very critical of the Chicago Public Schools as an organization, questioning their choices in curriculum requirements and school closings. In other words I have been unbiased and equal in my criticism (and praise) of all members of the education process here in Chicago and Nationally. However, when it comes to this contract negotiation here in Chicago right now, I am on the side of teachers. Why? Because as my close friend and advisor Priscilla Dee Dixon astutely pointed out to me this morning, and President Obama alluded to in his speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, “Education is the out. It is the key to social mobility.” I feel that teachers are at the heart of our children’s future, right alongside us parents. If we don’t make the profession of teaching something worth striving for then we won’t attract bright and innovative people to become teachers. Without imaginative, insightful people leading our children their journey into their future becomes a steep, uphill battle instead of a hike on a level plain filled with vast options for course adjustments and progressional advancements.
As a friend of mine always reminds me, “Educating children is not a mystery. Everybody knows how to do it, but not everyone wants to pay to do it, partly because some people secretly believe that not every child is deserving of the opportunity.” I think that is the dirty little secret that no one wants to cop to. I personally have never met anyone who didn’t say out loud that education is important. But as I say to my kids, “Words are fabulous, but your actions tell the real story.” Yes, everyone says education is important, but the policies that are being made, the contracts that are being proposed, the schools that are being closed, the property that is being sold, the funds that are being distributed, (or not distributed as the case may be), they all tell a very different story about the true level of commitment to properly educating children through the public system. I would agree strongly with the CTU info sheet, there is a disparate allocation of resources in the city of Chicago based on race and income. Chicago public education is not a level playing field at all.
In my work I have learned that children have their own fingerprint of learning. Therefore, I feel strongly that one of my most important jobs as a parent is to meet the individual education needs of my children, even if it is hard. I chase the best education I can afford for my three children. And let me tell you it is very hard. Currently my kids are attending three different schools in three separate parts of the city, but all starting at 8am in the morning. (Oh yeah, it’s hard.) But I didn’t give birth in a mold. These kids of mine are unique individuals who have very specific needs that rarely overlap. There is no “one school fits all” for them. So, I have made it my priority to meet their needs to the best of my ability even when it means driving all over the city to deliver them to various campuses. Now I realize not every parent is able to do this. Which is why it is imperative that schools have at their base an equal, fair and quality education foundation. A school is just four walls and a door without teachers. But a school is just a placeholder without qualified, dedicated, passionate teachers. Yet it’s hard to be focused and inspiring when you are worried about putting food on your table or paying your medical bills. Teachers don’t live under their desks they are parents and community members just like you and me. They have mortgages to pay, groceries to buy, and dreams to fulfill. If this situation here in Chicago is truly about putting children first then let’s take care of the people we put in charge of taking care of them.
The new longer school day in Chicago isn’t reflected in the raise that is being offered to Chicago teachers right now. Their work day is increasing by an hour and a half, plus they have to contribute more for their health benefits. So, when it comes down to it teachers are looking at a more of a pay cut, not a pay raise. How can Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CEO Jean-Claude Brizard claim they are operating in good faith on behalf of our children if they aren’t willing to pay a fair wage to their teachers? Afterall our children are tomorrow’s innovators. And teachers, they hold the key that can unlock much of that potential. Can we really afford to undervalue that?
Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV , Wearetherealdeal.com , YoungChicagonista ,ChicagoMomsBlog , and ChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter , TOUT and LinkedIn.