I’ve had a few people ask about my opinion of the teachers' strike. Given that I ran for office, trained to be a high school math teacher, served on an LSC for 2 terms, regularly read the newspapers, and have a fairly robust group of lefty CTU friends IRL and on Facebook, these are my not-so-hot takes:
1. The mayor wants a 5 year contract. CTU wants a 3 year contract, just in time for the next mayoral election.
Knowing this city’s politics as I do, this is the biggest indicator that this strike (and the CTU’s general unwillingness to negotiate up until this point; e.g. no comprehensive response since January) is the first major battle of the proxy war between the supposedly progressive New Machine (Madigan, Preckwinkle, CTU, SEIU) and the new mayor’s supposedly progressive insurgency. With a crushing 75% of the vote for the Mayor and against the New Machine candidate, the optics and the strategy of the CTU on this are not something with which a majority of informed Chicago voters would agree.
2. Class sizes under the previous contract are too high.
Class sizes should be targeted for 24 as the CTU is requesting. There is some tension in the logistics here… CPS says elementary class sizes averaged 25.2 last year. Basic statistics suggest that if there are classes of 30 students, there are a number of classes below 25. If you don’t want to close schools with, say, class sizes of 20 students, then there are going to be class sizes of 30 elsewhere. Regardless, let’s drop class size targets to 24.
3. More nurses, librarians, social workers, and counselors
CTU wants one in every school. CPS doesn’t want to spend the money and thinks there’s a more efficient allocation of resources; e.g. perhaps we could use 1 shared nurse in some schools and have 2 nurses in larger schools. This seems like a point worth negotiating over… if only the CTU would do that.
I could talk about TIFs, something I’ve advocated for abolishing for the last decade, but that’s a whole other tangent. The ways in which a TIF surplus would feed back into the budget (only something like 40% would go to CPS), some of it is already spent, the budget crisis of this city, the aldermen who campaign against TIFs but refuse to lose control of those purse strings… well, there’s about 15 years of Joravsky articles you should catch up on before you get a strong opinion on TIFs with regards to this matter.
5. On the players' characters
Lightfoot is a neoliberal
She did have her hands tied on certain issues walking into the job; e.g. Lincoln Yards. Does that make her a neoliberal? I don’t think so. There are a lot of traps that a previous administration can leave the incoming administration; e.g. Obama had to deal with Bush’s Great Recession… he dealt with it poorly at times, but it wasn’t something he could avoid. We’ll need to see a couple of years of the mayor’s actions, like we needed a couple of years of the president’s actions, before we can make this statement.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey is a the 1%
Sharkey married into a rich family, lives in a million dollar mansion, and drives a Tesla. Does this make him a bad person? No. Conspicuous consumption enabled by the right-wing wealth of your in-laws does have a bad look for a Socialist Progressive though.
“We don’t choose the family of our loved ones,” but you do choose to benefit from their wealth with your half-million dollar side lot… I bet that lot could hold some quality affordable housing.
Where are all those vocal anti-Cubs lefties now? Shouldn’t they be railing against the Sharkey family’s Royal Caribbean wealth as evidence that anyone who supports CTU is actually a secret Republican!? I joke… but this would be a whole lot easier if the Socialists stopped elevating a bunch of private school-educated rich kids as their leaders.
I expect to get a good amount of flack from my lefty acquaintances for this, but those are the same acquaintances that were nowhere to be found when I put my career on the line to fight racism in Democratic Party, when I fought for a new principal at Pilsen Academy and won, nowhere to be found when I fought against lead in our water and won, and nowhere to be found when I ran my ridiculously prescient campaigns against corruption… so forgive me if I take your Johnny-come-lately opinions with a grain of salt.
The principle issue is the first one. While there are real issues in CPS and with the CTU contract, going 9 months without a counteroffer suggests bad-faith negotiations on CTU’s part. The politics suggest the purpose of the strike is to punish the newly elected mayor who isn’t part of the New Machine and wasn’t endorsed by CTU. The progressive union got in bed with a not-so-progressive, oh-so-corrupt Machine and lost because of it. Now they have to sleep in that bed.