the looming Chicago teacher strike, part 2

today was the last day of a three-day voting period for rank-and-file members of the CTU to vote on the strike authorization. the union needs at least 75% of members to vote yes to move forward with a strike. that said, this vote is an authorization for strike, so striking is not a sure thing yet, but based on how voting turns out teachers may be one step closer. and while we’re waiting for the final count, let’s look at a few more of the reasons that teachers are revved up and ready to fight.

Issue #4:  Teacher Prep Time

so, I don’t know how many of you know this, but technically teachers are hourly workers. that’s right. every teacher clocks into work in the morning, and they clock out in the afternoon. that said, teachers are paid for 6.25 hours of work per day. lunches are 45 minutes of unpaid, duty-free time.

besides an unpaid lunch, teachers also get 60 minutes a day away from teaching in front of students to complete professional duties including but not limited to:  

  • planning lessons
  • preparing instructional materials
  • grading student work
  • entering grades into an online system
  • analyzing student data
  • communicating with parents, colleagues, and administrators
  • managing student paperwork
  • translating materials (for bilingual teachers)
  • meeting with support staff to discuss students with IEPs and 504 Plans (special education and health-related issues)

this is a lot. and it’s a lot to manage for 25-40 kids. and it’s a lot to manage in 60 minutes a day. and it’s actually NOT 60 minutes a day, but four times a week, because once a week the principal takes the prep hour to meet with teachers. which is fine, we all need time to connect as professionals. however, CPS wants to take away two more hours of teacher preparation time and turn them into additional principal-led hours, leaving teachers with two hours PER WEEK to get all their professional duties done. it’s just not possible. 

imagine:  your job is to be LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, and like, Miss Frizzle with her magic school bus AND a fun math teacher and also stay on top of emails and grades and keep a neat, attractive classroom and have organized student files, too, in two hours a week. again, it’s just not possible.

well, why not come early, or stay late, or work on the weekends? believe me! teachers already do! but teachers are saying enough is enough. leave the prep time alone.

Issue #5:  PSRPs and Teacher Aides

Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs), aka teacher aides, are some of the strongest glue in a school. they most often live in the neighborhood and know the kids and their families, and they are such a key resource for classroom teachers and for the school as a whole. the CTU wants to hire 1,000 more PSRPs, so only one or two more per building. a modest change in each building that can actually lend so much support to teachers in the early grades, teachers of special education students, to provide additional support to larger classrooms, etc. the support opportunities are big. and really, who wouldn’t want a qualified and trained professional available to support their child’s classroom?

Issue #6:  Special Education

special education is an issue with layered demands from the CTU, including hiring more case managers (who manage students with special education needs), hiring more special education teachers, and providing more preparation time for special education and general education teachers to meet and create co-taught lessons.

however, almost the entire opposite is on the table right now, with the district wanting to delete terms from the contract that uphold the federal law mandating that no more than 30% of students in a classroom have special needs. this law is not intended to keep special education students out of the classroom; it’s meant to distribute special education students into a variety of classrooms so they have the chance to interact and learn alongside same-age peers. when a ratio of 30/70 is taken away, special education students are at risk of being taught in classrooms that do not offer the social interaction they need or the educational supports that they deserve.

again, teachers in Chicago are not selfish. they aren’t fighting solely for the pay and benefits. they are pushing for schools that are fully staffed and fully funded. the money is there to fund meaningful changes to our schools. changes that will benefit all stakeholders, like smaller class sizes, social workers and nurses in every building everyday, teachers who are able to prepare lessons and materials, schools with PSRPs to support classrooms, and special education programs that offer appropriate engagement and supports to special education students.

doesn’t that sound like a school system you’d like your child to attend? that’s what teachers are fighting for.

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