Should teachers be allowed to go on strike? | The Tylt
Should teachers be allowed to go on strike?
Teachers went on strike throughout the country in 2018. From West Virginia to Colorado, teachers demanded higher wages (teachers' pay has declined two percent from 1992 to 2014, according to Forbes), smaller class sizes and increased school funding. In October of 2019, 25,000 Chicago teachers and 7,000 support staffers joined the picket line.
There's no question that the Chicago Teachers Union has learned from the path set by similar groups in recent years. Per the Associated Press' Kathleen Foody and Don Babwin, the union wants the strike to be quick and efficient:
“We want this to be a short strike with an agreement that will benefit our schools and our teachers. We have a ways to go,” Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said during a union news conference. “We actually want to see improvement on all the issues we are talking about here.”
Chicago teachers are concerned about a number of issues including smaller class size, teacher pay, and contract length. But the union's most important focus is on providing affordable housing to the homeless student population in Chicago. Chicago public schools represent the third-largest school district in the nation, and according to the Chicago Tribune:
More than 16,450 Chicago Public Schools students didn’t have a permanent home during the 2018-19 school year, according to numbers released Thursday by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
This contract negotiation marks the first time the union has expressly called on the city to address systemic housing equity (Illinois law restricts the set of issues over which teachers may legally strike). It’s part of a growing movement, spearheaded by teacher and other labor unions, focused more broadly on issues affecting their community for what’s often called “bargaining for the common good.”
The Chicago Teachers Union is taking a stand: no child should leave school unsure of where they will sleep. The group is demanding the city "commit to creating sustainable housing, housing subsidies for lower-paid school staffers such as aides, and a support system for homeless students." A large-scale strike is one of the few ways to force action in these areas.
But at the end of the day, teacher strikes leave two groups in want: Students and parents. During the L.A. teacher strike in Jan. 2019., schools committed to remaining open, but as one CNN headline put it:
According to CNN's Holly Yan, some parents claim their district's temporary solution is nothing more than a daycare system for students, not school. Parents are obviously in favor of the same things teachers are in favor of: Higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more counselors and nurses. But when it comes to the strategy to achieve these goals, many parents do not see a strike as an answer.
Ultimately, the kids are the ones who suffer from teacher strikes, despite the positive intentions of the teachers themselves. According to Yan, 600,000 students in the L.A. area had "no idea when they'll see their teachers again." Parents were forced to pull kids out of school and as a result, benefiting no one. One parent in particular, Andrew Krowne, kept his four children home for the duration of the L.A. teacher strike, afraid for his children's safety in the midst of such a logistical mess:
'It's just a sheer overwhelming number of children versus adults,' he said. 'I'm not risking my children's safety.'
There is recent proof that teachers going on strike works. After all, society can't function for long without teachers, and strikes are the perfect way to demonstrate the impact they make and why teacher demands have substance. According to the Utility Workers Union of America, the West Virginia teacher strike–which started the 2018 wave–was a success:
The statewide strike, which led to a nine-day shutdown of public schools across West Virginia, ended when the governor and the state legislature agreed to give teachers a 5% raise and to put a stop to planned raises in health insurance premiums.
By going on strike, teachers are demanding things that will improve students’ education. Class size alone plays a huge role in a child’s ability to absorb information and get the extra attention they need. In addition, an increase to teachers’ salaries is long overdue. Not only is a pay increase warranted and deserved, but it will only help to recruit bright, new teachers, rather than steering them away to other careers.
According to the nonprofit education site, The 74, the teacher strike in West Virginia should have been declared illegal. Teachers have short-term options that can send just as powerful of a message to their districts:
A two-day walkout sends a serious message to state lawmakers, but it’s not likely to result in any lasting harm to the school schedule or anyone’s wallet.