Teacher’s Strike in Chicago is Over: Fight for Progress Not a New Subject

 Teacher’s Strike in Chicago is Over: Fight for Progress Not a New Subject

Earlier this year teachers in Chicago Public Schools went on strike as teachers’ unions and Chicago school leaders bargain over school conditions and current safety measures. This strike went on for five of the first seven days of classes in 2022. Prior strikes were for a variety of issues regarding pay, reduced class sizes, and an increase of staff that can support the homeless, underfed, and traumatized students of their school system. Chicago’s latest strike is urging the school system to implement better safety measures to protect its staff and students during the pandemic. However, teachers in Chicago aren’t the only ones on strike. 

In San Francisco, teachers staged a “sickout” on January 6, with Oakland following on January 7. Last year, Philadelphia teachers staged a sickout on December 20 as a result of a high school student’s death due to COVID-19. Research across history will show a sickout or strike in just about every state in the U.S. Inline Chicago in the past, these were related to pay and other issues. Lately, it’s all about COVID-19 and the strain the pandemic is putting on the school system. 

Its more than the pandemic. Teachers have gone on strike for several other issues.

Despite the growing concern surrounding safety measures in schools, studies are showing that transmission rates in schools are low. Safety measures already in place vary across school districts all over the country. Current measures include “test-to-stay” programs, mask mandates, sanitization, mandatory quarantine periods, and social distancing. That’s not to say that teachers shouldn’t be concerned. So far, over 1,000 educators have died from COVID-19. That number could continue to climb as new variants are born. The average age for teachers is 40, which is an age group that has over 30,000 deaths from COVID-19 so far

It’s more than the pandemic. Teachers have gone on strike for several other issues. As of 2018, the average reported class size in America was between 16 and 26. North Dakota had a class size of almost 42 per class. Even after all those strikes and sickouts, it was also reported in 2018 that teachers still make 20% less than other similarly educated professions. Many teachers also have second jobs in addition to all of the lesson planning, grading, discipline issues, meetings, emails, phone calls, supervision, professional development, and more. Plus, with so many teachers being out due to COVID-19, those who remain have to cover those classes and take on even more extra responsibilities. That’s not to mention that as of 2021, schools in the U.S. had over 200 more school shootings than other countries combined.

What teachers want benefits everyone. Going back to smaller class sizes would mean more time for the teachers to spend with each student in the class. It would also mean more time to plan better lessons, more time to provide feedback, and more time to just teach. In that same regard, going temporarily remote as Chicago teachers cited in their demands, in addition to other improved safety measures, puts a strain on parents and guardians it also keeps everyone safe. Sick teachers could recover, classes could resume with everyone in the building, better safety measures would keep people healthy, and students could get the education that they deserve.

What can you do to help? One way is to send supplies. Teachers are in constant need of tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer, pencils, pens, paper, and everything else you might find in a classroom—and often, teachers have to pay for these things themselves. You can support a teacher on DonorsChoose and browse projects that you’d like to help fund. 

How can you become more involved? Attend school board meetings. These are often held once a month and allow you to voice your support for the issues that you care about. If you have children and they are sick, even if it’s hard, keep them home. Make sure they are tested for COVID-19. There are plenty of free testing sites. Best of all, just send an email or write a card thanking a teacher. Show them that they are cared for as much as they care for the rest of us. Let them know they are supported because so often they are not. Teachers treat the rest of us as human beings; the least we can do is the same for them—especially since they taught us how.

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