Teacher: ‘Striking is the last thing’ we want to do — but sometimes it’s the only thing to do

Reblogged from The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss

Chicago teachers are staging a one-day strike on Friday, an effort aimed at moving stalled contract talks, pressuring Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to end his budget standoff with the Democratic-controlled state legislature, and calling on lawmakers to fix the Illinois education funding formula, which has been cited as the nation’s most unfair to poor students.

The 27,000-member Chicago Teachers Union staged a one-week strike in 2012 that was largely supported by the city’s residents and that the union considered successful. Union President Karen Lewis said she hopes Friday’s walkout will pressure Rauner to stop his effort to win a budget that hits public education.

The Education Trust, a national advocacy group, found in a 2015 analysis that the highest-poverty schools receive about 20 percent fewer state and local dollars per pupil than schools in affluent communities — and that Illinois has the most unfair funding formula of any state.

In this post, a teacher who doesn’t work in Chicago looks at the one-day action there — and the very notion of whether teachers should ever go out on strike. He is Peter Greene, a veteran teacher of English in a small town in Pennsylvania. This appeared on his lively Curmudgucation blog, and I am republishing it with permission.


By Peter Greene

I have been through two strikes in my life.

The first was in Lorain, Ohio, in 1979, and it started about three days after I was hired. It was my first job, and the strike was ugly. The superintendent had been hired for his union-busting skills. My building rep and my principal both advised me to stay home and keep my head down. The whole thing lasted over six weeks, and it was a vicious mess. I emerged convinced that almost anything was preferable to a teacher strike.

The second was in Franklin, Pa., in 2002. I was the union president, and it was a contentious struggle. The board opened negotiations by stripping the contract, and its chief negotiator at one point said, “Yes, we have the money to give them a raise, but they don’t deserve it.” Read more>>