News from the Daily Kos Labor
- Elizabeth Warren joins Chicago teachers on the picket line as negotiations stall
October, 22 2019
The Chicago teachers strike seemed to move further from resolution late Monday and teachers at the Passages charter school also went on strike, while the striking teachers got support from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who joined them on the picket line on Tuesday. Monday night, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey sent out a statement saying that negotiations had stalled, seemingly on orders from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Sharkey said that progress had been made to that point—in the first days of the strike, the teachers and the city had reached “tentative agreements on staffing to support homeless students, on staffing for Pre-Kindergarten classrooms and naps for those young students, on letting counselors work with children instead of random assignments like substitute teaching. We won an extension of the charter moratorium and support for programs to address the teacher shortage, especially among teachers of color.”
But on Monday that progress abruptly halted, Sharkey said: “After two days of striking, our bargaining team was beginning to see glimmers of progress on issues that matter to our members. Today, on day three, that progress stopped dead. It was clear from the mayor’s letter to the press demanding members go back to work without a contract and from the sudden atmosphere of stonewalling from the CPS team, that the mayor had pulled the plug on negotiations. The CPS team scheduled to negotiate with bus drivers in SEIU 73 spent exactly 12 minutes at the bargaining table. These vindictive actions have served to halt the real progress that the negotiating teams were making toward resolution of the contract.”
Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools management put out a competing statement agreeing that bargaining had been going well but pointing a finger at the teachers for refusing to go back to work without a contract and at the union for pulling back from negotiations.
— Roseanne Tellez (@RoseanneTellez) October 22, 2019
- Elizabeth Warren’s education plan tackles privatization, segregation, and high-stakes testing
October, 21 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released a K-12 education plan and, like so many of her other policy plans, it fully earns the headline term “sweeping.” Also “bold” and even potentially “inspiring.” In recent weeks, Warren has taken some shots from the left for her past education stances, and, in response to this plan, we’re now going to see who was seriously concerned about education policy and who was just trying to drag her down to benefit their candidate. There’s so much good stuff here—increasing funding, fighting privatization, fighting segregation, breaking up the school-to-prison pipeline, enforcing civil rights, supporting teachers, eliminating high-stakes testing—with Warren’s characteristic understanding of the links between racial justice and economic justice and government enforcement and transparency, and the influence of money in our institutions.
As with so many of her other plans, Warren takes a racial and economic justice approach to education, writing, “The data show that more school funding significantly improves student achievement, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds. Yet our current approach to school funding at the federal, state, and local level underfunds our schools and results in many students from low-income backgrounds receiving less funding than other students on a per-student basis,” and highlighting the racial disparities that result from this system. She calls for quadrupling federal Title I funding to schools with high proportions of students from low-income families, while requiring states to invest in education in order to get that funding, and changing funding formulas to better reach low-income students. Warren would also boost federal funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; create “Excellence Grants” for public schools “to invest in programs and resources that they believe are most important to their students”; promote community schools; and invest in school buildings, which are all too often crumbling.
But while funding is a key part of promoting equality in education, it’s not the only thing, and Warren adds a strong set of civil rights proposals. Funding is important in fighting rising school and residential segregation, the plan notes: “Modern residential segregation is driven at least in part by income inequality and parents seeking out the best possible school districts for their children. By investing more money in our public schools – and helping ensure that every public school is a great one – my plan will address one of the key drivers of residential segregation.” Warren would also strengthen civil rights enforcement in education, including applying it to the recent trend of “breakaway” districts, in which the wealthier, whiter areas of a town break away to form their own school district, leaving lower-income and less-white populations in underfunded schools. Warren commits to civil rights enforcement not just for students of color but also for students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, and English language learners and other kids from immigrant families. She’d address some of the key policies making schools punitive and stressful for students, pushing back on zero-tolerance discipline policies that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, canceling school lunch debt and calling for free school breakfasts and lunches, and eliminating high-stakes testing, which has so damaged the educational experience: “Schools have eliminated critical courses that are not subject to federally mandated testing, like social studies and the arts. They can exclude students who don’t perform well on tests. Teachers feel pressured to teach to the test, rather than ensuring that students have a rich learning experience.”
In that call to eliminate high-stakes testing, which is also so much about allowing teachers to make judgments as professionals, and in the final two broad areas of Warren’s plan, she clearly take cues from the teachers’ uprising of recent years. Warren calls for higher pay for teachers, points out that her earlier plan to eliminate student debt would make teaching a more sustainable profession, and supports unions as a path to strength for teachers. She also has a slate of plans to diversify the teaching workforce and to expand professional development for teachers—and she would make the government pay for those classroom supplies that teachers all too often pay for out of their own pockets.
Finally, Warren says, “To keep our traditional public school systems strong, we must resist efforts to divert public funds out of traditional public schools.” She’s not kidding around there. Warren calls for a ban on for-profit charter schools, including ones that are theoretically nonprofit but outsource operations to for-profit companies, and to end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools—a key Betsy DeVos priority. Beyond that, she would subject existing charter schools to the same oversight and transparency requirements as public schools, and crack down on rampant fraud. She’d apply lobbying restrictions and disclosure requirements to companies lobbying school systems that get federal money, “Ban the sharing, storing, and sale of student data,” and require high-stakes testing companies that currently sell prior versions of their tests to students who can afford them to release those materials to everyone.
In short, Warren once again does have a plan for that.
- 2020 Democrats stand with Chicago teachers, this week in the war on workers
October, 19 2019
Democratic presidential candidates are showing their support for striking Chicago teachers. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been a strong ally, joining a rally last month, for instance, and he continues to have their backs:x
This takes real courage. I stand with over 30,000 members of @CTUlocal1 and @SEIU73 who are striking so the students and families of Chicago have the schools and resources they deserve. https://t.co/a8290pPmks
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 17, 2019
Elizabeth Warren expressed solidarity as the teachers geared up to strike:x
I stand shoulder to shoulder with the Chicago teachers making their voices heard to demand living wages, smaller class sizes, and all the things teachers need to do their jobs well. America’s teachers take on powerful work every day, and we must treat them with respect. #1u
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) September 22, 2019
- ‘These kids need somebody’: Chicago teachers strike for more nurses and counselors
October, 18 2019
Chicago teachers remain on strike for a second day Friday as negotiations continue between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city and schools management. Though the city kept school buildings open, just 6,700 of over 350,000 students went to them.
On the picket lines, teachers and supporters emphasized class size and the need for more nurses and counselors. One school nurse told the Chicago Tribune that she was assigned to four schools, down from six last year, and sees kids with “Diabetes, seizures, medications, ADHD. We just got one in with post-traumatic stress. She’s a kindergartner. It’s a lot. These kids need somebody.” But with the school nurse divided between four or more schools, the kids don’t have the care they need.
The same goes for counselors, with one carrying a sign saying “Recommended counselor ratio— 250:1 My ratio—1029:1 CPS, Seriously?!?”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city doesn’t have the money for nurses, counselors, librarians, and class size limits.
- Chicago teachers strike for smaller classes, affordable housing, and racial justice
October, 17 2019
Chicago public school teachers, along with school staff represented by SEIU, are on strike as of Thursday morning. The teachers, who a poll shows have public support, are striking not just or even mostly for better pay—though, as a video you can watch below shows, many are struggling to get by—but for nurses and counselors and librarians in every school, for smaller class sizes and more bilingual teachers and more special education teachers and for “real sanctuary schools.” The city has tried to derail the strike by offering—and making a big public deal about—substantial raises, but the teachers are making clear that it’s bigger than that.
The teachers are also fighting for affordable housing for students, at least 16,450 of whom are homeless, with homelessness disproportionately affecting black students, and for lower-paid school staff who are required to live within city limits but struggle to afford city housing costs.
The Chicago Teachers Union is pointing directly at racism as a factor in the state of Chicago schools. ”Here’s what I have learned from the systems in place. They’re governed by white supremacy,” union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates told HuffPost. “We have a school district that is 90% children of color, we have immigrant children in our system―why on earth would it be difficult to enshrine class size protections and make sure there’s a nurse in every school?”
There are around 25,000 teachers on strike, along with 7,500 support staff, affecting the nearly 300,000 in the city’s schools. A former student who came out to support the teachers told CNN that “I see that many schools do not have complete sets of books for each kid. Some schools do not have the help for bilingual students, someone to help them in their native language. Some schools do not have a special education teacher, the kids are falling behind. Some buildings are falling apart, making it unsafe for kids.”
Chicago teachers last went on strike in 2012, but Jane McAlevey traces out how the CTU’s activism helped set the conditions for the more recent wave of teacher strikes from West Virginia to Los Angeles. Now Chicago teachers are again the ones on strike, but in a seriously different environment around the fight for public education than they saw (and began to reshape) in 2012.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has been strongly supportive of the teachers.
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