The following is a statement from Chicago's 6th Ward Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer on the Chicago Teachers Union strike and the well-being and education of the city's less fortunate children.
There is currently a lot of confusion about the state of Chicago Public Schools and what is going on for our students. Recent reports state that both sides are close on the questions of compensation, but we must take this time to work towards and actual solution that helps our children. I want to make clear that I support the teachers union, but I believe that both CTU and CPS should acknowledge that there are serious issues we need to address if we are going to do what is best for our children.
Budgetary realities are real and accountability is necessary, but we cannot ignore the challenges that face some of our neighborhoods. I just cannot understand any education plan that acts like violence, poverty and other societal ills have no effect on the ability of a student to learn.
It seems to me that before you are going to evaluate teachers based on the performance of students, we must at least create a plan that would allow for a fair starting place. A school without internet service, air-conditioning or where students deal with multiple acts of deadly violence and lost classmates would never perform at the same level as a student for whom those issues did not exist. A teacher that has to feed children, wash children and dress children as well as counsel children all before they begin to teach will never match the academic results of a teacher that did not face those challenges. I believe that some acknowledgement of this as a reality is a necessary starting point to this discussion.
I have poured over the results of the different school models, and at best all that I can say is that the results are mixed. As the Mayor said himself as he released his school honor roll, there are Selective Enrollment, Charter, Turnaround and yes traditional neighborhood schools that have become successful. High standards are a good thing and many dedicated and hard working professionals and students have met the challenge. Yet some successful schools have become so despite the odds, and I do not believe it is a plan to simply require principals and teachers to create annual miracles. We need a system that can be diverse and offer many different options, but at its core does not create an underclass that we are abandoning in difficult circumstances.
In my time in this office I have seen many hardworking and dedicated teachers and I have met many hardworking members of CPS administration. Both sides would do better if we toned down the rhetoric. However, I must acknowledge that the teachers union has a history of being burned, as with the rescinded pay increase, and I do not understand how the city did not engage the teachers as soon as there was a 90% strike authorization vote. As this becomes more of a debate about whether teachers are greedy or whether the Mayor wants to privatize schools, the children are the ones who lose. It is unacceptable to say we are going to ignore the emotional well-being of our most at risk children because of the budget. I refuse to accept that the city and CPS budget are filled with so many issues of more importance than our children.
Rest assured that I will do all I can to help parents through this process and to put our children first.