Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Five more days to go ‘til picket lines?

What should we think of the standoff currently taking place between the Chicago Public Schools and the teachers it would employ to educate all those students it has?

We got the sight on Monday of Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis at a downtown rally, using the Daley Plaza and the shadow of the Picasso statue to make sure teachers realize they are the ones who have been snubbed – and they are the ones who need to stick together.

IT LOOKED ALL the more like Monday will be THE DAY that the teacher pickets become the real thing, instead of just informational acts.

Yet on Tuesday, we got the sight of Public Schools head Jean-Claude Brizard trying to reassure teachers that there is a chance the two sides can reach a contractual agreement by the end of the week.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Brizard said “steady progress” is being made, while adding that the stress of a strike would be “tremendous” on the families of Chicago Teachers Union members.

Which is true enough. It also is encouraging to hear that the hostile rhetoric is being toned-down by the school administration and city officials.

BECAUSE IT IS the reason why I have been able to sympathize with the Chicago Teachers Union members who are being asked to do significantly more work for minimal boosts in compensation.

It wouldn’t shock me to learn that city officials wish they could get their teachers to agree to a pay cut, and regard any increase as extravagant. They have been more than willing to play to the people whose ideological hang-ups make them want to think that everybody ought to feel grateful for employment.

Of course, they just think that way about other people – they think their own employment status is special.

I’d just like to see any of these people try to do the work of an educator – because I suspect they’d fail spectacularly. Perhaps because I realize I don’t have the patience required to teach. I couldn’t do it, and I doubt I’m alone.

SO AS FOR the idea that Chicago Public Schools officials are now trying to publicly put a conciliatory tone to their talks? It’s only a shame that it didn’t happen a few weeks sooner.

Perhaps we really would have reason to think that “steady progress” is being made, and that there is a good chance that the next few days will see a contractual agreement that would keep the teachers gainfully employed for the upcoming year, next few years, or however long a time period the two sides are able to agree to.

I’m not about to predict what’s going to happen with regards to the teachers’ contract. Because I’d have to admit that any guess I would make would be mere dumb luck if it turned out that I guessed correctly.

This thing could go either way, although I won’t be shocked and appalled if we wind up seeing picket lines at schools across Chicago and outside of City Hall in coming weeks – something we haven’t had since the days of Harold Washington as mayor.

THEN AGAIN, MAYBE this is all just a plot to make us reminisce fondly for the days of Richard M. Daley as mayor.

The city’s public school system did manage to go without labor disputes for his entire two decade-plus stint on City Hall’s fifth floor.

Although I doubt that the real key to success is a return to the past. People who want to return to “old ways” of doing things oftentimes are the real problem – which is why I can’t say I find the public schools officials to be 100 percent wrong.


No comments: