Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teachers stepping up their fight

It has been intriguing to watch the e-mail messages flowing into my inbox in recent days. For it seems the unions that represent teachers are stepping up their own efforts to protect their own financial interests.

From the Chicago Teachers Union, which may well wind up walking the picket lines in coming weeks to try to force the Chicago Public Schools to give them a contract worthy of their work.

ALTHOUGH EVEN THE Illinois Education Association is joining in the effort, seeking to protect the interests of teachers in public school districts across the rest of the state.

They have come up with a poll concerning all the pension reform talk, which some people think could easily be fixed if only those school teachers weren’t so greedy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been more publicly outspoken in trashing teachers and their unions than state officials have been. But the end result is the same. There are people who want to view school teachers as a problem.

Which is why I can’t get terribly offended at the idea of the teachers retaliating. What’s wrong with self-defense?

EVEN IF THAT self-defense includes cluttering my e-mail in-box with all kinds of messages meant to give me the impression of a union ready to go to war.

From the notice letting me know how I can contact the printing company that is preparing all the picket signs that might be needed IF the union actually takes a strike vote, to the news that there is a “confidential e-mail” that says the union members are being wrongly monitored for their union activity.

They even informed us of the informational pickets they did this week, while reminding us that the strike vote has NOT been taken.

“Students come first, but you can’t have a quality school district by putting a fair and equitable labor agreement last,” teachers union President Karen Lewis said, in one of her several prepared statements she issued this week.

“AFTER LABOR DAY, we want to be where we belong, in the classroom,” she said. “However, if talks continue as they have been, we will be where we need to be (and that is) on the (picket) line.”

Now it might be hard to get away with that kind of attitude IF the general public were really buying into the rhetoric that teachers are a batch of overpaid hacks pretending to be performing a worthwhile service.

In short, some people don’t want to have to respect educators, and they want the rest of us to listen to their rhetoric. But the Illinois Education Association has a new poll that would seem to indicate that we’re not buying it.

That poll says 68 percent of all teachers should get the pension benefits they were promised, and 58 percent think that talk of cutting retirement benefits to teachers to try to resolve pension funding programs would be a bad move.

WHEN IT COMES to blame, there are 58 percent who think the pension funding problems are the fault of the General Assembly, while ONLY 5 percent think the teachers are to blame for the situation.

When it comes to the pension situation, I realize that a large part of resolving the problem is determining what will be done to close the funding gap for the program that provides retirement benefits for teachers in the suburbs and rural Illinois.

It is likely that if the school districts have to assume a larger cost of covering those benefits costs, those officials are going to shift blame to teachers.

They’re already going out of their way to claim that any such shift would result in higher property taxes for local homeowners.

IS THIS POLL merely an attempt to pre-empt the eventual argument that, “Your property taxes wouldn’t be so high if those teachers in your school district didn’t expect so much in retirement benefits!”

Which is about as over-the-top a comment as some of the rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Emanuel when it comes to bashing the Chicago Teachers Union.

And my e-mail in-box may well be cluttered in the future with the rhetoric in response.


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