Editorial: Support the Teachers!

November 11, 2003

The Chicago teachers and other school employees are fighting for a decent contract to improve their wages and working conditions as well as increase the city's investments in the public schools and the education of Chicago's children.

A raise for the teachers, along with increased spending for Chicago's schools, is long overdue.

In 1995, the Illinois legislature passed special laws denying Chicago teachers the right to collective bargaining over such vital issues as class size, length of school day, etc. and for several years the city's public schools have been under the arbitrary authority of the Mayor. While the politicians advertise this period as years of "Chicago school reform," the fact is that the government has systematically underinvested in the schools and the educational system has gotten worse and worse.

Teachers wages have fallen dramatically, creating a shortage of teachers who keep moving out of the city to find better jobs elsewhere. In addition, the Board of Education has destroyed the tenure system and deprived teachers of job security. Thousands of Chicago teachers are kept in the status of "full-time substitutes," without any seniority or job security for years on end while even the most senior teachers are subjected to the arbitrary whims of principals. To further undercut the teachers' union and contract, the Board keeps replacing teachers by arbitrarily creating new job titles. Also, during these "years of school reform," the Board of Education has drastically increased class sizes, often crowding 30-35, and even more, students into a class. Many schools are enrolled way beyond capacity and classes are regularly held in cafeterias, hallways and even closets. Thousands of students are denied special education, bilingual and ESL instruction and other courses mandated by law because the Board refuses to hire needed staff or purchase materials.

Similar conditions face teachers and public school students all across the country. The fact that teachers, on average, earn between $10,000 to $35,000 per year less than workers with comparable education and experience speaks volumes about just how little the government cares about the education of the youth of our country.

Thus the teachers' struggle is in the interests of all the working people and deserves their support.

In supporting the teachers, we can also renew and advance our struggles for the all-around modernization of the public schools. We must demand that the government make all the investments needed to guarantee teachers a decent salary and to guarantee the education of our children.