Chicago School Strike Ends, but Not the Fight

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel and teachers stand down, the future of public education is still up for grabs.

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

(The Root) — Even the dullest knife in the drawer could predict that when the mayor of a big city drops the f-bomb on the president of the teachers union during one of their earliest meetings, subsequent strike negotiations might not go as smoothly as possible.

No, they didn’t.

So as Chicago schoolteachers returned to their classrooms Wednesday morning, after more than a week on the picket lines, it’s safe to say that it still isn’t over till it’s over.

Looming large here in the Windy City and in other big cities across the nation is a battle over the future direction of public education in America. The pretext for the ensuing fight will be the threat of charter schools supplanting traditional public ones, while the subtext will be about teacher evaluations and job security in particular and the dismantling of the public employee unions in general.

After delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union voted to suspend the strike Tuesday afternoon, a remedial reading between the lines spelled out the debate positioning. Too bad you can’t actually see my tongue in cheek as I tell you that “it’s all about the children.”

But that’s what Mayor Rahm Emanuel insists his efforts have centered around as he’s touted reform for his city’s failing school system. He even made it plain in his prepared statement following Tuesday’s settlement: “It means returning our schools to their primary purpose: educating children. It means a new day and a new direction for Chicago Public Schools.”

And that’s what CTU President Karen Lewis said during a Q-and-A session that same Tuesday afternoon: “This idea of corporate efficiency that’s been pushed toward schools, that’s a problem for us. It’s not good for kids. I think people don’t understand that. If kids are in chaos, their lives are in chaos. Where is the stability?”