SLAP students stand with Chicago Teachers Union
Note: This is a message from the SLAP Leadership Committee, issued as CTU Local 1 returns to the bargaining table with Chicago Public Schools
For months now, Chicago teachers have been sitting at the bargaining table waiting to be taken seriously. For months now, they’ve been sitting by themselves. As students from across the country active in the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), a joint project between Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association, we stand with the Chicago Teachers Union. These teachers were forced to strike to protect students as they fight for smaller class sizes, manageable hours for students and teachers, and provide equal pay for equal work.
Public schools are the bedrock of our communities and our teachers are our community guardians. Our public schools ensure a safe environment for students to grow and develop academically, physically, and socially. Teachers are mentors, coaches, counselors, and friends. They offer us opportunities to pursue our passions, whether it in athletics, music, art, math, science, or writing. They help us see past our immediate lives and expand our world view. A teacher’s job does not end once the bell rings. There are the extra hours of after school tutoring, the late nights grading homework, responding to students and parents with questions, and the early mornings of lesson planning.
We need schools that foster a desire to learn and welcome students, not drive them away through rigorous standardized testing and impersonal “learning methods” – the types of policies being proposed by Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago School Board. Privatizing our education system and removing resources from our public institutions disenfranchises students and creates an especially difficult path into an already suffering job market. The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board budget currently plans for a $70 million shift in funds towards creating 250 new charter schools over the next five to ten years, while cutting the funds of existing schools by eighty-five percent.
As students of higher education, we feel the same extraordinary pressure of the privatization of our schools. When the University of Oregon pursues it’s privatization strategy “The New Partnership,” when Walmart opens shop at the University of Arkansas, and when Sallie Mae partners with our Department of Education to put an absurd squeeze on young debt-laden graduates we know that we are under attack from the same forces that attack the Chicago Teachers Union. We recognize Mayor Emanuel’s agenda as anti-democratic because it seeks to remove the control of our public institutions from the democratic governments that we erected to serve the people. As students who have the access to the knowledge and resources that our great education system holds within it, we recognize that we also have the responsibility to defend education as a public institution. Your leadership inspires and motivates us, as well as makes us extremely proud to have been your students.
Our history books often present two competing narratives when it comes to educators and students. It is a common misconception that students’ interests and educator’s interests are diametrically in opposition to each other. Both students and teachers know and experience the value of education daily and on a deep level. Both groups are committed to education and to each other’s well being since the relationship of students and teachers are by definition dependent on each other. Your fight in Chicago is not just a fight about wages and benefits; it is also a fight for the quality of education. This is a fight about what is best for students, what is best for our communities. SLAP is proud to stand with you in this fight.
Student Labor Action Project