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October 25, 2011
September 03, 2009
Update: The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract which would allow classes to resume on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
It’s a testament to how peaceful labor relations have been in our schools that the Chicago Teachers Union strike has been front-page and prime-time news since Monday. A national Rorschach test on education: Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Mother Jones weighed in. Like the guillotine, the strike focused the national mind.
The strike could be over soon—and many commentators predicted as much—but no matter when it ends, it offers us a chance to take the nation’s pulse. And the following is a quick roundup of opinion from a few of our notable educators, pundits, and editorial writers; much of it quite good.
First stop, of course, should be the Flypaper’s comprehensive list of stories, put together by a crackerjack team—Joe Portnoy, Pamela Tatz, and Ty Eberhardt. (As a former newsdesk guy, I can feel their pain—worth it, though, as the site proves.) And, of course, one of the best leads comes from our own Mike Petrilli:
The New York Times certainly seemed to agree. Early on, the paper of record (is it still?) editorialized with a hard-hitting headline, “Chicago Teachers’ Folly”:
The Times stars seemed to align pretty quickly on the issue. The same day that the newspaper was convening a huge conference on education, Nicholas Kristof wrote one of the more concise analyses of the situation. Calling education “the most important civil rights battleground,” Kristof writes that “while the Chicago teachers’ union claims to be striking on behalf of students, I don’t see it.” Kristof does not hold back, calling Chicago schools’ short school day and year “unconscionable,” concluding,
Kristof’s columnist colleague David Brooks added his take this morning, offering an interesting compliment to Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats (traditional supporters of “Economy 2,” says Brooks, the one with people in government and education who “don’t have the sword of Damocles hanging over them so they don’t pursue unpleasant streamlining as rigorously” as those in “Economy 1”) for pushing to reform the Windy City’s schools. The new mayor’s grit, says Brooks, is “a hopeful sign that some Democrats are hardy enough to take on interests aligned with their own party.”
And no story on teacher unions would be complete without hearing from Terry M. Moe, the William Bennett Munro professor of political science at Stanford University and author of Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America's Public Schools, who weighed in for CNN:
This seemed to be the dominant theme—that the strike hurt kids. As Mike Petrilli suggested on day one, “It’s hard to imagine the teachers winning in the court of public opinion.”
My unscientific read of things would surely support that view.