Chicago Teachers Strike Day 2: Reactions; CTU’s Lewis Calls Deal ‘Lunacy’

As the Chicago Teachers Union strike concludes its second day, there appears to be very little progress in negotiations — CTU President Karen Lewis calls the possibility of concluding negotiations today “lunacy” — as education advocates, organizations and media are increasingly-willing to weigh in.

Both sides have been waiting with bated breath for word from the White House. Teachers unions traditionally have enjoyed near-lockstep support from the Democratic party, but tensions over proposed education reforms have raised questions about what used to be a happy political and philosophical marriage. Yesterday, President Barack Obama remained silent — with some calling it “neutral” — on the strike.

Today, however, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed that he, and not the union, has the support of the President:

“I want you to understand, the president has weighed in,” Emanuel said. “Every issue we’re talking about regarding accountability of our schools, quality in our schools to the education of our children, is the core thrust of Race to the Top.”

The President’s endorsement of the city’s position in the strike is implicit, claims Emanuel, as Chicago’s reforms are in line with the Administration’s education initiatives, namely Race to the Top.

Onlookers nationwide continue to attempt to sort out the issues impeding a contract agreement, including:

  • Teacher Salaries;
  • Education funding at the city, state and federal levels;
  • Class size and student:teacher ratios;
  • Length of the school day and school year;
  • Frequency and purpose of testing;
  • Methods of teacher evaluation;
  • Infrastructure and resource issues.

As we find out more about the positions of both the city and the CTU, education stakeholders, advocates and organizations are making known their stances.

The Chicago Tribune led the day with an editorial that advised, simply: “Don’t cave, Mr. Mayor”:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Board of Education members, don’t repeat history.

Decade after decade, CPS faintheartedness at the bargaining table has led to early settlement of strikes but never to fundamental reforms.

Teachers are on strike. Kids are the losers. The kids are always the losers. This time, make this strike count. Make it a victory for students. Don’t cave.

Students — not just teachers and politicians — are making news, too. Education Action Group has video of students, who appear not to be heavily invested in the political aspects of the strike, protesting at the request of teachers. EAG calls them “props.”

Twitchy, a right-leaning site that tracks Tweets, reported several instances of students bemused and befuddled — and some flat-out angry — when teachers requested that students strike with them. Twitchy calls it “disgraceful.” [Language warning on Tweets.]

At Huffington Post, it seems that everyone’s talking Chicago as the strike details develop.

The Illinois Policy Institute, a free enterprise group, wants everyone to know five basic facts about the strike.

Video has surfaced of CTU President Karen Lewis bragging to a crowd at a social justice event that she spent her college years at Dartmouth “smoking weed” — and she also mocked Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s lisp.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has released a brief, carefully-worded statement on the strike:

“I hope that the parties will come together to settle this quickly and get our kids back in the classroom. I’m confident that both sides have the best interests of the students at heart, and that they can collaborate at the bargaining table – as teachers and school districts have done all over the country – to reach a solution that puts kids first.”