Striking teachers in Chicago marched out of a new school week, and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to convince a court to force them back into classrooms.
The story in Monday’s Washington Post on the out-of-control spat quotes a Chicago mother, Dequita Wade, who said she’s had to send her son 15 miles away each week day to a cousin’s house “so he wouldn’t be left unsupervised in a neighborhood known for violent crime and gangs.”
She told the Associated Press reporter: “You had a whole week. This is beginning to be ridiculous.”
I would have to disagree. It was ridiculous last week, as the union and the mayor had more than a week; they have been disputing the contract all summer.
Now it’s a disgrace.
Outside of Chicago, the villains appear to be the union leaders, as they rejected a new deal this weekend so their members could have more time to study the deal. Yes, more time to study while the hundreds of thousands of students who should be studying are watching their 147th cartoon.
But the closer one gets to the story, of course, the murkier it gets.
Late last week, Etan Thomas mounted a strong, personal defense for teachers in the Post.
And, the always-thought-provoking Alex Kotlowitz wrote in this weekend’s New York Times that we have come to over rely on the myth that teachers are our culture’s saviors and are asking too much of them.
While the rest of us ponder the big picture on how the strike relates to the school reform movement, however, the Chicago kids who rely on public schools, the vast majority from struggling families, are in danger. They are in danger academically, yes, but also quite literally in danger as families scramble, 87 percent of which are low-income, to find something — anything — suitable for them to do all day.
The band-aid approach that parents resorted to last week will be worn too thin for many this week. Kids are going to be left on their own in high-crime, high-temptation areas. Cartoons, in truth, would be far superior to what they might be lured into.
A solution is needed urgently.
How about this:
Why don’t the presidential campaigns take on this issue, a real tangible issue rather than rhetoric or promises. How about those armies of staffers fly from Ohio, Florida and Washington D.C. to Chicago, work with Emmanuel to get expedited background checks, and set up a new campaign.
Imagine, all those energetic young Turks marching into the empty schools and setting up impromptu classes. One Republican could be paired with one Democrat, so nobody could use the opportunity to preach politics, and they could read books aloud, lead art classes, dance, speak Spanish; they could talk about college, talk about foreign travel, talk about what it’s like to fly in an airplane — whatever, as long as the kids were supervised appropriately, and the campaign workers followed basic guidelines of propriety.
The work would certainly be more important than tweeting out snarky comments about the other campaign’s latest perceived gaffe. In fact, the experience might expand a few world views, both the children’s and the adult’s.
This may sound crazy, but not as crazy as suspending campaigns to attend to other matters of debateably less domestic urgency (as one former candidate did so memorably four years ago.)
This time, the suspensions couldn’t be as mocked because both candidates could do it. It would take one quick phone call to prove that Mitt Romney and President Obama are not just throwing hogwash when they talk about bipartisan efforts.
More, it would convince the rest of America that our presidential candidates are genuinely concerned about the most vulnerable among us.
And, that we should be too.
What do you think of the Chicago teacher’s strike? How would you solve it?