As the burgeoning teachers strike closed schoolhouse doors across the Windy City Monday, parents of 350,000 students scrambled to secure daycare or make other arrangements while their children’s education is delayed. No one knows how long the strike will last, or what the lasting impact will be in Chicago school kids.
Teacher strikes fall hardest on poor families, which are often headed by single parents living pay check to pay check, or working parents with who need two incomes to get by. Closed schools means costly daycare, and skipping work to care for a child risks losing a job, a potential catastrophe for a working family in the current economic climate.
One union demand is a pay increase, even though the average Chicago teacher already makes $20,000 more than the average Chicago taxpayer household. The union says its members should get a raise because school officials extended the work day to seven hours.
Meanwhile, parents of children attending the city’s public charter schools calmly went about their business, as their kids got down to the business of getting an education. All of the city’s charter schools are open during the strike.
In 1996 the Illinois legislature passed a law allowing charters as part of the state’s public education system. Today Chicago has nearly 100 charter schools serving 52,000 students, many in low-income communities. While the grown-ups at the union and in City Hall argue, charter schools are providing a brighter future for at-risk kids who otherwise might fall through the cracks.
In recent years children in Washington have suffered through teacher strikes in Marysville, Kent, Tacoma and a threatened walkout in Seattle. Allowing charters would mean children at these schools wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught up in a strike when a local union decides to close the schools.