It's teacher hunting season!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Despite myths: Parents do support CTU strikers; School-day killings not up

UPDATE: Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 | Updated 8:47 PM CDT from WMAQ NBC 5, Chicago
Hundreds of parents stood by the Chicago Board of Education to support teachers, as the announcement was made that the Chicago Teachers Union was ending its strike of the Chicago Public Schools. This should put to rest the media and politician's arguments that parents did not support the striking teachers.
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As indicated at the blog Choosing Democracy, Chicago parents do support the strikers. This support is at higher levels in the African-American and Latino communities, communities representing 87 percent of Chicago's schoolchildren, and by more than 20 percentage points, the public blames [mayor] Rahm Emanuel and the school board more than they blame the Chicago Teachers Union for the strike.
Read the polls, or just the press accounts of parental support for the teachers, however, and you come away with an altogether different impression. A poll commissioned and released Thursday by Capitol Fax, an Illinois political report, of 1,344 registered Chicago voters found that fully 66 percent of parents with children in the public schools, and 55.5 percent of Chicagoans overall "approve the Chicago Teachers Union decision to go on strike." Among African Americans, strike support stood at 63 percent; among Latinos, 65 percent. (Roughly 80 percent of Chicago's schoolchildren are minority.)

So, who disapproved of the strike? A majority (52 percent) of parents with children in private schools, and a majority of whites (also 52 percent).

While most Chicagoans support the strike, a 48 percent plurality believes that a portion of a teacher's evaluation should be based on student performance on standardized tests. And when it comes to fingering who's responsible for the strike, 29 percent blame the Teachers Union while 34 percent blame the mayor and 19 percent the school board (meaning, 53 percent blame management). Among whites, the share blaming the union rises to 41 percent.

A caveat is in order before we subject these numbers to interpretation: Strikes that are three days old (which is when the poll was taken) are sure to have higher levels of support than strikes that have dragged on for three weeks or three months. That said, the racial gap in the polling, which overlaps the gap between parents with their kids in Chicago public schools and everyone else, is what leaps out.

Does the strike harm children, is it true that the “CTU strike is a clear and present danger”?
(See the full text of the Chicago city government's request for the injunction, Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Chicago Teachers Union, as reported in the Chicago Tribune.) A law professor strongly doubts that the city can make the claim that the strike hurts children, as reported by Arturo Garcia, September 17, 2012, "Judge denies mayor’s injunction as Chicago teachers strike continues."
“There is the legal right to strike in Illinois,” said Andrea Kayne Kaufman, who teaches courses in human resources management and home, school and community relations at the university. “[To say] any strike harms children, I don’t think that’s going to be the theory that’s successful here.”
And when have the killings of the last been occurring? They do not represent killings among school age children who would otherwise have been in class. Rather, when looking at patterns that arise from Chicago killings chronicled daily at the blog What About Our Sons?, it appears that the killings are usually occurring outside of school hours and the vast majority of the killings are among people 18 to 29 years old.

And Emanuel's professed concern for public safety at the time of the strike is sort of inconsistent in contrast to his behavior in running off to Charlotte, North Carolina for the 2012 Democratic National Convention for a good part of the first week of September. Chicago's very high murder rate has been the top political story of the year, as Progress Illinois indicated late this summer in "What To Make Of The Chicago Murder Rate."
The homicide rate is probably the top political story in Chicago so far this year, with an approximately 30 percent citywide increase in murders between 2011 and 2012 and a succession of new pronouncements from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on how they are responding to the issue.

Unfortunately, the solution is complicated in terms of what local political leaders and also specific Chicago communities can do regarding a problem that stirs much emotion. The Chicago homicide rate has, in fact, gone down, significantly and continually, over the last 20 years. However, citywide numbers do not provide a complete picture because of the enormous fluctuations in homicides between neighborhoods.

Addressing the homicide problem looks to be an issue of addressing social and economic segregation as much as any change in law enforcement tactics.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Homicide Statistics

The daily coverage of homicides, for example stories on the number of city murders reported over a weekend or over a month, can elide the larger citywide trend. According to Chicago Police Department crime data, there were 308 murders at the end of July putting Chicago on pace to have 528 homicides by the end of 2012.

This is a higher per capita murder rate than New York City and Los Angeles, which have each seen declines in homicides this year. And it would exceed the 440 murders Chicago recorded in 2011.
Community members supported teachers, citing their right to read a contract before signing it. As reported September 17 in the Chicago Sun-Times:
At noon Monday, an angry, pro-union group composed of community and labor leaders, parents, students and academics — with striking teachers and social workers mixed in — staged a noisy demonstration outside Emanuel’s office.

They denounced Emanuel for asking a judge to order teachers back to work before they had exercised their legitimate right to read the fine print.

Sarah Johnson, a senior at Roosevelt High School, held up a piece of paper with the handwritten words, “Full Proposal,” then ripped it in half to signify the summary distributed to the CTU’s House of Delegates.

“They only got half of this to read. Is that right?” Johnson said, as the crowd shouted, “No!”

“I’m only 17 years old and I know that I will not sign a contract that I have not fully read yet or I have not even fully received,” Johnson said.
"I think the union has a vision of a school system that has the kind of resources where children get what they actually need."

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