More than 20,000 students and 1,200 teachers in Unit District 300, based in Carpentersville, returned to school this morning after a one-day teachers’ strike, The (Elgin, Ill.) Courier-News reported this morning.
The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald had reported earlier this week that a strike over salaries and class size was pending, and after last-minute talks failed to produce a deal Monday, teachers hit the picket lines on Tuesday.
The number of teachers’ strikes in the Chicago area this school year has been staggering: the teachers’ unions were relatively quiet throughout the area for the last two school years, and then in early September, the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike. It’s been downhill ever since—the last D300 teachers’ strike before this one was in 1972, 40 years ago.
In an extensive article on Oct. 21, the Chicago Tribune pointed out that teachers in many suburban districts may have been “emboldened” by the success of the Chicago strike.
But while the Chicago teachers negotiated a deal that involved concessions on both sides, the main sticking points were not about salary. Chicago teachers couldn’t agree on air conditioning, teacher evaluations, or salary. In most of these suburban strikes, including the one that just ended in D300 and one threatened in Elementary District 33 in West Chicago, teachers are striking over salary.
For example, teachers in Lake Forest High School District 115 picketed for four days over a two-tier pay schedule the district had put in place, a schedule that would move teachers up the salary ladder more slowly. The union felt this offer made teaching at Lake Forest High School less attractive, especially to new teachers, than teaching at many nearby schools. Thus, they feared an exodus of talented teachers who would hone their skills at Lake Forest and then take them elsewhere before they got really good and returned any real benefit to Lake Forest students.
And this makes sense: Disputes are usually over salary because that’s essentially what contracts have to work with, but even if teachers aren’t fighting for the district to fix buildings in bad states of disrepair, like teachers were in Chicago, we can still view these strikes, in a light favorable to the teachers, as being for the quality of education we give our students.
And disputes over class sizes, as was reported though not universally agreed upon in D300, when viewed in an unfavorable light, come to mean a guarantee that so many teachers will have their jobs protected. That would seem to be a negative for teachers’ unions. But in a light favorable to teachers, we can view these same disagreements as teachers, most of whom believe class sizes smaller than 40 or 50 result in better education for students, fighting for better education.