Editorial: Yes, you can back teachers and oppose a strike

The Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

Take a moment to think of your favorite teacher. In a second, someone probably comes to mind. It might have been someone who stoked your love of history, or projected encouragement when your essays read like Esperanto.

What job can be more important than the one that stewards children from preschool to senior year? Yet with a potential teachers strike approaching, words of appreciation for teachers are being replaced by clashes over competing contract provisos. It's Chicago Teachers Union vs. Chicago Public Schools, causing Chicagoans of all types to choose sides, to either talk up the value of teachers or risk sounding like educational curmudgeons.

While it's easy to view contentious negotiations solely through the prism of bargaining chips and bottom lines, that would be a mistake. It's possible to celebrate teachers -- their diligence, their devotion -- and still oppose a strike.

On these pages we have argued numerous times about the harm that a strike would cause -- to students, to parents, to the city of Chicago. And we have laid out a strong case for why teachers should accept the generous contract proposal Mayor Lori Lightfoot is offering.

CPS teachers already out-earn most of their public school colleagues in Illinois, the Tribune's Kim Geiger reported. The offer from Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson would give teachers a minimum raise of 16% over five years. It would also double the number of nurses and social workers at schools.

The union has rejected the offer and instead pushed for the inclusion of issues that don't belong in a teachers contract, such as the city's lack of affordable housing.

In recent days some encouraging signs surfaced: CTU leadership eased up on a couple of demands, expressing a willingness to phase in measures to lower maximum class sizes and to ramp up staffing of social workers, case managers and school nurses, the Tribune reported.

Lightfoot issued a statement saying the city and CPS "were pleased to see more progress at the negotiating table than at any time up to this point." Both sides should do everything possible to parlay that progress into a settlement that avoids a Thursday walkout and the damage that it would do.


Negotiations between unions and government are by nature adversarial. The rhetoric gets heated, leverage gets applied, tempers flare. But that doesn't mean that the value of teachers should be obscured by the rancor.

No one involved in this process should forget the spark that teachers supply to children's development. On Saturday, Lightfoot said the city and CPS remain committed "to getting a deal done that reflects our fundamental respect for teachers."

That fundamental respect for teachers is deserved, regardless of the state of contract negotiations. Yes, Chicagoans, you can back teachers and oppose a strike.

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