Chicago public school teachers are on strike this week after long negotiations concerning salaries, benefits and job components such as teacher evaluations. While students may sit out classroom time in these strikes, they often only last a few days and end in usually fair compromise.
And for students across the U.S., this incident should not stir fear that strikes will spring up around the country, or that our education and class time are in jeopardy.
Strikes are an important way for unions to express opinions and demand change, but the strike itself seems politicized and dramatic only because this type of political action has become rare in everyday American life. The last strike to hit Chicago’s public school system was 25 years ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The strike in Chicago highlights the implications of widening the divide between teachers who are on the ground working with students and politicians tugging the strings of education policies.
Strikes bring to light these issues and make the public more aware of connections between their lives and government spending – but the politicization of the issue also shows that strikes are becoming so uncommon as to be feared.
In the realm of U.S. higher education, strikes are uncommon. For students, this means that school continues without fear of class
cancellations or even of a university closure. But being more accepting of the action of striking opens new avenues for discourse.
For students in universities across the world, the story is often different.
In Brazil, university professors began a strike in May that spread to 30 other public sectors and included 400,000 federal employees. Professors were offered a 45 percent pay raise to seal their deal, according to BBC News, while others accepted a 15.8 percent raise over the next three years.
According to the Ghana News Agency, university administrators called off their almost two-month-long strike in late July to show respect after the death of Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills. The strike halted universities’ administrative work, including putting the admission of new students into schools in jeopardy.
The Sri Lankan government last month shut down all but two public universities indefinitely after university professors and officials began striking two months earlier. There is fear that political action from universities, both at the student and staff levels, are a threat to the government, according to BBC News.
The strike in Chicago has already been sensationalized politically, but the issue is more important in terms of political action.
In Florida, at both the university and public school level, students are not sitting in classes in fear of a teacher union strike. Students should not be worried teachers are going to start protesting in the streets today, cancelling classes for months.
But strikes offer the educational system another avenue to fair compromise to resolve issues, and the strike in Chicago only happened as a last resort when a compromise could not be reached.