September 10th, 2012
06:08 PM ET

Comments: Union teachers striking when other people can't even find work?

Editor's note: We're listening to you. Every day, we spot thought-provoking comments from readers. Here's some comments we noticed today.

In a tight economy, the sight of striking teachers in Chicago has many readers seeing red. On CNN iReport, we're seeing photos from the picket lines. Should teachers be asking for more when people have less? Sam Chaltain writes in an education opinion piece that the issues in this situation apply well beyond the heartland.

My View: The whole world is watching Chicago, once again

Some readers who posted comments wondered if teachers see themselves as above the standards of other professions, while others wondered how performance should be measured.

Chris: " 'Teachers want job security.' – That says it all. Why should teachers get job security while the rest of the working world has to *perform* to achieve job security? And sometimes performance isnt even enough... Sometimes the way a system works is just ineffective, and it takes a dislocation of employees onb the journey to make it right, regardless of how effective those employees are individually. I've seen this happen in the business world- fantastically effective colleagues have lost their positions, and it's broken my heart to watch it happen- but then I've watched the business gets stronger and more effective as a result. 'Job security' is a figment of the past. Get over it, and work to make yourself relevent assuming you lose your job tomorrow."

Shelly: "No one debates accountability and evaluation. It is the terms of what does it mean to be an effective teacher? If we hold teachers accountable to student performance on a standardized assessment given on one day, shouldn't we also hold doctors accountable to patient wellness rate on a checkup day, regardless of if the patient took the advice to lose weight or exercise or take their medications? Shouldn't we blame farmers' poor yields in a drought on the farmers' incompetence? People hate teachers lately. If teaching is such a cake-walk job, please go to college and earn your degree so you can join in!"

daveyoung: "When you work for the taxpayers, you have no right to unionize. End of story."

This commenter applauded the efforts of teachers. CNN iReport is asking educators to share why they teach.

aflarend: "Great job, Chicago Teachers! You are standing up for what is right in the classroom. You know that tests are narrowing the curriculum and that they only measure a small part of what a child learns academically in school. As a graduate of a Chicago Public school in the 1980s and one on the far South Side, I know first hand the challenges that you face. And I know your successes since I earned advanced degrees in engineering, thanks in part to several inspiring teachers. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. And thank you for standing up for students and teachers."

Some said the schools are poorly managed, and parents need to step up and do their jobs.

Barbra & Jack Donachy: "By and large, Chicago's public schools have been a mess for a very long time as one reform after another has ultimately gone nowhere. Like his friend President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be taking a tack that puts too much emphasis on standardized test scores and places too much blame on teachers for the failure many of Chicago's schools. It is frustrating that, like Mr. Obama, the mayor has given up attempts to get to the root of the problems in our education system (horrible leadership from school and district administrators and the school boards that supposedly oversee that leadership) and is instead desperately hacking at the leaves around the fringes of meaningful school reform while pointing a wrongly accusatorial finger at teachers. No company, no team, no military unit, no group of teachers can rise above the level of their leadership for any length of time, and until we make positive changes in terms of getting better superintendents, better principals, and better school boards our public schools will continue to founder.

J: " 'The real problem' are parents, not district administrators, not school boards, and not teachers, when it comes to test scores. Parents are a child's real teacher and most are no where involved in their children's academic life. Stop making excuses that other people are responsible for educating our children. PARENTS PARENTS PARENTS. I am so tired of people making excuses on this subject – get involved with your children's education and recognize that you, the parent, are ultimately responsible and you only have yourself to blame."

The main story about the strike got thousands of comments from readers angry about the news.

Chicago teachers strike; students and parents scramble

This reader said union members need to think about the source of the money they're asking for, and referred to them as "union thugs."

hulsey76: "Teachers love to blubber about how they aren't in it for the money, it's about the kids ... until it's time to negotiate a new contract. Cities are broke, parents are broke, people are out of work and property values are in the gutter - just where do these union thugs think the money is going to come from? I guess we are all in this together, unless you're in a union; then the economy and suffering of other middle class people is of no concern to you."

madhatter91: "I made more bartending just a few nights a week then these people make educating our children full time. Oh yes, Mrs. Jensen with her fourth grade biology class is clearly a 'thug.' Christ, give them enough money to live on and think before typing."

This person suggested having school board members try being teachers.

bestamerican: "I agree with the teachers when it comes to those evaluations ... So the kids in wealthy areas have family support, people who care about them and teach them along the road of life, while in the worst neighborhoods the children are not taught anything from the parents. that's a big question on the plural there. Most often the child lives with his or her mother who is a total loser and doesn't care about anyone except themselves. No way would I want my job to be on the spot because I end up teaching the worst of the worst and the school system wants to hold me accountable for this child who has no chance at all. Get a grip Chicago school system. How about we do it this way, for every teacher you let go, let a school board member take over the class room, and if they can't change it then the teacher is reinstated with full pay ... How about that Chicago?"

This person claims to have a teacher for a wife, and says he opposes the teachers' strike.

PhilTheDrill: "As a husband of a teacher, I know full well that it is my responsibility to be the breadwinner in our household. My wife's income alone, on top of her student loan debt, would be just enough to support her on her own. It would be tough, but it isn't exactly minimum wage, and she gets better benefits that most workers in this country. Together, however, we do more than well enough. My wife is a brilliant teacher. She knew that a career in education is not a high-paying career without the prospect of moving up the ladder to higher-paying positions. She could have pursued any other career, but she chose to be a teacher. She is making a sacrifice because she cares about the future of the children that she teaches. Being a teacher is a noble profession. It isn't a career to pursue for material reasons. These Chicago teachers should be ashamed. To strike over pay raises and benefits not being sufficient when millions are unemployed or live on minimum wage is abhorrent."

Several readers mentioned the 1981 strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, which led to a confrontation with then-President Ronald Reagan.

deb0155: "Rahm Emanuel should do with the teachers as Reagan did with the air traffic controllers in the '80s. If you don't show up for work - you're fired! Believe me, there would be thousands of people in line just licking their chops for teaching jobs. The City of Chicago is broke - you can't get money out of a stone. They are fortunate they have jobs, pensions, health care and holidays and the summers off. Many people have student loans - and they are not out there picketing - they are out working or looking for jobs!"

Dolph: "The Chicago school district should pull a Reagan and fire all the teachers that don't come back to work and replace them with the scores of teachers still looking for jobs."

One reader, who claims to be a teacher, wrote a lengthy description of challenges they face.

FishOnLegs: "The cries coming from people in society who complain about how greedy we are as teachers, makes me cringe. I've read hundreds of comments on various websites telling us to change careers if we don't like it. I've often yelled back at the screen in support of people who say, 'If you think teaching is easy then you do it.' It's so true."

Private school was the answer for this reader.

bfkohl: "This morning I watched an interview with a Chicago teacher's union representative and she stated that they didn't foresee any problems for parents in securing daycare for their children. She further said that a city the size of Chicago was full of resources and kids she spoke with this morning were outside school 'for something to do,' not because they had no place to go or anyone to care for them. This exemplifies that they haven't a clue, and furthermore, don't care. They claim it is all about the children, but everyone knows they have a sense of entitlement regardless of how the rest of the population is faring. If you're lucky enough to have a job, you would jump at a 4% raise. As far as contributing more to their benefits, welcome to the world. The rest of us have been doing it for years, and many have gone without them altogether. Myself, I sent my kids to private school and it was worth every dime. Not only were they better educated, but there were no strikes to contend with. Maybe that's why most Chicago public school teachers also send their kids to private schools."

What do you think about the Chicago teacher strike? What can be done about education? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on Or share your photos and video commentary via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Comments • Economy • Education • Illinois • Taxes • U.S.
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Eduardo

    Government workers, especially when unionized, are a whole different tier of worker. Difficult to hire, impossible to fire, totally detached from the realities of ordinary Americans. Your democrat politicians will preserve this protected ststus so long as the unions compel dues and donate to democrat elections. It's E V I L !

    September 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Yeah, okay.

    September 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tommy Roff

    FIRE 'EM ALL........ RIGHT NOW!

    September 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. don

    Agree with a previous post...Public employees should never have been nor ever again allowed to have unions..period !

    September 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. genomega1

    There is only one fact that means anything in this discussion: Only 15% of 4th graders can read in Chicago schools. Thats all you need to know.

    September 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      You are disparaging the youth of Chicagoans because of their race! That shows you to be BIGOTED. You're so self righteous and think reading is so important because of your ethno centrism. DIVERSITY!

      September 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      jeez Jessica. He stated what he thinks is fact. I don't know. I do know that he said nothing about race. YOU DID. Put your race card away and address what he said

      September 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. james ainoris

    caPolice and other union workers work all year round not 180 days.. Here on Long Island our property taxes are ridiculasly high 12000$ a year for avg home.... 80% goes to school taxes... and at one time teachers in ny had the nerve to file and collect unemployment during the summer! I am pro union and education... police firefighters construction workers have to be continually recertified and do quality workmanship... it seems most teachers do not have to proof their abilities after tenure... here they make 80k to 125k for working half a year....lets also look at administrators who make double and also work half a year... Obama had a good idea.. make kids go to school year round... hold teachers accountable for performance...remmember no child left behind was Kennedys wish... when Bush initiated it teachers unions were against testing and quality control efforts. We need to streamline medical care and education system in AmeriCa... to much waste and fraud. We spend more than any other country on ed is ng!

    September 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Teacher in CO

    As a veteran teacher of 18 years and a parent of 2 children, I can see both sides of this story. Many folks who speak with anger and frustration seem fixated on the compensation aspect of this strike. I can understand their point of view. I think the part they are forgetting is that the teachers also want manageable class sizes and to not have THEIR jobs hanging in the balance due to the performance of others. Keep this perspective – How many times have you seen families in public struggling to keep control of 2-3 children? It's not always pretty. Now make that a group of 25-30 children? It's not as easy as it seems.

    I agree with the people who have suggested that folks who think teaching is a walk in the park should do it themselves. I'd challenge all naysayers to teach for a week – you're responsible for writing differentiated lessons for the variety of abilities within the class, classroom management, discipline, AND accountability to ensure the students retained everything that you taught them. (Don't forget, elementary teachers teach 5-7 subjects a day and you have to be well-versed in all of them!) Most people would say teaching is for the birds after a DAY.

    My husband volunteered in my classroom for 30-minutes once a week for 5 weeks with a scripted program written specifically for volunteers. He's a successful manager and was bewildered that it took him 2 hours to plan for a 30-minute lesson. And he couldn't believe how difficult it was to keep the children engaged and paying attention. Gone are the days when you could simply deliver instruction from the front of the classroom. Needless to say, he's a teachers' biggest advocate now because...he wouldn't want to teach day in and day out.

    Lastly, I've been given the privilege to work during the summers for large publishing company. Wow. What a difference it makes to work in Corporate America. I got to use the restroom when nature called (rather than having to wait until a predetermined time in my daily schedule), I got paid for the time it took to create my training presentations (Really? Public Educators have to do this outside of their class time because during the school day we're teaching!), and I had the time during my work day to collaborate with other trainers to get our work done. It's a vastly different experience than my day in the classroom – and I'm at a high performing school with parents who support us.

    The next time you want to put down a teacher – try teaching for a week, a day, heck – try it for an hour. Then we can talk.

    September 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rascal Rabble Local Union Steward

    lil mister i need some hhh-elp holdin' down this line...the scabs trynah break through...!

    September 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Rascal Rabble:

    September 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Let the kids have a *union rep* to put the power of collective bargaining in thier corner. Union of Student Pawns AFL-CIO.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dazzle ©

    Oh boy this is really heating up. I taught in the public schools for many years and was in a union for a few of those years. I was blessed in having good experiences in the inner city schools of New York and New Jersey. In New Jersey, I taught in what was at the time the toughest school in the nation. Never once did I have a bad experience with the kids but it was the parents who wanted the teachers to be everything to the kids. I had excellent benefits and will get a paid retirement out of the two states. Compared to wages I earned in the Corporate world, teachers pay was chump change. In my experience the Unions did absolutely nothing but collected union dues. I cannot speak for the teachers of Chicago but I am sure they have constant issues with behavior and are afraid to discipline in the way they should and I am not talking corporal punishment. Getting a national teachers license is advantageous as they can teach anywhere in the country. I still keep mine current and go through all of the background clearance including FBI finger prints. I hope this is resolved peacefully for all involved.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Why get upset with teacher fighting to get a little more out of life. A 20k raise, new Escalade, iPhone, 401k increase, PPO medical, 4 months paid vacation. This IS right in "thier own minds" regardless if you think your kids are pawns in it or not.
    O.K. Your the parent, AND, a taxpayer. So? Teach your kids at home. It's perfectly legal. Why argue how rich the teacher is getting while only a low % can read. You have control.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dazzle ©

    @Fred Fuller, then you are doing pretty well but do you get a COLA raise. Corporate salaries vary depending on the industry plus there is a bonus attached if your company achieves its goals. I did a swing and earned my doctorate and am back teaching at the University level part time and working at a Medical Centre part time. Of course the salary isn't the same but I am very fulfilled in my work. To me, that's what matters.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Noravonne

    Girlfriends, two choices: Health care on demand by democrats, or republicans rolling back your health care reproductive rights by republicans. If you want health care on demand for your reproductive decisons, vote for obama because he cares about you!

    September 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @little mister, surely you jest. Nice jacking job on the Gitmo thread.

      September 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    CNN: My appologies for my #18, 9:16 p.m. comment. I was harsh.

    September 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
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