Outside Groups Monitor Chicago Teachers Strike

As the school strike in Chicago goes on, the contest isn't just between the teachers union and the Chicago Board of education. Many see the Chicago conflict as a battle for the future, not just of unions, but of public education.

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With a city's worth of students still out of school, Chicago's Teachers Union and its members are reviewing a contract proposal aimed at ending their strike. Delegates for the union will meet tonight. And as the teacher's strike continues, it isn't just of interest to people in Chicago. An array of groups has a stake in the way things turnout. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports from Chicago.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Teacher's unions from around the country have been paying close attention to what's going on here in Chicago. The Chicago Teacher's Union held a rally this weekend where supporters came from far and near - mainly near.

BOB PETERSON: Greetings of solidarity from Wisconsin.


GLINTON: Bob Peterson is president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. He drew parallels between the union fight in Wisconsin against that state's Republican Governor Scott Walker and the Chicago fight against Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

PETERSON: Walker and Emanuel are two sides of the same pro-corporate, pro-privatization agenda.

GLINTON: Union leaders such as Peterson have offered their moral support to the teacher's strike. When you talk to teachers, often the main sticking point isn't any individual provision of the contract. It's an overall distrust of the Chicago School Board and a fear of where unions are headed as a whole. Lisa Wyatt teaches at Hyde Park Academy on Chicago's South Side.

LISA WYATT: I understand the fiscal problems in our economy. But there has to be a stand taken by the community against an agenda to privatize education.

GLINTON: Wyatt says she doesn't trust the Board of Education will live up to the promises, mainly that they will provide resources to teachers in local schools. That's why, she says, teachers have been hesitant about signing on to the contract. Then Wyatt repeats what's become a mantra in this school strike.

WYATT: We're fighting for the soul of public education. We are fighting for the soul. What is happening here in Chicago has been happening all over the country.

GLINTON: Like most fights nowadays, this one is being played out on the airwaves.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Teacher's are on strike and kids are the losers. A deal is within reach, all CTU has to do is grab it.

GLINTON: Democrats for Education Reform is a group that's bankrolling ads that have been played on radio and television opposing the strike. It's just one of many groups of a variety of political stripes that is participating in the Chicago strike.

BARBARA RADNER: Well, the strike really is the quintessence, it's the convergence of all these efforts, pro and con - school reform, charters, teachers. Here we are. I guess you would call it a perfect storm.

GLINTON: Barbara Radner teaches Urban Education at DePaul University.

RADNER: Some groups are interested, out of the fact that they see this as perhaps the teacher unions' last stand. Some groups are involved because they resist charters. But this is Chicago. If we had a unified city we probably wouldn't be having a strike.

GLINTON: Radner says Chicago will be a battleground for education reform long after this strike is over.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Chicago.


MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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