ROSEN: Chicago’s teachers need support

Three days ago, over 25,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers walked out of their classrooms to go on strike for the first time in 25 years. As a recent graduate of the CPS system, I spent the last few months of high school watching my fantastic teachers get pushed around by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard’s union-busting agenda. And I’m 100 percent behind my teachers.

Walking around the Yale campus, you would be hard-pressed to find a student from an inner-city public neighborhood school. Most of us are products of private schools or wealthy suburban school districts. But education is meant to be the great equalizer, and it is important that a free, high-quality education be available to all.

But public schools are falling apart all over the country, particularly in Chicago. With budgets squeezed tighter, hundreds of thousands of teachers have been laid off, increasing the burden on those who remain. Neighborhood schools deteriorate as magnet schools and selective-enrollment schools draw away all the top students who are not already in the private school system. Private funders are building for-profit charter schools that drain away public money, wrongly claiming they produce better students.

Instead of supporting public schools when they need it the most, politicians have chosen to demonize the teachers who staff them. These teachers are some of the most under-appreciated, underpaid people in the country. They work long hours past the end of the school day, deal with overcrowded classrooms and make an effort to educate students who sometimes have little capacity to learn, for reasons completely outside the teachers’ control.

Chicago’s teachers are striking to demand fair compensation for the extra ninety minutes they are going to be working every day this year. They are striking for more funding for arts programs, libraries and recess. They are striking for smaller class sizes and air conditioning during the sweltering summers. Far from seeking to line their own pockets, they are striking for their students.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s decision to go on strike and the public support it has received may represent a halt in the recent assault on public sector unions spearheaded by politicians like Scott Walker and Rahm Emanuel. It is possible that the Chicago teachers will pave the way for working people and unions everywhere to regain the power they deserve.

I wish the Chicago teachers, many of whom I credit with getting me where I am today, the best of luck in the upcoming struggles they face. I also hope their actions can alert the rest of the country to the war being waged against working people everywhere. It is time for the working and middle classes to stop allowing politicians and their corporate sponsors to push them around.

I received a phone call from Chicago on Monday from my father, who was marching in solidarity with the teachers downtown. He held up his phone in the air so I could hear the people shouting. Thousands of teachers, parents, students and friends had gathered to march through downtown, shutting down the entire Loop. Teachers in Chicago are angry. Parents in Chicago are angry. And they should be.

This strike is not just about teachers in Chicago. It is about unions and working people across the country. For far too long, their hard work has gone without fair returns. Seeing familiar faces in the television and newspaper coverage of the strike gives me an overwhelming sense of pride for the school system that got me where I am today. I am proud to be a product of the public school teachers who are out walking the picket line.

Diana Rosen is a freshman in Pierson College. Contact her at


  • AngelinaNewton

    That’s right thing to do!
    I completely agree with them!
    “I am proud to be a product of the public school teachers who are out walking the picket line.” Once I have read at [Rate my professor][1] the ways how politicians are demonizing the teachers. It is so wrong! People should appreciate education they get and who they are getting it from.


  • The Anti-Yale

    The Bill and Melinda Gradgrind Foundation heartily supports all those who wish to bash teachers and teachers’ unions.

    Join us at

    Paul Keane
    Founder, BAM Gradgrind Foundation

  • ldffly

    I went to a public school. I graduated in 1972. I do not give anybody in this district credit for where I am today. Anybody who graduated from that school system succeeded in later endeavors in spite of the school system.

    I would be very interested to hear Ms. Rosen’s opinions about school teachers in a few more years. Moreover, she is attending a university without a college of education. If she were, she would probably already be sceptical of the claims of school teachers that they’re highly educated, thus deserving of high respect.

  • bcrosby

    This is a fantastic piece. It’s tremendously exciting to see teachers standing up and fighting back against the wholesale privatization of education in this country under the banner of “education reform.”

    • River_Tam

      Man, the left is really running out of bogeymen, eh?

  • RexMottram08

    The teachers have abandoned 400,000 children.

    While Chicago Teachers Union members earn an average of $74,000 a year and 16 percent pay hikes, 71 percent of the third-largest school district’s eighth-grade students can’t achieve basic science proficiency, and nearly 80 percent are not grade-level proficient in reading.

    They can rot in hell.

    • ldffly

      I really like the ones with the Che t-shirts. As we all know because those teachers are telling us, Che was a supporter of working people and labor.

      I wouldn’t abandon them to the clutches of the devil. I just wish people would stop taking their puffery (nice term) so seriously.

  • ydn78

    Ms. Rosen went to Whitney Young, a magnet public high school in Chicago that not only requires competitive entrance exams but is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in Illinois. Coming from an actual Chicago community high school where the average ACT score was 19 and I was the first Ivy League student in its 50-year history, I find your support for the teachers’ strike rather unimpressive. The real issues behind this strike probably don’t hit home as much as you think they do.

  • DC14

    Yes! So proud of Chicago teachers! Before Yale I was educated by DC public school teachers in DC public schools, where Michelle Rhee’s reign of terror not only created hurtful and counterproductive vitriol and forced out some of the most effective, influential, and loving educators I have ever had, but also demonized anyone with a dissenting opinion.

    The way we’re having this debate about school reform is all wrong, and thank god for the thousands of Chicago teachers and their allies standing up against the forces of privatization of public education.

  • The Anti-Yale


    The Chicago Teachers’ Union President, Karen Lewis, is a Dartmouth, not a Yale, graduate.

    That is probably why she has the small-town-New Hampshire guts to stand up to a blowhard bully like Rahm Emanuel.

    Power to the people !


    • River_Tam

      “Now, you know he went to private school ‘cause if he had gone to public school he would have had that lisp fixed,” she said on stage. ”I know – that was ugly, wasn’t it? I’m sorry.”

      That’s Karen “small-town-New Hampshire guts” Lewis mocking Arne Duncan’s speech impediment.

    • River_Tam

      On her years at Dartmouth:

      “People are impressed,” Lewis said in a speech last fall at a teachers union conference in Seattle. “Let me tell you, I spent those [college] years, smoking lots of weed, self-medicating.”

  • yalengineer

    Wait until the TAs go on strike again. Then we’ll talk.

    • DC14

      Can’t WAIT for the TAs to go on strike