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While teachers strike, student-athletes are benched — and every student pays a price

We are sometimes reassured that a short strike does no measurable harm. We can’t agree.

Phillips High School quarterback Terryon Thrower throws a pass during a practice in September. Phillips is among CPS football teams impacted by the CTU strike.
Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times

Did you hear about the girls tennis teams at the Chicago Public Schools?

Because of the teachers’ strike, they could not play in the state high school tournament that began Friday. They had to forfeit every match.

Did you hear about the Class 2A and 3A boys soccer teams at CPS?

Because of the teachers’ strike, they had to forfeit every game this weekend.

Did you hear about CPS’ high school football teams? They had to forfeit every game from Thursday through Saturday. Every team lost without seeing a single snap of the ball.

We are sometimes reassured, often by teachers, that a short strike does no measurable harm. We are told that extra days can be added on at the end of the school year, or that in any event good teachers know how to play catch-up in the classroom.

We can’t agree. The Chicago Teachers Union has been on strike for two school days and, even before the strike continues on Monday, kids are paying a price.

A real price

Is it a small price in the scheme of things? After all, the teachers and the Board of Education are negotiating important issues with a long reach, such as salaries and class size.

Perhaps so.

But tell that to those 98 young tennis players who, you can bet, practiced all summer long for this moment to compete at the state level.

Tell it to those 760 or young soccer players whose games were forfeited over the weekend. A single loss can be the difference between being champs or also-rans.

Tell it to those 1,200 or so football players, from 38 teams, who sat it out over four days of perfect football weather.

The price students are paying goes beyond athletics, of course.

We have to wonder, if the strike continues through the coming week, how many students this school year will score just a little lower on standardized tests, hurting their chances of getting into a top college or winning a scholarship.

We have to wonder if reading scores in grade schools, which have been on the upswing over the last decade, will take a hit.

How many band concerts might fall short of standards, or be cancelled? How many state science fair projects will be awarded silver ribbons instead of gold, or will never get done?

In this editorial, we are singling out the price being paid by student-athletes only because it is immediately measurable. A game not played is a game not played. A forfeit is a forfeit.

But it really tells a larger story. Every CPS kid is paying a price.

Other athletics threatened

Michael O’Brien, the Sun-Times’ high school sports editor, reports that other games and tournaments also are at risk of being cancelled.

The Boys and Girls Cross Country state playoff meets begin on Oct. 26. There are 38 CPS boys teams in the playoffs and 35 girls teams — about 1,000 kids. If the strike does not end by noon on Oct. 26, O’Brien reports, the CPS teams probably will have to forfeit.

If the strike does not end on or before Tuesday, all 78 CPS football teams — some 2,300 kids — will not play their Week 9 games.

And if the strike does not end by noon on Saturday, all of the CPS football teams that qualified for the state playoffs — roughly 600 kids on 20 teams — will not be seeded by the Illinois High School Association.

Now we learn, as we write this editorial, that school has been cancelled for Monday.

Every CPS student — not just the athletes — has been benched again.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.