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I’m a Chicago teacher who voted to strike. We just want what’s best for our students

I will not sign any deal that continues to force CPS to teach classes of 40+ students at once, when research on class size proves that this is harmful to students.

Chicago Teachers Union members Karen Sanchez, left, Lia Berezka, and Hannah Ermer cheered at a rally ahead of an upcoming potential educators strike on September 24, 2019 in Chicago. Getty

As a long-time librarian in Chicago Public Schools, I was a bit startled reading the Sun-Times editorial suggesting us teachers “take the deal.”

You’re right about a few things: the offer looks pretty darn good on paper (I’d fall into the average teacher, average salary you mentioned), health care increases are modest and Mayor Lori Lightfoot did indeed campaign on a platform that aligned with the educational justice that Chicago Teachers Union has fought for many years.

Yet, the editorial board fails to acknowledge:

  • Heath care costs for the district have decreased in recent years.
  • Over 75% of schools, and more than nine in 10 of majority African American schools, have no librarian.
  • Even if CPS actually hires enough counselors and social workers to provide one per school, the district would still fall far short of national standards, especially for schools with students at high risk for trauma.
  • CPS did not invest in all neighborhood schools. In fact, budgets of more than 200 schools were cut by over $100,000 each. Over 40 schools had cuts of more than half a million dollars. Students enduring trauma will likely experience even more instability, as their teachers may be laid off.
  • The president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, Troy LaRaviere, has research indicating CPS is one of the most severely understaffed districts in the state. Yet, the Board of Education refuses to negotiate with the CTU on firm class size limits.

The board seems to develop policies that go completely against research on what will provide the best possible learning outcomes for students.

For instance, the board has threatened to take away two hours of prep time each week for elementary school teachers, who already have an abysmally low amount of planning time per week. This may be due to a substitute shortage, which CPS created when they stopped letting teachers bank their sick and personal days, forcing them to use them.

Today, I voted “yes” to authorize a strike, as did many members at my school. I have absolutely no desire to be on strike. Frankly, I cannot afford to and I truly enjoy being in school with my students. However, this fight goes far beyond my students.

I refuse to say “yes” to a deal that benefits me personally when the majority of south and west side schools have no library or librarian. I refuse to sign off on a deal that allows the district to continue disinvesting in neighborhood schools that have lost enrollment through no fault of their own.

I will not sign any deal that continues to force educators to teach classes of 40+ students, when research proves this is harmful to students.

The “greedy teacher” narrative has gotten quite stale in recent weeks. We want what’s best for our students — adequate staffing, clean schools, lower class sizes and time to plan.

If that makes me greedy, then so be it.

Leslie Westerberg, teacher and librarian, Nixon Elementary, Hermosa

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Where can we expect Republicans to stand on impeachment?

I am no Trump fan, but please remember when faced with the decision to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1999, not a single Democratic senator chose to convict on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

That included the current senior senator from Illinois.

If faced with an impeachment decision on President Donald Trump, would we expect Republicans in the Senate to do anything but vote along party lines?

Is this the best of use of our elected officials’ time?

Tim Kras, Oak Lawn