Tonight, Channel 9 reported on what appears as a bold move by Marilyn Stewart of the CTU: sue the school board for violating the safety of the children by increasing class size to 35. The rationale behind this is building occupancy safety requirements. Schools must provide 20 square feet of space for each child and adult regularly in a classroom. Stewart moved on this issue as the school board threatens to cut 700 teachers and increase class size. Curiously, she chose three days before the union election, what appears to be a grandstand play to show her militance and get more votes.
There are problems with this suit. One is that it shifts the attention of the public from the real issue: increasing class size under current circumstances as terrible for learning. Regardless of the size of the room, increased numbers of students overwhelms even the best teachers. Under the burden of the current high stakes testing regime, it is even worse. The lawsuit takes the eyes of the public off the real issue.
Another issue is that as the school board whips into high gear to cut the budget deficit that they allege is there (a smoke and mirrors problem: the city has taken hundreds of millions from the schools through tax benefits to corporate development, for example), they will use any excuse to close schools or “turn them around.” Overcrowding is one tried and true method of retrofitting a school, meanwhile firing the teachers there while the school is supposedly brought up to “standards.”
Letters have also been circulating among the teachers smearing the caucus that opposes Stewart. One such letter intimates that a caucus that listens to any interests other than teachers is against the teachers. On the contrary, the CORE caucus has been working with parents and students and other community members since its inception 2 years ago as part of a Grassroots Education Movement, leading the battle to end school closings and protect both publicly funded education as well as teachers’ jobs and rights. Seems to me that is a winning combination, not a losing one.
I am a former teacher and an associate member of CORE today. I am a member because I believe thoroughly in the kind of union that is willing to mobilize and organize to win. That will not sit on its legal laurels to fight. And that will not bargain away the rights of teachers or students. If you are a teacher, I urge you to vote for the CORE slate in the election at your school Friday, June 11.