Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, November 29

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

The Mechanics
« 49th Ward residents pitch ideas for capital improvements Let's Talk About the Budget »

Chicago Public Schools Tue Oct 09 2012

Union Strike vs. Union Strike

Last week we witnessed the end to a divisive strike that impacted many of our lives, as a group of respected professionals in their field protested in order to settle a fair contract. During slow negotiations, these professionals were replaced by less experienced stand-ins who proved woefully inept. Public response rallied in support of these professionals to settle the contract dispute immediately because we couldn't afford to wait. That strike, of course, was the NFL referees lockout. While the Bears are off to a strong start this fall, Chicago Public School teachers are emerging from a rocky few weeks -- just recently approving their contract, earned after a week of striking. Other teachers unions throughout Illinois have begun to follow suit, as negative classroom conditions and issues with current contracts have reached a critical mass for the entire profession.

In these two labor disputes, public reaction was far from consistent. The NFL referees received overwhelming support, coming from fans, celebrities and even unlikely public officials. Governor Scott Walker, a man who touted his hard stance against unions in his campaign for reelection, came out strongly in support of the NFL referees. The Chicago Teachers Union? Not so much. A little less than 50 percent reported support for them in a Sun-Times poll.

So why so much support for the NFL referees and not for teachers?

Because you can see in an 8-second football play the value of experienced referees. Packers fans would gladly have sold cheese-shaped styrofoam hats en masse on Craigslist to pay referees literally whatever they wanted, if it would have prevented the loss to the Seahawks a few weeks ago. When we saw a blown call on that miracle Hail Mary play, we instantly understood that we had taken the job an NFL referee for granted. It's difficult, and we don't appreciate how important good refs are to the game until we lose them.

But how do you truly assess the value of teachers, when you consider if they too, are worth the investment? Assuming it were not logistically impossible to substitute new teachers during a strike, you still wouldn't be able to watch a few minutes of class activity on instant replay and learn their value. You would expect that better teachers = better grades. But the formula is infinitely more complicated than that, because often good teachers, despite their skill and experience, need more. They may have a classroom with too many students in it, making it hard to give each student the individual attention needed. The school might not have enough supplies or textbooks. There may not be enough social workers and nurses on hand to help students with special needs. And the students they teach might come from damaged homes and dangerous communities, where being able to focus on schoolwork can be close to impossible. When you consider these factors, teachers face an awfully tough challenge in convincing the public that they are worth the investment. As the public tried to decide if the teacher's demands were reasonable, coupled with the fact that the state and city are broke, they weren't left with black and white evidence of teacher's value. And we see this in the stunningly different response the teacher strike received compared to the NFL strike.

It's not a secret that we don't value education in society as highly as sports. Look at the top salaries of any public university, and you'll find the highest earners are the men's football coach and men's basketball coach. For example, the president of the entire University of Illinois system makes less than half of what 2-4 Illinois football coach Tim Beckman makes. Moreover, we have shortfalls in our state and city budgets and teachers don't generate money directly like professional football teams. To a lot of people, it's a tough sell to say that during a recession, we need to spend more money on our teachers and schools. However, it's an investment that can't be ignored. An effective teacher with the best resources in their classroom is capable of impacting a child more than any of their heroes on the football field.

GB store
GB store


Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

Special Series

Classroom Mechanics Oral History Project
GB store

About Mechanics

Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Mike Ewing,
Mechanics staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15