Etan Thomas: Teachers Aren’t Money-Hungry Vultures, They Just Want Better Working Conditions

Maybe it’s because my mother was a teacher for the Tulsa public school system for 27 years, but I feel connected to the teachers striking in Chicago. I remember seeing her struggle to teach in an over- sized classroom with outdated books and no air conditioning. Maybe that’s why I get disgusted when I see and hear the pundits characterize the teachers as being money hungry, greedy and overpaid.

I’ve spoken at a high school in DC where the rooms were so cold in the winter that children had to wear their coats to class. Meanwhile, down the hall, others sat in sweltering rooms because the heat couldn’t be turned down. Another school I visited had a foul odor that flooded most of the building because of an overflow of sewage. A third school had buckets everywhere because each time it rained, the entire school would leak from the ceiling.

The point is, these conditions are not conducive to a healthy learning environment. And they are not conducive to a healthy teaching environment. And it’s why supporting the striking teachers in Chicago is imperative.

So, what are they fighting for? It’s basic: Fair teacher evaluation, limits in classroom size, better working conditions and keeping their health benefits.  That doesn’t sound like a ridiculous list of demands to me. They are demanding conditions that allow them to do their jobs and command authority in the classroom.


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