We're just a few days away from a teacher's strike here in Portland, Or. Though the negotiations continue and will all weekend, the calendar has been set and the media is already sporting photos of teachers cleaning out their rooms.
I still think the strike will be prevented at this writing. The reason is simple: chaos will result. There will be sparse attendance and even less learning or what might otherwise pass for real education taking place.
Strikes make bitter enemies; often for life. I think the school board and most of the top administrators know this. If they don't, they are about to get a real education themselves.
What resonates strongly for me is the fact that many teachers don't realize their power as a group. That's why this labor action is so important. Union membership has become a virtual stigma in this mean time. That might change if Portland teachers can jump start the willingness to look at how much power they really have if they represent and exert themselves carefully but firmly.
Another important point that the media completely overlooks is that while class size, a decent wage, and retirement benefits are at stake (they always are) there is a larger issue that impacts all of this. These teachers like many in other large cities and quite a few smaller towns, are making a statement about the corporate attack on public schools, the current testing frenzy, and the data driven madness that's corrupting much of the creative, engaging curriculum that is lovingly written by teachers whose skill's have been severely de-valued.
Update: On Tuesday, February 18, two days before the strike was slated to begin, an agreement between the teacher's union and the school district was announced. Right down to the wire, as expected. If ratified, we'll get a chance to see what stood in the way of settling this matter in a more efficient way. My guess is that the salary difference will be half a percent or so; not sure about class size. Both sides continue to refer to the schools that the students deserve.