Aimée Eubanks Davis is executive vice president of people, community, and diversity at Teach For America. You can find her on Twitter at @EubanksDavis.
Much of the nation has been watching Chicago for daily updates on the teachers’ strike in our schools. But long before the strike, it had become a part of my routine as a Chicagoan to brace myself for a different kind of daily update—the latest death toll from gang fights. I find myself getting anxious, wondering if any children I know are on the list of the deceased. I say a quick prayer that my own children will be safe.
The number of our city’s public school students shot during the past school year jumped almost 22 percent from the year before.Mayor Emanuel is now seeking federal help, via U.S. marshals and FBI, DEA, and ATF agents, to curtail the violence.
But right alongside the gang battles, two other epic enemies squared off: Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. The caustic vitriol that has gone on for months led us to this six school day (and counting!) long teacher strike. Now 350,000 precious children are caught in this crossfire; 86 percent are African American or Latino, and 87 percent come from low-income backgrounds. The most vulnerable among them will suffer worst, because one day of no instruction will set them even further back from their peers, and being out of school might cost them their lives.
African Americans make up about 33 percent of the city’s population, but they accounted for nearly 78 percent of the homicide victims through the first six months of this year. AmongAfrican American boys in ninth grade, only 3 percent are predicted to earn a degree from a four-year college. Every minute that the strike goes on, the odds that are already stacked against these precious children loom larger.
The strike has also heaped additional mental and emotional stress on children as their parents try to figure out their childcare options. I know my stress level rises when my own childcare falls through, and I cannot fathom the agony parents are going through as they send their children to a community center or a school that’s not their usual one, entrusting them to adults who aren’t the teachers and other important adults in school buildings with whom they’ve built relationships.
Between the violence in the streets and now the vitriol between CPS and CTU, children’s lives are hanging in the balance. This is a national tragedy. It is unconscionable. We need a cease fire now!
Editor's Note: Our hearts and minds are with the people of Chicago, who are experiencing the city’s first teachers' strike in 27 years. As Wendy wrote this summer, Pass The Chalk aspires to be a forum for "engaging in candid discussion and debate about the biggest issues surrounding education today." In that spirit, we are featuring a range of perspectives on the strike and what it means for teachers, students and families in Chicago. We encourage you to join the dialogue on our Facebook page and on Twitter @PassTheChalk.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Teach For America, its staff, and/or any/all contributors to this blog.