No one wins when teachers trade their classrooms for the picket line.
That will undeniably be the case in Niles if the teachers’ union keeps its strike promise if a new labor pact is not agreed by midnight Thursday.
Strikes by public school employees always breed ill will in the community – some targeting teachers, others the administration. Probably most often, ill will is aimed at both sides.
Yes, it’s bad for elected officials, and it’s bad for teachers.
However, work stoppages due to labor contract disputes are the hardest for students. After suffering from online schooling for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most children are eager to return to the classroom for a normal year. We know that their parents share this hope.
Frankly, they should have hope. Children learn best in the classroom – with their regular teachers.
Children will suffer the most if no agreement is reached between the Niles Education Association and the school district.
The NEA tells us that in the event of a walkout, the school district is preparing to move classes online.
But we think these classes are generally much less effective than in-person classes. We also think it’s even worse when these classes are taught by substitute teachers. Chances are that many of these classes will end up being little more than study halls or just assigned readings online or in textbooks.
Now, let’s be clear. We are not taking sides here.
What we’re saying is that the teachers’ union and the school district need to take the aggressive search for a solution more seriously.
The time intervals that elapsed between contract negotiation sessions did not help. Both sides need to stop dragging their feet and get down to business.
And while we appreciate public updates on this issue, press conferences should not be an attempt to sway public opinion. In this case, the only people who need to agree are the negotiating teams and the entities that will vote to accept the draft contracts.
Teacher and school district representatives, joined by mediators, must not only come to the table, but we urge them to commit to staying at the table.
Nothing will be accomplished if they walk away from the talks due to an impending deadline.