Chicago Teachers Strike: Suffer the Children


Here are a few things teacher union officials either ignored, or did not plan for, in their strike devoted to improving students’ lives.  Now that the strike is over, Chicago students are scrambling to make up lost instructional time and fulfill other requirements for college admissions, sports competitions and many other activities that could not be accomplished without their striking teachers.   The cost to students is immeasurable.    Holly Yan, Bill Kirkos and Ryan Young report on

Thousands of high school seniors are on the brink of missing a college application deadline. Countless more could lose a chance at scholarships.

“It’s heartbreaking, really,” said Ian Bacon, a senior at Jones College Prep high school.

His cross-country team was having a stellar season until it ended abruptly due to the strike. Now, he’s worried about the Friday deadline that many universities have set for early decision.

“We’re not able to get our transcripts or anything because nobody’s at the schools to provide that,” Ian said.

“Counselors aren’t able to send in the transcripts, either. If teachers aren’t finished writing (recommendation) letters, those aren’t going to get turned in either on time. It’s coming down to the last minute.”

So while the adults bicker over how to improve education, current students are paying the price.

‘This is crunch time for seniors’

Friday is a critical day for seniors across the country, as many universities have a November 1 “early decision” deadline.

And meeting that deadline can make the difference between getting into a dream school … or not.

One university told him its acceptance rate was about 60% during the early decision period. But students who applied later, during the regular decision period, have an acceptance rate of only 18%.

He’s waiting for recommendation letters from teachers and, hopefully, the return of a school employee who helps read college application essays.

“I don’t have someone, professionally, able to read my essay,” Jacob said. “It’s a little nerve wracking, when I’m submitting college apps with multiple, different essays. I’m not fully confident in myself and just acting by myself.”

He said he feels bad for all the students who were hoping to retake the ACT test to get a better score, but won’t be able to do so before early decision deadlines.

Some students have requested deadline extensions to apply for “early decision,” since they can’t get teacher recommendation letters or transcripts.

Some athletes might not get scholarships

One of the biggest casualties of the strike is fall high school athletics.

A state governing agency has rules about the minimum numbers of games or practices leading up to playoffs that students must participate in.

“This is the thing that these kids worked for, and unfortunately it’s just been ripped away from them,” said Kevin Sterling, the father of a high school cross-country runner.

“The state tournament is where college coaches and college recruiters go to start handing out college scholarships to kids.”

Sterling said he’s particularly heartbroken for students whose families were counting on athletic scholarships.

“For kids in families without the means, (they) may forgo the opportunity of a college education,” he said. “In my mind, that cost is too high.”

While many seniors have senioritis right now, the mood in Chicago is different.

“My hope is the strike ends soon,” Jacob said. “I’d like to get back to school. Get my essays read. Meet with my teachers. Make sure my letters of rec and everything are set. Because I would love to apply to college.”

“I’m really glad I’m not a kid right now, because we’ve really made this as difficult as possible for them. And it’s just not fair for them,” the father said.

“The kids have acted better through this than the adults.”