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Insights from Chicago Teacher Strike on K-12 Employee Engagement

The latest Chicago teacher strike reached day four today, and the city’s teachers union leader says “hopes are dashed” for a quick resolution. 

“The mayor today has dashed our hopes for a quick settlement,” Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey told the Chicago Tribune on Monday. “I’m extremely disappointed in this. We had hoped for both a rapid settlement, but also a just and a fair settlement. And we’re now being told there’s no more room at the table to achieve that.”

Leaders on both sides say discussions have yielded some progress but, according to the Tribune, more negotiations are needed around issues like smaller class sizes, staffing, contract lengths, pay increases, health care, and prep time. 

While Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson have pleaded with the teachers union to end the strike and continue negotiations, union members argue that the strike is forcing the administration and city to listen to demands teachers have been voicing for a long time.

As Alison Eichorn, a Chicago-area teacher, coach, and union member, told the Chicago Tribune:

“I don’t know if the mayor is familiar with what unions do, but we’ve gotten more deals, more tentative agreements in the past two days than we have in 10 months. So it’s actually up to the mayor…We’ve had urgency for 10 months. The last thing we wanted to do was leave our classrooms.”

In other words, Chicago teachers feel like they haven’t been heard.

No matter the specific issues–whether it’s pay or pensions or resources–teachers not feeling properly involved and engaged is a trend we’ve seen throughout every major teacher action over the past several years. 

And, according to recent research, schools’ failure to properly engage staff is contributing to an increase in teacher attrition across the country–making it something every school leader needs to be paying attention to.

In a recent podcast, we dove into the latest data and talked with experts about strategies for better engaging and retaining teachers. 

To access the full State of K-12 Customer Experience Report, visit k12cxreport.org.