As Chicago teachers strike, parents have to make new plans
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Kai Ryssdal: Twenty-nine thousand teachers, 350,000 kids — and a big mess in Chicago. The first school strike there in a quarter-century. You get beyond the dollars and cents, the performance standards and everything else that’s on the negotiating table, and what you’ve got is a whole bunch of parents trying to figure out what to do with their kids now that they can’t go to class.
Sheila Coleman is one of those parents. She’s a single mom to a 12-year-old daughter. Sheila, good to have you with us.
Sheila Coleman: Glad to be here.
Ryssdal: So tell me first of all what you’re doing with your daughter today. I mean, it’s a school day, right?
Coleman: Yes it is. Today, she’s just at home because I really didn’t have anywhere for her to go because I have to be at work at 7:30. They said they have programs open from 6 to 12, but that’s not good enough for me; I work 7:30 to 3:30.
Ryssdal: So you left her at home?
Coleman: Yeah, today I left her at home. I’m probably going to have to stay home tomorrow, we’ll see.
Ryssdal: When you were thinking about leaving your daughter at home, what kind of economic calculation did you make? Was it, ‘I need to take a vacation day?’ or ‘Can I afford to hire a babysitter?’ or did you have to do the math at all?
Coleman: Yeah, I mean, I can’t afford a babysitter, I can’t afford one. I had to think, ‘Should I take this day off from work or is she going to be OK?’ I was up to 12 midnight.
Ryssdal: Trying to figure it out?
Ryssdal: Wow. And up at 6 this morning to go to work?
Coleman: Up at 5 in the morning to get to work.
Ryssdal: Up at 5. And you multiply that by the parents and families of 350,000 kids in Chicago, and it’s a whole big mess.
Coleman: Yes it is, yes it is.
Ryssdal: Are you angry?
Coleman: Somewhat, because I think the kids should be in school. They just got back to school a week. It’s only been a week.
Ryssdal: Tell me about your daughter — is she a responsible girl? Is she going to be all right?
Coleman: Yeah, she is. She’s very responsible, but I don’t want to leave a 12-year-old by herself.
Ryssdal: What’s she doing? Is she sitting at home watching TV?
Coleman: Yeah, but she was saying she didn’t want a strike because she didn’t want to have to make those days up in the summer.
Ryssdal: Sheila Coleman in Chicago, dealing with the teachers’ strike. Ms. Coleman, thanks very much for your time.
Coleman: You’re welcome.
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