I've heard and been asked the question many times since the union suspended its seven-day walkout and its members returned to the classroom Wednesday. The easy, vague answer is that both sides won. The union and the school board can each point to significant concessions made by their adversaries across the negotiating table and to changes going forward that they're happy about.
But that's kind of like saying both sides won Thursday's game between the White Sox and the Kansas City Royals. After all, the Sox had more hits and fewer errors than the Royals, saw a great sliding catch by Gordon Beckham and got two-plus scoreless innings of relief pitching from Nate Jones. The Royals just happened to get one more run across the plate and so will go down in the record books as the winner.
And if we must score this strike like a game, as the question implies, then I give the "W" to the teachers. The contract they're expected to ratify early next month gives them good raises over the next few years, limits the role of standardized testing in teacher evaluation, does not include a merit-pay program they didn't want and contains reasonable protections for good teachers who lose their jobs when schools shrink or close.
They hung together in the face of a new state law that was all but designed to prevent them from striking. And in an era when union power is declining all over, they were able to throw a big enough wrench into the spin machine of Mayor Rahm Emanuel that even as the strike wore on and even as their leader, Karen Lewis, became a more and more annoying presence, they were able to hold a significant lead in the public-opinion sympathy polls.
At the very least, the CTU beat the point spread.
Not that Emanuel was shut out: "Here's what we achieved," he said in a TV commercial that began airing when the teachers returned. "A full day for our kids, so they can meet their full potential. Principals will have the freedom to hire the best teachers. Parents retain the right to choose the best school for their kids. And for the first time, student achievement will be part of a teacher's evaluation."
Rather than raise minor quibbles about his wording — parental rights "to choose the best school for their kids" wasn't even on the table, for example — I'll raise the major quibble that such an attempt to claim victory or save face was poorly timed, at best. It came off more like a brandishing of the ol' whuppin' stick instead of an extension of the olive branch.
His op-ed in Sunday's Tribune, acknowledging the dedication of teachers and need for the administration and union "to see each other as allies, not adversaries," sounded a better note.
Better still would be an announcement from both sides that they're calling off the ad war — the union is making a similar though far smaller effort on the airwaves — and diverting those funds toward, say, buying window air conditioners for sweltering classrooms or paying for tutors, social workers or basic supplies.
Because the real question now isn't which side won — the game is over, the numbers on the scoreboard are blurry — but where do we go from here?
The winners will be those who decide to stop angling for advantage and start working together, setting aside their well-aired grievances and at least giving voice to the spirit of collaboration.
Run, Jesse Jr., run!
It will be an affront to democracy, a vile insult to the voters in Illinois' 2nd U.S. Congressional District if ailing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. drops his bid for re-election and retires from politics before the November election.
Which is why I fully expect it to happen.
Jackson is clearly in a bad way. He's been on medical leave since early June battling bipolar disorder, and his people just announced that he's selling his home in Washington, D.C., in order to pay medical bills. There's much talk and concern that he's no longer able to serve in the House.
And while I hope that's not true and that his condition stabilizes enough to allow him to return to a productive life, I fear that, if it is true, he'll bow out shortly before the election and allow Democratic Party bosses (led by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios) to handpick a replacement for him on the ballot. That person would be an easy winner in a very safe Democratic district.
It will be best for the voters if Jackson stays in, then resigns if he must after his inevitable victory so that a field of candidates can vie for the seat in a special election.
I'm guessing, therefore, that the pressure now on him to resign is intense.
And because what's best for the voters is so seldom on the political agenda, I'm not optimistic that he'll hang on.