Jeff Jacoby
The true long-term impact of the Chicago teachers strike may be not be known for some time. But there is no mystery about its impact in the immediate term -- anxiety, panic, and disruption for myriad mothers and fathers left in the lurch when 30,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union walked away from their classrooms last week just as a new school year was getting underway.

"Parents and guardians frantically sought last-minute child care, pleaded with their bosses for leniency, and hoped that their kids would return to school sooner rather than later," reported the Chicago Sun-Times. "Citywide, for thousands of families, stress was high." The paper quoted Martina Watts, a mother in West Garfield Park, one of the city's rougher neighborhoods: "I might be losing my job over this. As long as they're on strike, I can't work. I'm not getting paid."

Construction worker Allen Packer told a TV interviewer that he had to switch from full-time work to a part-time night shift so he could be home with his young daughter during the day. "I kind of understand what they're trying to do," he said of the striking teachers. "But this is not just them." He gestured toward his daughter. "It's her education, first of all. Then my paycheck for the food."

The union went on strike to block school reforms proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, especially a tough teacher evaluation system based on student test scores. The chaos and financial hardship inflicted on so many Chicagoans --
more than one-fifth of whom have incomes below the poverty rate -- was not an unintended consequence of their walkout. To the contrary: The sudden dislocation, the harried scramble to find emergency day care, the extra expense, the turmoil in the children's routine -- they were at the heart of the union's strategy. The Chicago Teachers Union knew that by going on strike it would put countless families in an impossible position. That's what it was counting on.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for