September 13th, 2012
02:06 PM ET

For high school athletes, strike could put scholarships on the line

By Chris Welch, CNN

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) -  Dante Culbreath is head football coach at Simeon Career Academy on Chicago’s south side. It’s safe to say the football program here is a powerhouse - they’ve won six city titles in the state public school division.

Many of the team's seniors are scouted by some of the biggest-name colleges and universities, and this year should be no different.

However, as the Chicago teachers strike continues, the threat that many of this year’s top athletes will miss some crucial games is a real one.

"Simeon is known for getting kids in Division I programs," Culbreath said. "It'll be pretty bad if our guys can't get out and play football, because a lot is riding on them being able to play football."

The junior varsity football team at Simeon is already missing out. Their first game was set for Monday, the first day of the strike.

"It's already serious because every time we step on the football field it's an interview for us. No matter what level it is. I have young men being offered scholarships as sophomores."

One of Culbreath’s standouts this year is offensive lineman Kendall Moore. Moore says he’s been offered a few scholarships already, but being able to play all his games this season could mean more opportunities and more options.

"It’s very important because after college I want to start my career," Moore said.

He and his mother, Khem Davis, said that without a scholarship, college would be out of reach.

"It is a must-have. Otherwise it would be impossible for us to afford for him to go to a college that’s worthy," Davis said.This week, Moore is helping spearhead player-led practices because coaching staff are not permitted to work with students in any way during a strike.

According to the by-laws of the Illinois High School Association, schools may not "participate in an interscholastic contest or activity during the time the member school is not in session due to a strike by teachers or other school personnel."

The Chicago Public Schools requested a waiver be granted that would allow schools to continue their athletic contests, but it was denied.

When high school athletes are being scrutinized by college recruiters, missing just one or two games - especially for players on the verge of a particular division - can be the difference, said former NFL linebacker Mickey Pruitt.

"It’s a big impact on students just because you have borderline student athletes who are trying to get a scholarship in Division I that could affect him from not playing football," said Pruitt, who is now a football coordinator with Chicago Public schools.

Opinion: Teacher's strike a test for Democrats

And unlike other sports, it’s nearly impossible to make up a missed football game.

"It’s hard to fix football just because we usually play one game a week and I know the teams probably lose a game this week if they are still on strike," Pruitt added.

One more thing to consider, Pruitt and Culbreath point out:  Any school days lost to the strike have to be made up at the end of the school year, which, if it extends well into the summer, could overlap with the summer training often required at the college level.

Culbreath offered a plea to both sides of the strike.

A teacher's view from the picket lines

"I just hope they get it together, get us in school so these young men can go to school for free."

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Filed under: Extracurricular • Issues • teacher unions • Teachers • video
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Bly

    I understand standing up for a cause but I always hope that they're worthy ones... Really, people in other school districts have it way worse, get paid less, go to school longer, and are also subject to evaluations that reflect student grades. It's ridiculous for the Chicago.teachers to think they're above that system. Shame on them. It would be one thing if this was about student safety, old school buildings unsafe for people to learn in, old text books or a flawed administration... Don't be so greedy. Being a teacher has major advantages that most other jobs do not–like only working 9 months a year, having all paid school and federal holidays, and the additonal 3 weeks paid "sick days"..... Get a grip on reality Chicago

    September 18, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  2. fauxjudgejudy

    What really bothers me, as a retired music educator.....I see 3 problems: First, our school district tried merit pay one year. My husband served two schools. His teaching (band) was above reproach on all his evaluations, But the merit pay committee said he was definitely deserving, but the they only had so much $$ allotted, and they didn't want to give it to someone who was only assigned part time at THAT school. Merit pay as it is being defined, rewards teachers of math, science, is grossly unfair and only creates resentments among staff who work hard at their assigned teaching , but aren't among those who teach the "elite" subjects. If merit pay is to be given only to teachers whose students excel at the tested subjects, reading, math, science, are the librarians, p.e. teachers, music teachers, speech and language teachers, etc.,etc.,etc. handled?? And what REALLY sets me off.....when I hear comments on national news/talk shows, that young people going into teaching know that it will be a low paying job. We EXPECT them to live poor, all the while we EXPECT them to be in charge of the education of the most precious members of our society.....the future leaders of our country. We joke about teacher salaries, and when parents send their children to school who have not been taught the most basic things that allow humans to live and work together........respect, honesty, , respect, kindness, respect, tolerance, work ethic, respect....well????
    We expect superior, creative teaching, but put those teachers in losing situations 9too many students in a classroom, inferior equipment and fire them if they can't work miracles. My Dad always taught me, when we went shopping, "You get what you pay for. If you want a cheap car, then don't expect it to run like a Cadillac. If you buy cheap shoes that doesn't fit, don't complain when your feet hurt!" If you want excellent teachers, you must pay them...and keep them! Yes, most go into the profession for love of children. They are doing on of the most important jobs for the future of any society. But it seems that other societies value and respect their essence treat them like the critical members of society that they are. Here they come right out of college, all fired up and excited about making a true difference in the lives of children. Instead they are met with low wages,piles of government paperwork, hostility from parents instead of a spirit of cooperation, , pressure to do the impossible, and all for low wages, supplies they have to purchase out of their own pockets. After all...........many young teachers are leaving the profession, simply because they an earn much more, using their skills in almost any other job. Why is that so hard to understand? Are we surprised? Should we be angry?????? OF COURSE!! Our American society, government, administration, boards of education, and yes, parents are killing off the once-revered and respected profession called teaching. Secret: Young teachers don't cost as much. They may have energy and excitement, but wisdom comes with time. If you get rid of the teachers who have been around long enough to have gained wisdom and insight about working with our precious children. Granted.....some need to be out.....that's the job of the principal. But good teachers are also mentors for the younger ones.......and yes, they cost more. So what it really boils down to: Do you want your children taught by teachers who care and understand their needs and are willing to go the second mile to make sure you child can read? Or do you want a teacher with excellent skills, but clocks in at 8 and out at 4, teaches what is expected of him or her because that's what i on "THE TEST",

    September 14, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  3. Faxon

    Boneheads who aspire to be professional football players get what they deserve: a very slim chance at success and a lifetime of no education for the real world. Those that do get to be pro players are only bad examples of what do do with your life.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Drew

      I am one of those "boneheads" to whom you refer, I guess. I opted for a four-year college athletic scholarship years ago to a very, very good Division I, Big Ten school. I graduated with a degree from that very, very good Division I, Big Ten School. I earned my law degree three years later. What you fail to realize is that athletics are a means to a very good end for these "boneheads." Of course, it is up to these student athletes to take advantage of the opportunity. Not everyone makes it to the professional level, and those who do, are only professional for a limited time before they have to make it outside of professional athletics. Still, a scholarship is a scholarship. The education is what is important and what will serve them during and after their careers. I am not so sure who is the bonehead here.

      September 17, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  4. curious

    Just curious: what terribly exorbitant demands do these teachers have that the school board is so unwilling to listen to? And why is the national news media blaming the teachers for this strike, as if they just felt like not coming in to work and not getting paid for a while? It's not like they don't have a back-and-forth during employee-employer negotiations, same as everyone else in a union. Strikes only happen after the administration and the union end up at an impasse. Yet I don't see any angry parents interviewed saying things like, "That School Board is costing me a day of work today while I scramble to find childcare!" Nope. They just blame their local teacher, who's probably upset about the conditions their student has to learn in.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Walter

      When teachers in Chicago turn out students, of which only 20% are proficient in reading and math, it doesn't matter what their demands are – they are without validity.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  5. Musician

    I totally agree with you 20+ year veteran teacher. As a musician at a conservatory I totally am one of those dreaming to have a professional music career, BUT, that's not at the expense of realize that sometimes things don't work out and for these high schoolers to think that they only way to higher education is through this game seems misguided to me. I truly hope all of their dreams come true with football but someone should be able to relay to them that they should not be so obssesive about this sport as to close them off to so many other opportunities.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  6. Rachel

    I think the teachers should stop with the strike. With so many children dropping out of school right now, it is imperative that these Chicago children get the education they need to keep up with their grade level.

    September 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Faxon

      Those that drop out are only dragging the rest of the class down as long as they are in the classroom. I say, let them go, let them fend for themselves, and let those who want to learn take advantage of a smaller class size. They can all be lawyers for the dropouts.

      September 13, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
      • Walter

        The problem is they don't fend for themselves. We the taxpayers pay for them to not work, procreate, and repeat the cycle all over again.

        September 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |

      How much do you support the teachers in the area where you live. How can you expect people to get beat up on all year and then go into the classroom with all of that, without support from parents or the community, and do their jobs. Oh, because the 3 hours that a teacher sees a child every week should be enough to solve all of the nation's problems. Kids are not dropping out because teachers are not trying. They are dropping out because their parents are idiots, they are lazy, they dont have any community support, they are self indulgent and lazy, their parents cant support them because they can barely read themselves.....need i go on?

      September 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  7. 20+ year veteran teacher

    Now for the facts that never seem to hit the news. Last year 100 athletes out of 70,000 received scholarships in Chicago. (See link below) A big deal for the 100, but all together students earned 266 million in scholarships at CPS last year(link below), mostly academic one assumes. They have the CPS teachers and their own hard work to thank for that money. Nationally about 2% of students get athletic scholarships and 8-10% get academic scholarships. The Internet has hundreds of articles now about the athlete's loss in Chicago at the hands of the faculty. We are demonstrating how misguided our education system is when we focus on athletic scholarships and pin that on the Chicago teachers who want AC in their 100 degree summer school classrooms or to be evaluated based on their efforts and not their student's efforts. It is true however that parents seem to run to vote for the budget when athletics is threatened. It is an example of how teachers want to reform the system. We want to be focused on academics but society focuses on this almost unobtainable goal, when hard work in academics would offer a more productive path to success. Only in America would athletics trump academics. Athletics have a crucial place in the educational system, but they shouldn't be put above academics. That would be true reform.

    September 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |