Chicago’s public teachers went on strike Monday for the first time in 25 years, following failed negotiations over merit-based evaluations, the length of the school year, and pay. The strike has frustrated city officials and parents of the roughly 350,000 affected children.
Earlier this summer, the union demanded 30 percent salary increases, which would have raised the average pay for a public school teacher in Chicago from $74,839 to nearly $100,000, or almost double the average income for a private sector employee.
The Chicago Board of Education offered a compromise deal that would boost average pay by 16 percent — about $12,000 on average — over four years. While this deal is acceptable to union leadership, other kinks have yet to be worked out.
Teacher evaluations are where the board and the union are most strongly at odds. The board, supported by Chicago Mayor and former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, wants teachers’ job security tied to their students standardized test scores.
But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis opposes this move,, warning that it would cost 6,000 teachers their jobs. That figure is disputed by Emanuel and the board.
Emanuel also wants students to spend more time in school. Until recently, Chicago’s school day was among the shortest in the nation, clocking in at a mere 5 hours and 45 minutes.
Emanuel backed down from his proposed 7 and ½ hour school day, finally agreeing on 7 hours with the union. But that agreement is contingent on the approval of sufficiently high salary increases for teachers.
Until the union and the school board finalize the details, the strike will keep the school day not only short, but nonexistent. Parents of the roughly 350,000 students enrolled in Chicago public schools must find places for them during the day, in a city plagued by crime.
This is the worst thing for the kids, and the union is to blame, according to Joy Pullman, managing editor of School Reform News.
“The Chicago union is displaying its true interests by leaving 350,000 kids to fend for themselves as union members cavort about the streets in displays of willful self-indulgence,” wrote Pullmann in an e-mail to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Research has shown that, especially for poorly achieving districts like Chicago, extra instruction time is vital for children to succeed. The strike demonstrates that the union cares only for itself, not for children.”
The Chicago public schools system is likely to be $1 billion in debt by 2014.
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