What Lessons Are Being Taught By The Chicago Teachers’ Strike?

I have a lot of respect for teachers — what educated person doesn’t? — but I think the strike in Chicago is doing nothing except harming the public image of teachers and public employee unions.

Years ago, people used to compare what a professional baseball player was being paid to the average salary of teacher, and then ask, rhetorically, what the huge difference said about our society and its values.  Since those days, there has been a concerted effort to increase salaries, and teachers have been successful in bargaining for all kinds of benefits and rights, arguing that they are doing so “for the sake of the children.”  Eventually, people started to wonder whether teacher demands weren’t really more about benefiting teachers rather than benefiting students.

The Chicago Teachers Union strike will continue that trend.  In a time of high unemployment, the median salary for Chicago teachers is $67,974, and the union went on strike even after receiving an offer that would have produced average salary increases of 16 percent over four years.  The offer also would have frozen health benefit cost increases for two-thirds of union members.  The principal sticking points apparently are evaluations — the district wants a process that is based on student standardized test scores, the teachers call that approach unacceptable — and what happens to teachers who are laid off.  As the teachers walk picket lines, thousands of students are left without a school to attend, and parents are scrambling for alternative child-care arrangements.

Richard worked in the Chicago Public School system as a tutor; I’d be interested in his thoughts on this issue.  In the meantime, I would guess that the strike is unlikely to find a very receptive audience anywhere.  Chicago teachers already make more than most people do.  How many people are going to be sympathetic when the strike is primarily about how those teachers are evaluated and their job security — and the strikes leaves the kids teachers profess to speak for in the without schools to attend?

2 thoughts on “What Lessons Are Being Taught By The Chicago Teachers’ Strike?

  1. 16% over four years is a nice bump.

    Teachers everywhere are dismayed by performance evaluations based on standardized test scores. The implementation of standardized tests as the rubric for teacher performance has had an unintended consequence- kids are being taught only the test so their overall education has been diminished. Classes are taught to reach the majority of the students, “average students” if you will. Teachers are expected to compensate for uncontrollable variables beginning with a student’s home environment and expanding outward to who knows what. It can’t be done.

    While $67k seems like a lot, I wonder how it stacks up to the cost of living in the Chicago metro area?

    The teachers could have demonstrated their disapproval in ways that would have had a lesser negative impact on the kids- refusing to participate in extra-cirricular activities would have been a better initial action.

    One of my siblings is a teacher and I am frequently disgusted by the demands they feel are justified; particularly, when I compare them to my own working conditions. I can feel my blood pressure ratcheting upward!


  2. No opinions on this – but more facts. The Chicago City Schools financial report linked to the story Bob linked above (p. 198) indicates that the teacher salaries have increased every year (since well before the recession began at the end of 2007) at 4% per year. Also, the $67K amount was the median base salary in 2011, and excludes pension and health care benefits.

    Again, no opinions on this, just the observation that these teachers do not appear to have been adversely impacted (economically) by the recession.

    As always, thank you for the posts.


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