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Costly Chicago Strike

Windy City teachers are striking, leaving approximately 350,000 students out of class today. It is unclear how long these students will be out of school. The Chicago Teachers Union got nearly 90% of its members to authorize this strike, surpassing the 75% threshold required by law to authorize a strike. The teachers union says pay is not at the heart of the stalemate, but rather benefits and teacher evaluations.

Tensions with teachers unions have been brewing since Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing for longer days and tougher teacher evaluations. The CTU has made it clear they’re unhappy with Chicago reform proposals, even going as far as protesting at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house at one point. Unfortunately, this commotion is over evaluations that aren’t that strong to begin with — student performance only counts 25% in teacher evaluations, and that’s only by year five.

There’s a common misconception out there that teachers generally do not make very much money, but the average teacher salary in Chicago is $71,000 without benefits. CPS offered teachers a 16% pay raise, but the Chicago Teachers Union would not accept that offer. That raise was offered while the longer day issue was actually worked out so that current teachers would not have to work over the allotted hours they already work; CPS agreed to hire more teachers to fill in the extra hours students would be in school. The 90 minutes added to the school day would put CPS at the national average for student instructional time. Before that, CPS had the shortest school day in the nation.

Taxpayers are left to bear the brunt of the strike, as parents and students are left without the education their taxes support. Not only that, but taxpayers are the ones who have to foot the bill when boards succumb to union demands that are focused on the rights and protections of adults, not students. (This video from the Illinois Policy Institute, “Roadblock to Reform,” explains how Illinois’ labor law empowers government unions at the expense of taxpayers.)

All this comes at a time when unions are trying to get the message out that they are on board with reforms. But actions speak louder than words, and the actions in Chicago are telling quite a different story. Bottom line: beware of unions that talk the talk and say they’re for reforms, because if history is any indication of the future, you can bet they certainly aren’t about changing the status quo.

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