Chicago Teachers Go on Strike: 5 Things They’re Fighting For

Striking teachers in Chicago threaten to leave 400,000 students in the citywide school system idle, as well as challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ability to work with city labor.

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AP / M. Spencer Green

Chicago teachers walk a picket line outside Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Chicago

More than 26,000 teachers and support staff in Chicago walked out on strike Monday morning for the first time in 25 years after 10 months of negotiations failed to yield a contract. The action by the Chicago Teachers Union leaves 350,000 students in the nation’s third-largest school system idle until an agreement is reached with the Chicago Public Schools.

Here are five points that need to be agreed upon before teachers — and students — return to school:

  • EVALUATIONS Teachers are striking over an evaluation that union leaders say is not fair. The teachers union is seeking to downplay the weight of how well students perform in the outcome of their biennial evaluations. The evaluation system, CPS says, was created in collaboration with teachers and agreed upon in March.
  • PAY AND BENEFITS Teachers wanted a significant raise in the first year of a new contract because of a longer school day proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. CPS says it offered them a 16% increase over four years, plus “step increases” for performance and to give incentives for more experienced teachers. The teachers themselves wanted to keep the former system of granting raises based on experience. The average salary for a Chicago public school teacher is $76,000, according to the district.
  • RECALLING TEACHERS The CTU wants a method of recalling teachers who have been laid off when there are new job openings. CPS says laid-off teachers who lost their jobs during school closings can apply for new jobs at new schools — if there’s an opening, or take a 3-month severance package.
  • WORK CONDITIONS Chicago teachers typically teach large classrooms that average about 25.1 students per teacher in high schools, for example. But the high school dropout rate is about 60%.  The current contract mandates a ceiling of 31 students, but the city frequently goes over that. The plan to close 100 schools over the next few years is one that has frustrated both parents and the CTU. Additionally, the teachers union is fighting for better climate control in school because many classrooms have no air conditioning.
  • RAHM EMANUEL’S SUPPORT OF UNIONS When Emanuel took the mayorship of Chicago last May, he vowed to overhaul Chicago’s notoriously underperforming schools, particularly on the impoverished south side of the city. But the mayor’s first major negotiation with a city labor union has resulted in this strike, making worse his already poor relationship with union leaders worse. Emanuel has often butted heads with often-hotheaded union president Karen Lewis, after he bypassed the union’s opinion last year and went straight to the schools with an offer of bonus pay if they lengthened the school day. At a news conference, he called Monday’s walkout a “strike of choice,” saying he believed that the two sides were close to an agreement.

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25 comments
Blake Eaton
Blake Eaton

25.1 students is excessive? I'd say that's a pretty great number. My smallest class in my senior year of high school had 38 students. That was the SMALLEST! Of course, that's not a good setup, but I think 25 (or even 30) student classrooms aren't so bad by comparison.

klduhamel
klduhamel

$76K is a Great salary for a job with such flexibility and incredible benefits.   It is comparable to the salary of a STEM grad with a masters degree and 10+ years of experience once you add the pension and summers off.  

Wake-up,;many parents do not work because their spouse is literally required to work 24/7 for 48+ weeks a year and their children need a parent present; very long hours, international travel and weekends too.  2 teacher's salaries with guaranteed employment, tenure, summers off and retirement taken care of, WOW!  That sounds great!  

I'm sure there are trying days but try trading rolls for a week with the productive private sector.  May sister (a teacher) asked me if my husband was setting a precedent by working while he was on vacation a few days after Christmas.  I replied, he is answering email from a surgeon, and yes, the precedent is "I would like to keep my job."

Tyrone Dotcom
Tyrone Dotcom

No one raises an eyebrow when white collar workers command more compensation, yet teachers and teachers unions are vilified for basically doing the same thing. I'm an education major (I plan on teaching high school history) yet I am hardly in a hurry to graduate and start making less money than the guy or gal collecting my garbage. In order to raise the level of teachers you have to make the job more attractive because although I love the idea of teaching it is a pretty stressful gig.

Muckit
Muckit

"26,000 teachers and support staff" and  "350,000 students"?  I don't want to confuse ALL the people of Chicago but that is 13.5 students per educator.

Tyrone Dotcom
Tyrone Dotcom

 what part of  "and support staff" do you not understand?

teacher aides, cafeteria workers, counselors, etc...

Muckit
Muckit

What part of "educator" do you not understand?  You must be from Chicago.

Dana Cotton
Dana Cotton

Tyrone included cafeteria workers and counselors in his answer, people who do NOT have classrooms, thus can't be counted as teachers. Did you even read that?

MiBob
MiBob

Can we elevate the discussion just a bit? Ad hominem attacks do nothing to further the conversation or to find solutions.

FrankNormal
FrankNormal

1000 hours a years the students on average are taught may actually work out to $76 per hr.

Even at 31 students in a classroom, approximately $2.50 per student hour per teacher. 

At that rate I'd ask for a per pupil per hour rate backed by performance 80% of the students score 80% on all tests and 98% or the remaining 20% perform 80% better than last test.

2% of student failure rate is unfortunate but a great deal better than current 40% drop out rate.

Shot I would individual volunteer to take on 40 students at the $2.50 rate and clear 100k.

And still have plenty of free time to enjoy my life based on current Chicago school schedules.

Mary Della Valle
Mary Della Valle

At $76,000. a year, these teachers are overpaid for teaching nothing.

groupuscule
groupuscule

This list does not really represent the CTU's complaints, many of which have to do with mismanagement and unfairness in the school system at large. Teachers want fair treatment for public high schools, including the return of music and art programs. For some coverage of what the teachers are actually saying, try: http://ednotesonline.blogspot....

RobertSF
RobertSF

It is not logical to judge a teacher by how much the students learn. It's the same principle of taking the horse to the water, but having no control over whether the horse drinks or not. The teacher can offer the learning to the students, but only the students can actually do the learning. If they don't learn, how is that the teacher's fault?

The real problem in our schools is the low quality of the students. Notice that the problem is limited to public schools. Private schools do just fine, and it's the same teachers. The difference is who goes to each school. The wealthy and most of the middle class sends their kids to private schools. Consequently, the lower and poor classes are concentrated in the public schools. Here's where you wind up with all kids on welfare, with fathers in prison, their mothers turning tricks in the living room, living in violent environments where nobody reads. Kids come into first grade not knowing their ABCs or how to count, who have never held  a crayon in their hands. And they never catch up.

Of course, pointing this out is politically incorrect, so we blame the teachers.

Bill Waldron
Bill Waldron

 In a private school when the child is of "low quality" they are rejected. Private schools only pick the best crop. In a public school we take them all and give them a chance. The real problem is the lack of resources created by a tough economy. PS I am a public school teacher and I love my job. I don't do it just for money. I could have retired 4 years ago but I can't think of a better job Iwould rather do.

Talendria
Talendria

You're partially correct.  Schools cannot be expected to compensate for a dysfunctional family.  However, every employee must be evaluated according to objective criteria, so the employee can improve his performance and so the organization can rid itself of dead weight.  It seems to me that teachers' unions are resistant to performance metrics of any kind because they're devoted to protecting poor performers.  In many cases, blaming the teacher is the correct course of action.

MiBob
MiBob

There is no correlation between teachers' compensation and student achievement  (except inverse, perhaps). There is a reason why Washington DC and Chicago have a higher cost per student than almost any other district, but among the lowest achievement and graduation rates. Yes, there is a correlation with family incomes; however, there are plenty of communities with low incomes, minority demographics, and broken families; however, not all of them serve their districts as poorly as those two. And not all students in charter or private schools are upper income.

The problem is NOT the teachers so much as it is the teachers' unions, whose interests are not aligned with either the community or, most importantly, the students. They sell their support to elected officials for benefits that the current officials won't be around long to take responsibility for when it becomes impossible to pay for the promises. Too bad; it's always the kids who are 'collateral damage'.

Peg Johnson
Peg Johnson

Can you point me to the areas that have the same high cost/low grad rates and demographics of Washington DC and Chicago that are doing a better job with their public education?  It would be an interesting study for me.  Thank you.

Mary Waterton
Mary Waterton

So an average of 25.1 students per teacher is too much work and an average salary of $76,000 is not enough money. Good grief! My college classes were larger than that and these clowns are making nearly as much as a professor with a PhD! It's time to recognize that the teachers unions are wildly out of control and that we are not getting our money's worth.

Bill Waldron
Bill Waldron

 An average classroom size is 25.1 multiply that by 5 or 6 classes per day and these teacher's shepherd 125 to 150 students per day. Mary even you would have a handful managing that

Sheepleherder
Sheepleherder

Yes,teachers work long hours. Yes, they have a hard job. Yes, sometimes they are not thanked enough for the job they are doing. On the other hand, there are more than a few "teachers" who shouldn't be a student in the classes, much less teaching them. They work basically "part time" for wages and benefits considerably higher than others with EQUALLY DEMANDING jobs, yet they demand more money for essentially going to "full time" like the rest of us. MOST of us have thankless, underpaid, difficult jobs. We would ALL like more money, more benefits and protection from being fired when we don't do our jobs well. SO WHAT! The demands seem completely OUT OF LINE with the level of service MOST of these teachers are providing. It seems that the offer being made to them are completely reasonable. They should take it and be GRATEFUL they don't have to work as hard as most of the rest of us. There was a time when the MAJORITY of teachers deserved anything and everything they were given. Now look at the situation, after they were given the moon and the stars, the MAJORITY are no longer up to the standard they were when they rightfully asked for top wages. When they bring up their performance to the level of compensation they ALREADY enjoy, ONLY THEN should consideration be given to give them more!

West_of_I35
West_of_I35

Your professors did not teach 6 classes a day, every day, either, and they have paying adult customers, not minors required by law to attend school, many under court order.

Ask any college professor about dropping into high school teacher for more money, and watch them run.

Very tough job, and with the crumbling facilities there in Chicago, even tougher.

Talendria
Talendria

Your comment raises an important point:  many teachers are burned out.  When a teacher no longer feels grateful for the opportunity to shape a child's character, no amount of money or benefits can make the job worthwhile.  It's time for them to make a career change.  From what I've seen, even the best teachers start to feel jaded after 5 or 10 years, and it's in everyone's best interest that they move on to a new school, new grade level, or even a new profession.  Having a disgruntled teacher is more damaging to a child's potential than having no teacher at all.

Commentonitall
Commentonitall

That was average salary.  It's a statistic and all it takes is a few people making a lot of money to throw off the actual number.  Having a PhD I would expect you to know that.  The amount of money most of these teachers take home is certainly not 75,000 even though the statistics want you to believe it.  I have to laugh as well that you compare a college environment to that of  public schools in Chicago.  Go and check with reality first before you decide to comment again.

dan1101
dan1101

Well we don't know the numbers.  Suppose there are 100 teachers making $40,000 a year and 20 teachers making $100,000 a year, that averages out to $50,000 a year.  $75,000 a year seems like a high number.

dhcox36
dhcox36

It says right in the article that "the average salary for a Chicago public school teacher is $76,000". That doesn't indicate principal, superintendent, head administrator, or similar, as your comment leads one to believe. It says 'school teacher'. Even if it does includes those people, if 10 teachers each make 65k and 1 top level administrator makes 150-200k, you can achieve that average. And don't forget that if all were included, it would be support staff and cafeteria workers as well, which would lower the average. Maybe you should go and check with reality before making dumb posts and trying to insult people?