I was a Chicago Public Schools student for the past 13 years, and with the current strike affecting both of my brothers, I have one thing to say to the Chicago Teachers’ Union: “Drop the picket signs and teach!”
As 350,000 CPS students find their schools closed and picket lines across the city, the 30,000 striking teachers and support staff are locked in a debate with the Board of Education over a new contract.
First, a little bit of history.
For decades, the Democratic machine in City Hall has bought off unions with sweetheart deals at the expense of taxpayers.
But when the strong-willed Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Obama, assumed the mayorship in May 2011, he vowed to reform the CPS system.
The most pressing issue on the docket was to extend the school day; elementary schoolers in Chicago only spent five hours and forty-five minutes in school per day, not all of which was class time.
If this trend continues, the teachers will be leaving students thousands of hours behind in instructional time by the time they graduate.
After threatening to strike over the switch to a reasonable length day, Emanuel appeased the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) by agreeing to rehire 500 veteran teachers who had been laid off to fill in the gap.
Despite the fact that Emanuel is offering a 16 percent salary increase over the next four years (this would be generous in the private sector,) the CTU rejected it, sparking the first CPS strike in 25 years, and the first major teachers’ strike since Detroit in 2006.
It has left more than a third of a million students without a place to learn just four days after classes began.
CPS teachers are already the highest paid in any big city school district nationwide.
CPS reports the average teacher salary is $76,000 per year, compared to New York at $73,751, Los Angeles at $67,600, and Miami at $52,000. The average Chicago resident makes $47,000, by comparison.
Furthermore, the plan offered paid maternity leave and freezing health care costs for two-thirds of CTU members, even in today’s world of rapidly rising costs.
Coupled with the relative job security teachers have due to tenure, it’s hard to see a union anywhere rejecting such a deal.
Asking the Union to sacrifice in these tough economic times, after getting generous pay increases through the Great Recession, is not too much to ask.
Even with lesson plans and grading, the pay per hour is far higher than most Americans can even dream of.
CTU, sign the contract and give a break to the parents who are stuck without child care for their children, the extra cops who have been put on the streets to deter violence, the already overtaxed taxpayers in the city and most of all the students who need to learn and get into college. The private sector learned sacrifice years ago.
Now it’s your turn.