The sign carried by the Chicago public school teacher says "On Strike For Better Schools." The teachers strike in Mayor Rham Emanuel's Chicago kicks off today. But are Chicago's unionized teachers really striking for "better schools" for students?
Chicago's teachers are striking because they want more money (a 30% raise over four years), and they do not want any reduction in their benefits, despite the fact the Chicago Public School system is operating over $700 million in debt, threatening the city's solvency. Moreover:
Chicago teachers have the highest average salary of any city at $76,000 a year before benefits. The average family in the city only earns $47,000 a year. Yet the teachers rejected a 16 percent salary increase over four years at a time when most families are not getting any raises or are looking for work.
The city is being bled dry by the exorbitant benefits packages negotiated by previous elected officials. Teachers pay only 3 percent of their health-care costs and out of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, a full 71 cents has gone to teacher retirement costs.
But that's not the whole justification for the strike. In addition, the teachers don't want to have to work longer hours, despite the fact that Chicago teachers work one of the shortest work schedules of any school system in the nation.
And lastly, the union doesn't want the "standardized test scores" of Chicago's students considered as part of their respective teacher's performance evaluation. The Union claims that doing so would be "unfair to teachers," assessing that it "could result in 6,000 teachers losing their jobs within two years."
That reasoning is shameless beyond measure - but it might well be accurate as the Chicago schools are not exactly over performing. Only "15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and only 56 percent of students who enter their freshman year of high school wind up graduating."
So you tell me, do any of the unionized teachers' complaints have a single thing to do with creating "better schools" for students? It would seem that Chicago public school teachers are underperforming, underworked and overpaid. It's a public sector union trifecta. The Chicago teachers union is the poster child for why our education system is failing our nation, and why public sector unions should be outlawed.
My hat is off to Mayor Emmanuel for taking on the union, especially since such public sector unions are the Democrat Party's core source of funding. We'll soon see if Emmanuel blinks.
Update: Paul Ryan weighs in, both supporting Emmanuel and twisting the knife on the silent Obama.
I’ve known Rahm Emanuel for years. He’s a former colleague of mine. Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher’s union strike is unnecessary and wrong. We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“We stand with the children and we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that’s a bipartisan issue. This does not have to divide the two parties. And so, we were going to ask, where does President Obama stand? Does he stand with his former Chief of Staff Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the children and the parents, or does he stand with the union?
That sound you hear from the White House is a cricket chirping. It bears remembering that one of Obama's first acts in office was to support the teachers unions and end the D.C. Voucher Program - a program that gave poor children in our nation's worst school district the opportunity to attend the same private school in which Obama's children were enrolled.
Updates: Michelle Malkin has a great column on Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers' Union president. Lewis is a thug, a communist and a travesty.
The Heritage Foundation also has a good article looking a bit more closely at teacher compensation in Chicago.
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