Chicago teachers are on strike, even though they are among the highest paid in the country and they were offered a 16% raise. But they don’t want to be held accountable for their effectiveness:
For the first time in a quarter century, Chicago teachers walked out of the classroom Monday, taking a bitter contract dispute over evaluations and job security to the streets of the nation’s third-largest city — and to a national audience — less than a week after most schools opened for fall.
The walkout forced hundreds of thousands of parents to scramble for a place to send idle children and created an unwelcome political distraction for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a year when labor unions have been losing ground nationwide, the implications were sure to extend far beyond Chicago, particularly for districts engaged in similar debates.
The two sides resumed negotiations Monday but failed to reach a settlement, meaning the strike will extend into at least a second day.
Chicago School Board President David Vitale said board and union negotiators did not even get around to bargaining on the two biggest issues, performance evaluations or recall rights for laid-off teachers. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said that was because the district did not change its proposals.
“This is a long-term battle that everyone’s going to watch,” said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. “Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit.”
The union had vowed to strike Monday if there was no agreement on a new contract, even though the district had offered a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides had essentially agreed on a longer school day. With an average annual salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.
But negotiators were still divided on job security measures and a system for evaluating teachers that hinged in part on students’ standardized test scores.
What is at stake, if other teachers’ unions follow suit, is educational reform. The politics here are interesting: Unions and teachers’ unions in particular are key activists in the Democratic party. And yet, these teachers have risen up against educational reforms pushed by Democrats. The mayor of Chicago, who has taken on these teachers, is Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff and a key fundraiser in his re-election campaign. Could improving education, even against the opposition of incompetent teachers and their enablers, become a bi-partisan cause? Or will political pressure from the unions derail educational reform?