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Morning Bell: 25,000 Chicago Teachers Walk Off the Job
Posted By Amy Payne On September 10, 2012 @ 8:58 am In Education | Comments Disabled
This morning, about 350,000 students in Chicago Public Schools will be without teachers. While the 25,000-plus unionized teachers take to the picket lines in a strike over benefits and teacher evaluations, working parents are scrambling to figure out what to do.
“We know a strike is really going to be painful. People will be hurt on both sides,” Jay Rehak, a union delegate and high school English teacher, told the Chicago Tribune . “But in the end, it’s like saying, ‘I’ll be bloodied and you’ll be bloodied, but at least you’ll know not to bully me again.’”
Among other demands, the Chicago Teachers Union had asked for a 30 percent pay increase—despite the facts that just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and just 56 percent of students graduate in the district. The school board ended up offering a 16 percent pay increase over four years, but as last night’s midnight deadline for strike negotiations neared, the union rejected the offer.
The average teacher in Chicago Public Schools—a district facing a $700 million deficit—makes $71,000 per year  before benefits are included.
Reuters reports that “Chicago Public Schools has projected a $3 billion budget deficit over the next three years and faces a crushing burden  of pensions promised to retiring teachers.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s White House chief of staff, is getting an advanced class in union power . He came into office last year and asked the teachers to accept a 2 percent pay raise instead of 4 percent to try to address the $700 million budget shortfall, and the union refused.
He did reach a deal to lengthen one of the country’s shortest school days. As the Tribune describes: “In exchange for the longer school day—an additional half-hour in high schools and 75 minutes in elementary schools—CPS agreed to rehire nearly 500 teachers in non-core subjects from a pool of teachers who had been laid off. That kept the hours in the work week the same for full-time teachers.”
The most reliable  data show that teachers in general work no more than private professionals in a typical workweek, even when off-site work on evenings and weekends is included. Yet the CPS school day is among the shortest for teachers in the nation.
Heritage’s Jason Richwine and the American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew Biggs did an extensive study of teacher compensation  and followed up  with additional discussion of controversial issues. When it comes to teacher pay, Richwine sums up :
Because the average public-school teacher already receives above-market compensation, policymakers should avoid across-the-board pay raises. Instead, they should focus on rewarding high-quality teachers with targeted salary increases.
Of course, teacher compensation is much more than just wages. Part of Chicago Public Schools’ financial problems is the guaranteed pensions for retired teachers. Richwine explains  that these defined-benefit plans, which cost  several times more than the typical retirement plan in the private sector, are a bad deal for taxpayers:
Since benefits accruing to today’s workers need not be paid now, states can promise generous benefits without feeling the full fiscal impact for years or even decades. Benefits to workers are guaranteed, meaning taxpayers are ultimately responsible for any shortfalls in their states’ pension systems—and there are many shortfalls.
The Chicago strike, highlighting the urgent need for education reform, comes at a time when lack of confidence in public schools  is at an all-time high—and support for school choice  is also at an all-time high. Is it any wonder?
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/10/morning-bell-25000-chicago-teachers-walk-off-the-job/
URLs in this post:
 Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicago-public-schools-chicago-teachers-union-contract-talks-strike,0,2062807.story?page=1
 $71,000 per year: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/12/chicago-teachers-union-demands-30-percent-pay-raise/
 crushing burden: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/10/usa-chicago-schools-idINL1E8K93JC20120910
 union power: http://reason.com/reasontv/2012/09/05/the-machine-the-truth-behind-teachers-un
 reliable: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2008/03/art4full.pdf
 extensive study of teacher compensation: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/10/assessing-the-compensation-of-public-school-teachers
 followed up: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/01/critical-issues-in-assessing-teacher-compensation
 sums up: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/04/a-better-way-to-pay-five-rules-for-reforming
 cost: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/05/the-real-cost-of-public-pensions
 lack of confidence in public schools: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/21/lack-of-confidence-in-public-schools-at-an-all-time-high/
 support for school choice: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/08/22/back-to-school-support-for-school-choice-reaches-all-time-high/
 links: http://www.chicagonow.com/wee-windy-city/2012/09/oh-wow-this-is-really-happening-what-to-do-with-your-kids-during-the-cps-teachers-strike/
 interview: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7421186n
 Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-09/u-s-not-setting-deadlines-for-iran-clinton-says.html
 losing as much as $49,000: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/10/us-generalmotors-autos-volt-idUSBRE88904J20120910
 Just how successful was it: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/07/auto-bailout-success-for-union-workers-maybe/
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