Loyola University Chicago journalism graduate John Giokaris writes about the Chicago Teachers Union strike on PolicyMic. Here is a portion of his column:
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike on Monday after a summer-long standoff in which they were demanding a 30% raise from Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system.
After witnessing what Chicago’s mayor, as well as both Democratic and Republican governors of Illinois and Wisconsin have been dealing with between satisfying organized labor and trying to close widening budget deficits, one has to now examine two questions that have not yet been discussed in the public sphere: Are unions even necessary in America anymore? And have union bosses become greedy?
Juan Williams and Kyle Olsen produced an excellent documentary earlier this year chronicling what Mayor Emanuel has been going through in trying to reform the Chicago public school education system called, “A Tale of Two Missions,” which I highly recommend watching.
When Emanuel came into office in May 2011, one of his most ambitious reforms was trying to extend the CPS school day. Until recently, the CPS school day was a mere 5 hours and 45 minutes – ranking last among the 10 largest cities in the U.S.
Emanuel argued that the city was unfairly “shortchanging” CPS students in instructional time, resulting in fewer future opportunities for them. He proposed extending the elementary school day to 7 hours and 30 minutes.
The CPS, in turn, then demanded a 30% salary raise. Keep in mind that CPS is a system where the average median salary for teachers is $76,450 a year, compared to the $53,976 made by the average private sector employee, where their graduation rate is barely half (55%), and where only 6 out of every 100 children in a system responsible for over 400,000 children will go on to earn a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 26-years-old. A 30% raise would bring the average median salary to around $100,000 for a profession that works 170 days out of the year.
Meanwhile, the CPS system was facing a budget deficit of $665 million in the $5.73 billion 2012-2013 fiscal year. To close it, Emanuel had to raise property taxes to their absolute legal limit, cut costs anywhere possible, and completely drain all its cash reserves. That still left $46 million to give CPS teachers a 2% raise for the longer school day.
Emanuel even scaled back his longer school day proposal from 7 and a half hours to just 7 hours in an effort to negotiate, but CTU boss Karen Lewis wouldn’t budge. So instead, Emanuel decided to hire an additional 477 teachers to fill in the longer school day with programs that are always on the chopping block such as music, art, foreign language, and physical education, which delivered students a longer school day without requiring CPS teachers to work longer hours.
Basically, there is no money left. Yet not only will the CTU not back down from its salary raise demands, but they’re also asking for unprecedented administrative powers that are traditionally reserved for the CPS, including managerial rights, job security guarantees, and a scaling back of teachers evaluations based on standardized test scores.
Read Giokaris’ entire coulmn here: STRIKE