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Monday, September 10, 2012

Greedy Chicago Public School Teachers Strike

For the most part, teachers are overworked and underpaid. Yes, they work short hours and they get 3 months out of the year off, plus all those other vacation days; but they have to prepare lesson plans and grade papers, and oftentimes deal with troublesome kids. Depending on where they teach, that is. Most also have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets.

The average K-12 grade teacher's salary is a paltry $42,000.00, with an average starting wage of $39,000.00. That's not much for shaping the minds of our youth. And according to this NY Times opinion piece, those salaries are dropping:

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender.Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.
So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and D├ęcor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again. Does this look like “A Plan,” either on the state or federal level?
So how much do you think those striking 30,000 or so Chicago Public School teachers make per year?  Must be pretty dang low, right?  Wrong!  The average teacher's annual salary- not counting benefits- is a whopping $74,000.00 to $76,000.00! That's almost $7,000 to $9,000 more per year than the average salary of someone who has toiled as a teacher for 25 years. And almost double the national average.

So what are they striking about?  Mayor Rahm Emmanuel already upped the salary increase to 16% over 4 years, though the union had wanted 30% over 2. Some of the concessions the union (CTU) is demanding seem fair enough:

We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.

and

“We are demanding a reasonable timetable for the installation of air-conditioning in student classrooms--a sweltering, 98-degree classroom is not a productive learning environment for children. This type of environment is unacceptable for our members and all school personnel. A lack of climate control is unacceptable to our parents.

This has more to do with the kids than the greedy teachers. But the rest of the sticking points have to do with the teachers. As expected, there are differing opinions as to what the major sticking points are. Emmanuel says it now boils down to two issues:

From Emanuel's perspective, after weeks of negotiation, only two issues remain unresolved. The first is a principal's right to choose the teachers that work in his or her school. "It's essential that the local principal who we hold accountable for producing the educational results not be told by the CPS bureaucracy ... and not be told by the union leadership who to hire," he said.
Second, he added, is the impasse over how to implement a recent law that requires standardized tests to count for, initially, one quarter of all teacher evaluations. "I'm telling you, these were the final two issues," he said, exasperated.
Longer work hours are also a bone of contention- they have one of the shortest school days at a little over 5 hours- as well as health benefits. They don't want any changes to their benefits since they have it pretty darn good.

It should also be noted that Chicago teachers pay only 3% of their health insurance premiums. [snip] The CPS is possibly trying to raise that amount by 7% so the teachers would be paying 10% for their health insurance premiums (note: the majority of taxpayers footing the bill for these teachers are paying 25% or more for their own health insurance).

Chicago schools have a huge fail rate with about 40% of students dropping out, and they want their salaries raised?  No wonder they don't want evaluations. They want to sit back on their haunches getting premium pay for few hours.  At least Emmanuel is bucking for the kids (he feels longer hours are helpful) the teachers obviously are not.

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