The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has indicated that their requests to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and taxpayers of Illinois are not unreasonable. As of today’s date the average Chicago teacher’s annual salary is $76,000; members of the CTU are among the highest paid in the nation. The average Chicagoan with a college degree, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, makes $48,688 annually, and the unemployment rate in the city is nearly 11 percent.
When compared to the 10 largest American cities, Chicago has both the shortest school day and the shortest school year. Parents have begged for the school day to be longer. Chicago, Mayor Emanuel announced that when Chicago Public Schools adopt a longer school day in the fall, elementary schools will go from 5 3/4 hours to a solid 7 hours. High schools will keep the originally planned 7 1/2 hour day, but will be released 75 minutes early once a week. CTU and CPS have graciously agreed to extend the school day. However, that extension of time comes at a price.
CTU members are asking for a raise to compensate for time and cost of living increases. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, CTU first arrived at the negotiating table requesting a 30 percent raise increase. This is obviously fiscally impossible for Illinois and taxpayers to afford. CTU rejected a perfectly reasonable offer from CPS. CTU was offered a 16 percent raise over four years; even though students are underperforming on standardized tests. Raises should be very little due to poor performance.
Money is not the only sticking point for CTU in these ongoing contract negotiations. CTU is asking for a fair evaluation procedure. CTU is now looking to negotiate different terms for teacher evaluations; even though back in March CTU and CPS collaboratively worked together on designing a successful evaluation process called REACH (Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students) also known as PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act). This is the same evaluation process CTU is aggressively now trying to alter. According to a press release issued by CTU on September 9, 2012, “After the initial phase-in, the new evaluation could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years.” CTU now claims you cannot evaluate teacher performance by how well students perform on standardized tests; due to social issues beyond their control. However, students are evaluated by colleges, universities, employment centers by how well they perform on various standardized tests. Therefore, it is not overstretching to associate teacher evaluations with standardized testing.
CTU requires that a new contract agreement include a fair recall procedure for laid off teachers. Principals and CPS should not be required to hire laid off teachers; they should be able to hire the best qualified teachers for Chicago Public School children. A school system facing a 4 out of 10 student dropout rate needs better qualified teachers than what it has employed in the past.
Our children should not be used as pawns for any negotiating reasons. Teachers and students belong in the classroom.