At our listening posts, not much sympathy was heard about the teachers who were on strike in Chicago. Also, not much praise, if any, was heard about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of the strike.
Chicago has the third largest school district in the nation. About 350,000 students were affected by the seven-day strike.
With an average pay of $76,000 a year, and for the time off teachers have, their “plight” didn’t send a message that inspired sympathy. But there were issues involved that are of national concern to all: Linking teacher evaluations to student test scores, laying off of teachers based on performance, tenure, class size, length of school days, and other issues.
The deal agreed to was called a compromise by Emanuel. What the strike did do was to shed more light nationally on our public school system, especially in large cities, and the teacher performance issue. Not given much mention is the fact that parents are sending unprepared children to school, and neglect to help them in their studies at home. Many children are discipline problems, especially in urban systems, and teachers have to deal with the situation. We aren’t defending poor teachers. We are saying there are outside factors that make it difficult for teachers to perform at the highest level.
As for pay for the Chicago teachers, they were given much less of a raise than they sought. Cost of living there is a consideration, but we have excellent teachers in this area with years of experience who don’t come close compared to salaries paid in the Chicago district.
Those large urban public school districts operate in a different educational world than what we experience here. We don’t think teachers in this area would trade positions they have with the same in Chicago, even with the big salary advantage.