After over 25 years of relative peace, the Chicago Teachers Union and the City of Chicago are at odds, tangled in a wrestling match for higher wages, shorter working hours and changes to teacher evaluations. On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union launched a city-wide strike. The CTU, "unable to reach an agreement" that would prevent the strike, has effectively shut down 675 schools and locked the doors on over 400,000 students in the greater Chicago area.
Many wonder on what grounds Chicago Public School teachers -- currently some of the highest-paid educators in the nation -- are pushing for a 30 percent pay raise over two years. When countered with an offer of a 16 percent raise over four years (worth over $400 million), the CTU refused.
In a city with a median annual salary of $48,886, the average CPS teacher rakes in over $76,000 a year -- not including their lavish benefits.
With 97 percent of health-care costs provided for, a salary higher than the majority of fellow public educators (and Chicagoans) and a retirement fund that is guzzling three quarters of all new education spending, Chicago educators clamoring for more is coming across as ridiculously greedy to city officials and many others around the country.
The CTU's plea for shorter working hours may seem like a reasonable enough request. After all, who wouldn't like to work less? But Chicago teachers are already working, by a wide margin, the least amount of hours in any large city school system in America, according to data gathered by CPS.
Chicago's school year is 57,120 minutes. New York, the next shortest school year among large metro areas, provides 61,110 minutes of student instruction per year. The national average for big city school districts is a 67,392 minutes school year. Philadelphia's teachers instruct for 70,590 minutes every year.
It seems more reasonable, in light of a high school graduation rate under 55 percent and with 79 percent of 8th graders reading far below the national average, that Chicago teachers would want to invest time more time in educating children, not less.
There is no doubt that working in the Chicago public school system has its difficulties. However, it is irresponsible and illogical for the striking CPS teachers to hold children hostage from the classroom, leaving them to meandering through Chicago's streets until their selfish insurgence is settled. The strike is also unfair to hardworking taxpayers, who cannot afford to superfluously pad the pockets of Chicago's teachers who already work fewer hours for more money, while producing worse results, than the almost all other teachers in America.
Rather than using students as a bargaining tool to try to get more, the Chicago Teachers Union would benefit from taking a look at the reality of their poor performance and their fortunate financial position and be thankful for what they already have.