09.11.2012 0

Nearly 30,000 teachers abandon Chicago schools to strike for job security

Karen Lewis President of the Chicago Teachers Union

Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union

By Rebekah Rast — The average teacher pay in Chicago public schools is $76,000 a year.  The school system has a $665 million budget deficit.  Ten months of negotiations with the teachers union have ended in a strike and left 350,000 students without a teacher.

The school district has already agreed to a 16 percent pay raise over the next four years for teachers, increase job opportunities for laid-off teachers, paid maternity leave and short-term disability coverage, and a freeze on health care cost increases for two-thirds of the union’s membership, according to CNN.

What more could these teachers want?  The primary battle seems to be teacher job security.  A new evaluation program bases teacher’s job performance off their student’s standardized testing scores.  Teachers aren’t a fan of this new evaluation method and given the overall performance on these tests, it’s clear why they are fighting for more aggressive job security.

CNN reports that union President Karen Lewis feared that as many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs under the evaluation system and referred to the system as “unacceptable.”

Heritage Foundation reports that just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and just 56 percent of students graduate in the Chicago public school district.

No wonder teachers don’t want to be evaluated based upon their student’s standardized test performances.

However, this evaluation system isn’t “unacceptable.”  Why shouldn’t teachers be evaluated based upon their students’ performances?  These standardized tests are how today’s students are evaluated, so why should it be different for those preparing and teaching the children?

If American students are to compete in an ever-changing, ever-advancing global marketplace, then those teaching them should be held to the highest standard of proficiency of all.

Furthermore, this strike should make it clear to any Chicago parent whose child attends public school that this teachers union is all about their jobs and not at all about the success of future generations — otherwise they’d be in the classroom doing all they can to better test scores.

Even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, formerly President Obama’s White House chief of staff, said, “The issues that remain are minor,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “This is totally unnecessary. It’s avoidable and our kids don’t deserve this…This is a strike of choice.”

Though teachers are hoping for a bigger piece of the taxpayer pie on this strike, you have to question their timing.

CNN goes on to report that 55,000 Chicago students are unaffected by the strike.  Why? They attend charter schools where teachers are not a part of the union.

Not only might Chicago public school parents see that the grass is indeed greener at a charter school, but it also might spur interest in other school choice options — likely not a goal the striking teachers union had in mind.

This might be the catalyst the Illinois legislature needs to push through a voucher bill to free 30,000 Chicago public school students that has been bottled up in its system for more than two years.

If you’re thinking it’s quite a longshot for a very Democratic Illinois legislature to move a voucher bill, thus giving up union funds and control—you’re right.  But maybe it will be the last straw needed to get parents to vote out these legislators who continually deny a better education to their children.

“In the end, it is about the children and our nation’s future,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  “We can no longer sit idly by and allow teachers unions to put the security of terrible teachers ahead of the education of children.”

Wilson goes onto explain, “It is truly sad for the 350,000 children in Chicago who are being denied an education while the local teachers union throws a temper tantrum.  Hopefully, a national outcry will come from this example of the union’s bad priorities, and it puts one more nail in the teachers union coffins, so our nation can get back to teaching kids how to read, write and do arithmetic free of union coercion.”

Today’s students should be the No. 1 priority of all politicians and teachers.  If America hopes to compete and be a part of a global job market, then children need the absolute best education available — no union strings attached.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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