September 10th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

What are key issues in Chicago public school strike?

Chicago public school teachers began manning picket lines instead of classrooms Monday, launching the first teacher strike in the city in 25 years.

The strike, announced Sunday night, left about 350,000 students without schools to attend and parents scrambling to find alternatives. The union that represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff in the nation's third-largest school district called the strike after negotiators failed to reach a contract agreement with school administrators despite 10 months of negotiations.

Below, we break down the key issues that are keeping the teachers out of the classroom, what the teachers are asking for and what the schools are willing to offer.

Compensation and health care benefits

One of the key issues is salaries and benefits for teachers and their families.

What the teachers want: to maintain their existing health benefits, as well as salary increases.

"Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation,"  the Chicago Teachers Union said in a news release. "However, we are apart on benefits."

What the Chicago Board of Education is offering: a deal that would increase salaries 16% over four years. The average teacher salary in Chicago was $74,839 for the 2011-12 school year, according to the district. The total salary increase would equal $380 million over four years. That includes "modified step increases that both reward experience and provides better incentives for mid-career teachers to help keep them serving in the Chicago Public School system," according to a news release from the school system.

"The Board is calling for a modification to the health care plan funding that will freeze all employee health care contributions for single and couple plans with a small increase in family contributions of no more than $20 a pay period in addition to a small increase in emergency room co-pays," the school system says. "67% of all CTU members will not see a change to their healthcare."

Job security

Another major issue is making sure teachers will know their jobs are safe amid the likely closing of several schools over the next couple years. Teacher issues center on what options will be available to them if they are laid off, as well as how they can be promoted.

What the teachers want: more teacher training and help for laid-off workers.

“We want job security. Despite a new curriculum and new, stringent evaluation system, CPS proposes no increase (or even decreases) in teacher training. This is notable because our Union through our Quest Center is at the forefront teacher professional development in Illinois," the union says. "We have been lauded by the District and our colleagues across the country for our extensive teacher training programs that helped emerging teachers strengthen their craft and increased the number of nationally board certified educators."

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The union notes that "while new Illinois law prohibits us from striking over the recall of laid-off teachers," it does not plan to sign an agreement until both sides discuss the issue and implement a plan.

What the Chicago Board of Education is offering: The board has announced plans and opportunities for laid-off workers but only a willingness to discuss opportunities for promotion.

The school system notes that it has addressed concerns about teachers displaced by school closings, turnarounds or phaseouts, and other reasons.

If a school is closed, Chicago Public Schools says, teachers will "receive a job at a school receiving their students if there is a vacancy; placed in a reassigned teacher pool for five months or may elect to receive a three-month lump sum severance; or placed in a Quality Teacher Force Pool in which teachers who apply for positions shall be entitled to an interview and explanation if not hired."

If a teacher is displaced by turnarounds or phaseouts, they will be "placed in a reassigned teacher pool for five months or may elect three-month lump sum severance." Teachers displaced for other reasons will "have recall rights for one year for the same unit and position and will be offered interim assignment in substitute teacher pool."

As for moving up within the system, the Board of Education says the union should work with it "to increase promotion opportunities and identify differentiated compensation models that have worked in other places."

New teacher evaluation system

As many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs under a new evaluation system based on standardized test scores implemented by the school district, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said. Statistics from the Chicago Public School District and the state show that Chicago children perform poorly compared with the rest of students, with 10% to 20% more students not meeting the goals compared with rest of the state in reading, math and science during the 2010-11 school year.

What the teachers want: a change to the new evaluation system for teachers.

Lewis called the new system "unacceptable," saying that too much emphasis is being placed on testing scores.

"This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control," the union said in its news release.

What the Chicago Board of Education is offering: to help get the new system in place and reach required standards.

"The Board has proposed to work jointly with CTU to fully implement REACH Students and maintain performance standards and student growth requirements," it said in its release. "This proposal will also allow CPS and CTU to study REACH’s implementation jointly and make adjustments as needed."

Opinion: U.S. needs more strikes

My view: The whole world is watching Chicago

soundoff (500 Responses)
  1. Whome

    No matter what is said it always ends up by putting more money in the teachers pockets, so don't even start talking about bettering education or the children.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • lol

      I didn't know the two were mutually exclusive.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Than better our children through our learning environment.....Jesus, our schools have no libraries, social workers, security guards, and kids that just don't care about anything because they sometimes don't know better....Fix that problem with parents maybe....Did that ever cross your mind....Parent Responsibility????? What about the board of education here? Now, the board wants to privatize the system and sell our schools to the highest bidder. All Charter/private schools have selective enrollment.....did you hear that????SELECTIVE ENROLLMENT????? OUR KIDS DO NOT GET THE FUNDS AS THE PRIVATE SECTOR COUNTERPART.....BOY, THIS COUNTRY BREEDS EQUALITY DOESN'T IT?? YOU WANT TEACHERS FIRED, FINE!!! BUT PAY EVERY, I SAID EVERY SCHOOL, THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY AND RESOURCES THAN YOUR POINT WILL BE VALID.......UNTIL THEN, WALK IN OUR SHOES THAN TALK.....S.....T!!!!!!

      September 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. 4sanity

    A lot of people here think that an AVERAGE teacher salary of $75k is unreasonable. It's not. But I'd be curious to know what people think teachers with 10-15 years of teaching experience are worth ? Do you think we should cut it back to $50k or $40k. That'll be a great way to attract and retain qualified professionals entrusted with teaching the next generation. A 16 % increase over 4 years sounds high except that inflation is running at >2%. And a $20 per biweekly pay period is $40 per month or about $500 per year extra in health care costs for a family. I'd be pretty irritated too if my health premiums jumped by $500 per year. Because that 16 % pay increase over 4 years would amount to $1200 per year extra – $500 per year in additional health care costs i.e. about $700 more. And people wonder why their standard of living never really improves over the decades.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shimmer

      Obviosuly you are not a math teacher: 4% of 74,000 average is $2800 a year...and that may even compound for years 2, 3 & 4.

      Government & unions run amuck in Chicago: Avg salary 74K, Per Pupil Cost 13K, Overly generous health & retirement. #fail #election2012

      September 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cool2792002

    Amazing! 16%raise over 4 years? I'd love to have a raise...period! Job security...what's that? My job is at will, if I screw up (badly) or do not preform...I'm out...period! My main comment is that how will the Chicago TAX PAYERS pay for these raises? Come on teachers...it is a simple Math calculation. If you get your way, don't complain when the city closes libraries, pools, fire stations etc...as Philly did to "try" to balance the sheet. Nobody is going to win. I'm sure the city & school board have their faults too. I'm in a surburban area of Philly and I'm tried of these unions demanding "unrealistic" pay, benefits, pensions (BTW – pension...remove it from the dictionary!), etc. Everyone keeps talking about "tough times call for tough decisions", but I see nobody with a pair to make the tough decision or take that tough stance. Only a matter of time before the checkbook runs out of money and your Tax-payers LEAVE the district; which will lower the revenue...and so on...Simple math calculation! Common sence is not that common...arh!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • johnny popper

      they also get "step" raises....so they are really going to get 6,8,10% raises each year....for a 4 i/2 work day for 9 months.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. johnny popper

    They are required to be present in the building for 5 1/2 hours a day with one full hour being devoted to "prep time" which none of them take advantage of so these people work 4 and a half hours a day for 9 out of 12 months and their average pay is 74k a year. Do you need to know anything beyond that? Unions equate to socialism which equates to this bizarre, warped situation where someone like a Karen Lewis can fu the daily lives of an entire city's families for whatever agenda her and her union has, an agenda obviously not in society's best interest. Don't be shocked though, chicago is the home of the county president Todd Stroger holding a news conference to declare he raised taxes to the highest rate in the country to create 1,600 new (patronage) jobs and more recently had a mayor and alderman declare a profitable, taxpaying business cannot do business in "their city" because one of the corporation's executives was not on board with the gay agenda A to Z. This place is just insanely anti taxpayer and corrupt. what city is our present cammander in chief from.....?

    September 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • pinetarjunky

      I don't think you could handle one day teaching in a public high school. So who cares what you think?

      September 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ns

    I guess the article forgot to mention that they also want teachers to work an extra 1hr and a half, on top of the extra hours they stay after to help students. And for this, they will be compensated with a 4% yearly increase, for four years. So your getting 4% more for 1.5 hrs of work and on top of that the extra hours that you stay after school with no compensation. People, get informed before you make a response.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lagos

      So in other words, they're already overpaid, are being asked to work more and given a raise that doesn't fully compensate them for the additional time worked relative to their current pay rate. How does that change that they're already overpaid?

      September 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS

      No, lagos, NOT in other words. Maybe you should educate YOURSELF what teachers go through in CHICAGO before making statements about something you fully do not understand.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rubout

      CPS;

      Maybe you should educate yourself about what its like to work in the real work paying real taxes and not the pay not tax comfy public sector

      September 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • pinetarjunky

      Teachers pay taxes too. Now you've been educated.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. flyboy

    The problem starts with parents that are selfish and expect others to their parenting jobs. This is why my two children who are now adults never set foot in a public school. We started with home school then christian school. Its not perfect but way beyond the public system.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • this guy

      yeah, raise your children in an isolated environment so they become carbon copies of their parents...that sounds like the plan.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg C.

      Responding to "this guy": Are you implying that teachers are better teachers and role models than those parents choosing to home school or care to pay over and above what they pay to subsidize failing public systems just to give them a proper education?

      September 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • this guy

      @Greg C. My only contention is raising children in an environment that would support a "christian" school and sheltering them from the rest of the world views. Which typically doesn't enable them to make life choices and come to conclusions on their own time and through their own eyes, but through the eyes of their parents. If that is not the case, then home school is better than public school.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gold Finger

      Most home school parents don't know their rear from their ear. Note the word most.

      September 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      My kids are not home schooled, but I happen to know a lot of families who do, and your comment is actually laughable, because it is in large classrooms that the kids are taught without regard to their individuality.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb

      So what's your plan? Let them fumble thru life and hope they 'find themselves'. I think a carbon copy of me is grand :) That's a parent's perogative. Don't like it? Grow your own humans.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicki

      Ok,so the teachers get evaluated on the results of student test scores. Some people think it is the teachers fault and they should be penalized for it. How can the system weed out good teachers from the poor teachers when the family unit is failing the children and the teachers have to take full responsibility of the children's success. Some teachers go to school to get Master Degrees and yes they should be paid more for the education. I agree that the poor teachers should be weeded out but standardized testing is not the answer unless the system can fix problems within the families. How are they going to do that?

      September 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      The school kids in Chicago do not have a prayer when their leader spouts nonsense such as "Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation," the Chicago Teachers Union said in a news release. "However, we are apart on benefits." Does anybody with a brain say stuff like that? Also, assuming that a teacher will be penalized presumes the student will do poorly on the tests. Why not recognize also that if the students do well, they will be relatively rewarded. Only teachers live in a world where the intended outcome of their efforts are completely de-coupled from their evaluation.

      September 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Anybody can get a Masters Degree nowadays. We don't even look at that as a criteria on government hiring boards because so many people have them. It never made them a better government worker and it definitely won't make a bad teacher better.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • SHBulldogs

      Don't have to "fix" families, just take family status and income into account. Run a study identifying the differing educational needs of kids with different backgrounds, e.g. have proven excellent teachers teach groups of kids with single moms and low incomes that agree to unobtrusive research observation (cameras in classrooms) and use research methods to establish what works for these groups and what can reasonably be accomplished when a good teacher uses these best practices in a year. Check it with other groups with other good teachers. Then we can measure ALL teachers of similar groups by those baselines.

      September 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • dmfantasyworld

      It should include standardize test as well as a number of other factors such as direct observation by an outside source, some sort of company that evaluates teachers and makes recommendations. This should be done at random with no one, including the school principle, knowing about it.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    Wow the student to faculty ratio at the Chicago Public Schools is 11.66 to 1. That is very impressive! No wonder we are ranked so highly in global educational rankings.... er maybe not. I guess if I was working in the system I would want union protection for my job from evaluations to. At the end of the day I just don't buy throwing money to solve our educational system. Doing better with less is going to be the path forward to get out of this mess.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • C.M.

      I have thirty-four kids in my class. Don't know where you're from, but clearly it's not Chicago.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Hey CM, I am not from Chicago. My kids class has 30 kids in it as well. However if you do the math it shows that there are 350,000 kids and 30,000 striking teachers and support staff which gives me the ratio of 11.6 to 1. I understand that it is important to have support staff, but I think almost 2 support staff per teacher is probably why it is so expensive to educate our children. 30 to 1 is probably a big reason why our schools are not doing a good job in educating our children. Since the majority of the striking teachers are in fact not teachers (but support staff) perhaps that changes things. Or at least that is my contribution.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • pinetarjunky

      Interesting, because I average 37 students per class. And nobody except Special Ed. has a ratio like that.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Nicole

    I understand your concerns but is it appropriate to have such a massive strike in the middle of a recession when the country is still reeling from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? If you really care about these kids and their future, shouldn't you be trying to work out some sought of deal without hurting so many kids. These kids need to stay in school if they're going to make something of themselves and become model citizens! What kind of message are educators sending to these kids when they say to hell with the school term? I believe the best way to deal with this situation is to keep negotiating, not striking.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • fourth81

      A little hard to negotiate when the school officials have you between a rock and a hard place. Apparently negotiations have been going on for 10 months. Would you simply bend over and grab your ankles in the hopes that they don't ram you again, or would you take a stand? There's nothing wrong with teaching kids to stand up for what you believe in as opposed to just going with the path of least resistance.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Alger Dave

    Here you see a little microcosm of Democratic America. The city is a liberal mecca and the teacher's union is an organization that supports the Dems, usually....I want to point out to every reader that this is exactly what we're going to get if we re-elect Obama. Public service unions (teachers, etc.) extorting monies from the public with the government pretending to care and defend the public, but really being in bed with the unions themselves. Who loses – the taxpayer and their children. Taxpayers pay more for the same services and the kids have to go back to school to teachers who care a lot more about their pay and job security than they do about them. Choose carefully in November!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Augie March

      Obama's education policies are hardly union or teacher-friendly.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      And conservatives are simply uneducated, incompetent and illiterate! Ask Dubya, teapublicans can't even spell potatoe! Well, I know that's old but its true!

      September 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lagos

    Not to understate how important teachers are to kids, parents, and the country/society as a whole, but 75k a year average and you're asking for more and whining about benefits? That's not bad for a college professor with a masters or even doctorate. And people wonder why you have people on the right questioning government spending.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • fourth81

      You can't take that monetary figure and take it out the context of where that person lives. If I take my salary that I make living near DC and go down to some small town in Texas, I'm going to be considered upper middle class because of cost of living.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lagos

      And you can't simply state that I'm not taking into account cost of living without actually citing any figures. Cook county's salaries are off the chart, even taking into account the increased cost of living within the metro area. Taking into account IL teachers salaries according to the chicago sun times (Would link you to it but CNN doesn't like links. Google illinois teacher salaries how school districts compare"), cook county's districts range between 55k to 65k for starting, masters-level teachers and 100k to 120k for those that have been around a long time. This is on par with teachers salaries in NEW YORK CITY (google new york city teachers salary 2012). NYC obliterates Chicago in cost of living, and Chicago is actually pretty close to the national average. The same research for minneapolis, MN and Indianapolis, IN nets similar results (with lower cost of living but lower wages in Indy).

      Please, before you dismiss others because you're too lazy to verify your own "facts", rub two braincells together and realize that you probably don't know what you're talking about.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Blue

    Hmmm... Aren't there several thousand out of work teachers nationwide?

    Sounds like a prime time to do some layoffs and new hiring, in the process Union crushing.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. fourth81

    This strike is valid simply for the last reason–being told whether or not you're a good teacher based on the grades of your students. Ask any teacher and they'll tell you that some years you have good classes and other years you have bad classes. If a student comes from low income housing, there's a good chance that student does not have enough warm clothes to cover themselves in the winter let alone a static parent to help out with homework. You'd be surprised how often that affects a student's grades.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • CPS

      NCLB is one of the biggest detriments in public education today.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gkibarricade

      As a teacher it is your job to get the students to do well. Does the hot dog guy blame the meat company for selling bad hotdogs? Sure, parent involvement would make better students. However, that is not within your control. If I was a teacher I would force all students to do well. Call the parents everyday. Stay with students till 8-10 PM. Saturday tuturing. Online study chats. Is it hard? Sure it is but, not impossible. Do you want to be the the hotdog guy who says: "hey, I just put the hotdog in the bun" or the one who says:"I guarantee this is the best Hotdog you will ever eat"

      September 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    "The union notes that 'while new Illinois law prohibits us from striking over the recall of laid-off teachers, it does not plan to sign an agreement until both sides discuss the issue and implement a plan." translation: "what we're doing isn't exactly legal, but who the hell cares?..." Fire them all.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. dallas123

    With average $74,839 annual salary & 3-months off, I wish I can be Teacher. What are these nut cases going on Strikes for!!!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blue

      Blame the Union, not the teachers.

      Well, maybe the teachers a little bit for funding/supporting the Union and following their mandate to strike.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Idy

    it looks like all roads lead to chicago for job seekers. some would be so grateful to earn $74k!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • BAZOOKA

      IWe need Reagan startegy with Air Traffic Controllers for this Chicago teacher Union and local government.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • corpsman

      "some would be so grateful to earn $74k!"

      Sure, but that's the average salary. Starting salary is $47K. Not bad, but hardly lucrative, given the challenges of the job.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • pinetarjunky

      And I'd be grateful to get the salary of a Fortune 500 CEO, but then again I don't have a Harvard MBA. Why is it people get indignant over things they haven't put any effort into?

      September 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
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