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. cdw353

    Good for those teachers. And for everyone hating on them, why don't you try teaching sometime, especially in a large city like Chicago. All of these comments about "public service" and "they get paid enough" are complete crap. It takes courage, expertise, and lots of time (yes, we work outside of the classroom too) to be a teacher, so their compensation should reflect that.

    September 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Your joking right. 7 hour days that include an hour lunch and 1-2 prep periods a day, 180 work days a year, great benefits, great pensions, amazing job security, 75k a year on average. All of this with one of the easier to obtain college degrees and what amounts to a joke of a masters.

      September 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wondering

      Well John if it's so easy, why do 50% of new teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years? I'm assuming you've been through the educational program and your local college since you seems to have a true understanding of "how easy it is". But somehow I think this is probably not the case. Either way, since it's so easy, don't be jealous, join the teachers. It's clearly easy to obtain a degree and teach! And like you said, they get paid GREAT and have excellent benefits and job security!!!! Good luck to you fine sir!

      September 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tim

    Raise taxes and pay the teachers more. Give them the healthcare and don't let poor performance be the issue. I say lets tax all the parents in Chicago 16% more if they are getting a D average and the ones with A's give them a 16% tax refund. Lets also pay more in taxes the government uses money better than the private sector. But with the comments I see its a tax on the poor. So Unions and Democrats want to tax the poor? Is this about teaching children or just keeping them ignorant the future is lost.

    September 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott B

      Actually....I kind of like that idea....

      September 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DJR

    The history of teaching and/or school marm needs to be analyzed in truth. A large portion of teachers are there for a families second income. The schedule was to be available to raise a family. Summer break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring. During the later 1970's and forward, people began to see this as an ideal life of leisure. Time to travel, snow birds, RV-ing, summers at the beach or lake, 7:30 to 3 hours. Coaching, with hopes of head coach, college coach, even pro coach, olympic coach, olympic participant. Then came we need more $$$. Welcome to life! Transportation workers, 12 hours, Doctor/lawyers 12 – 15 hours, Nurses, rounds and paper work even if after 8, shift work 3 to midnight, midnight to 8 am. And $75, 000. Most railroaders, airline employees, truckers med techs don't make that. And count on it very few others do either. So go get a job, and start firing our tax deferred thorns.

    September 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scott C

    It was reported this morning the City of Chicago spends $15,800 per pupil, 23% higher than the average Chicago area and 67% higher than the median private school in the area. So, its teachers earn $75k+ are getting a raise, barely contribute to thier retirment which is 70% of income, get 3 months off each year and the result ....only 68% of its kids graduate. Somebody stop it.

    September 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eduardo

      @Scott C, you need to work harder and pay your fair share in taxes. We've got a democrat situation here, with ineffective union teachers wanting compensation and benefits far out of proportion to their contributions and ineducable cretins demandingevr increasing government solutions. Dems borrow from China, and you pay it back sooner or later. See how that works?

      In the words of Rahm Emmanuel, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

      September 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Our Blog Community

    Has anyone looked into Chicagolands murder rate vs. New York. Has anyone asked why it's this way?

    September 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Michelle

    I started the school year with 50 students in two of my high school classes. Class size is an issue that has yet to be resolved and effects teachers, students and the test scores they look at for their stupid data collection.

    September 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Eduardo

    Following a staggering apex culminating under useless dem mayor Dinkens, New York lowered it's murder rate with a republican mayor, Giuliani, whose methods are still followed by NYC police. Chicago is incorrigibly corrupt democrats. Sympathy level = zero. You keep electing them. You reap what you sow.

    September 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matt

    Where in the nation is 74,000 a year underpaid?? if there complaining so much about their ability to work with the funding they have maybe they should get a paycut down to 60000 which is more than enough to live comfortably and use that money towards teaching the kids since whenever they want a pay raise they seem to always say "do it for the children" seems time for them to do something for the children

    September 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • NIcole

      That is the average, most teachers likely make less than that, we really need the median income. Cost of living s high in Chicago for middle income earners, one bedroom apartments easily going for $1-$1.5k, and Chicago mandates teachers live in the city.

      And keep in mind, this includes teachers with leadership positions in the schools and teachers holding doctorate degrees, who should be reimbursed as other professionals in similiar positions with similiar educations are.

      September 11, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      " Cost of living s high in Chicago for middle income earners, one bedroom apartments easily going for $1-$1.5k, and Chicago mandates teachers live in the city."

      they are not forced to live in the city. Where do you people get this information from?

      September 19, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. 4% raise?

    The school board offered 16% increase in pay over 4 years. That's 4%/year, which is far higher than in the private sector. Why would the union be complaining about that???

    September 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • 20% longer day!

      This article fails to mention that both sides have essentially already agreed to a 20% longer school day. And just how much of a raise would you be asking for if they told you to start working 20% longer days? I'll give you an idea of what kind of raise I'd be asking for: 20%!

      September 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • JUJUBee

      Not sure I understand the post about the longer school day – the other articles on CNN claim the schools days will be shortened...?

      September 11, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary71

      Since they're over paid, 20% is ridiculous. My sister in law makes $59.00/ hr. With a 20% raise, she would make $70.80/hr to teach preschool. I'm sorry, but that's not right. If teachers became teachers because they love kids and want to truly make a difference, they should be happy with their current pay. I would love to make $59/hr and have summers off and holiday breaks.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jonathan

    Don't let the average salary fool you. I'm a first-year teacher, and we make nowhere close to that. It's veteran teachers that make that numbers seem inflated. Plus, Chicago has a very high cost of living (and you have to live in Chicago to teach there.) We work about 65 hours/week. I know people in sales that work less and make triple that number. We knew that we weren't going to get rich, but we have to eat...

    September 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gracie

      You're right about the cost of living in Chicago. Not only that, but the numbers shown aren't what teachers take home. Teachers pay for pensions, union dues, etc. So not only can salary numbers look deceiving, but we also spend a lot of our own money to furnish and supply our classrooms. It may look like we have it made it on paper, but that's not exactly the reality.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • carolyn

      i feel bad for our teachers. they go into teaching wanting to make a difference in lives of children and yes union dues cost are very high, my son paid more in union dues than he took home. ironic . but budget cuts in how well our children are to be taught is not the best way to make a better future because less teachers make it hard. but i myself home schooled 5 children after my first 2 came home from PUBLIC school with bad habits and bad language learned in the social setting of public school. hey are all very social people now yet have stronger values and work harder than if i had left them to the influences of others.

      September 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary71

      65 hours a week?? Where do you work? That's 13 hr a day! There are 4 cps teachers in my family and they don't work anywhere near 65 hrs a week. If it's so unfair, get a different job.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • taxpayer

      if you work 65 hours per week jonathan you must be a very disorganized teacher. get real. most teachers i know – and i know plenty since i've been teaching for 11 years – do a great job in about 50. those who can do, those who can't teach – and complain about it.

      September 11, 2012 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I work in sales and I work about 70 hours a week. ABC man, always be closing. If the job sucks so bad, get a different one.

      September 11, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Cindy massengale

      I am in sales and I do make much more than a teacher but I have no job security and no benefits and work about 80 hours a week. High risk and high reward but sometimes no reward. Pick your poison. You just cannot have it all, unless you are a tenured professor.

      September 11, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      I was making just a little more than half of that average and living in Chicago. Also, if what people are saying is that they are making far less than that average, that means that you will be making a whole heck of a lot more over the years.

      Comparing to a sales person is a terrible example. They take a lot of risk and often lose their jobs when they miss sales goals for two quarters (do you want to lose your job after two semesters of kids failing?). Sales people rotate through jobs at companies (lasting at most 2-3 years). If you compare to everyone else in the company – what teachers go through (low income to rising incomes) is standard. A 4% a year raise, that is NOT common. We do not offer that nor do many of the companies my friends work at (ranging in all sizes).

      Like I tell everyone else here (or any other place), if you don't like your job or your pay,etc – QUIT. If you have all that great educatioin under your belt, you can get a better job. If you are truly smart, you can find a better job. Let the demand for those positions dictate the pay. If all of you leave, they will be forced to pay higher salaries. If no one leaves, well then you need to just sit down and shut up. And please don't tell me this is your life's dream – if it were, you would just find a teaching job somewhere else. If anyone here were to 'strike' because they weren't happy, they would be fired and replaced. Your option is to try negotiating and if that fails, time to look elsewhere.

      AND – 20% more work!? Yep, we all get LOADS more work and LESS pay when the economy is in the toilet. Companies layoff people and those that are left can suck it up and do the extra work (2, 3, 4, etc people's worth) for no extra pay or find another job. Seriously... So many people are treated FAR worse than what is being offered here.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. John Robert

    Let me see, average salary is $74,839 for 9 months of work, and the union turned down a 16% increase over 4 years. GET REAL! They want no increase in health care costs. Okay, who is going to pay for the 8% increase every year for the average health plan? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, the union wants absolute job security regardless of performance. The union needs to get a taste of reality. And finally, this is in the most in-debt State, run by Democrats, in a city with a Democratic mayor and city counsel. The school system has a $645M shortfall in there budget this year, and their pension system is SIGNIFICANTLY underfunded. So the union goes on strike.......

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

      Teachers work 99% as many hours as everyone in the private sector but do it in 25% less time. Stop bashing a profession that you know nothing about. Teachers do NOT necessarily work 9 months a year either. Unbelievable.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • mcord11758

      Pro teacher guy but teachers work no where near what average people do. I do not hate them for it but let's be honest. I work 60+ hour weeks on salery wih 4 weeks vacation. My wife works 35 to40 hour wekks with about another 6 hours of working at home per week. It is not close

      September 11, 2012 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. carolyn

    there is one thing i saw on the news that does not have anything to do with the teachers strike affecting the kids, the cruising police car having to keep an eye on those same kids , AT NIGHT< where are the parents? why are the kids roaming the streets at night. oh wait, teachers can pnly baby sit for the parents 8 or 9 hours a day. therefore the kids are on their own the rest of the time even when the parents are NOT working. get those kids off the streets at night. don't complain the kids are hurt by no school in the daytime and then allow your children out running the dangerous streets at NIGHT for goodness sake.

    September 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. herosales

    74,000 grand a year, I am sure there are plenty of teachers who would like to get paid that and plus 3 months summer off and still get paid. i am sure there are teachers across the U.S at thd edge of the sofa watching this.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • mcord11758

      The income is relevant to the area you live. Teachers making less elsewhere also have a lower cost of living. Also a new higher would be making probably $20k/year less. If the average teachers sallery was $74k where I live you would need a second or third job to be able to own a house and raise a family. People do not realise how cheap it is to live in this country in some places and expensive in others

      September 11, 2012 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rahmtwo

    These people still support Democratic.. go figure!

    September 11, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. mvoci

    This is disgusting. Get your lazy butts back to work. Is the teachers union so under trained that they do not understand the national ramifications of a recession. Everyone hurts, we all share the burden, and with an average salary of 74,800, they are not hurting that back.

    Using students as leverage is entirely against the ethics of teaching to begin with. Not to mention that union created to gain fair working conditions and equal opportunity now being used to argue for more than a 4% raise over the next few years and a $20/wk increase in contributions. Please.

    Fire all of them, there are plenty of people looking for jobs.

    September 11, 2012 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
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