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. Common_sense

    the irony I see that the teachers need to do their jobs....

    September 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alan James

    What's going on in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with the turmoil of the teachers' strike is a symptom of dysfunction that comes from the way teachers are abused and faulted when students fail to master a boring, test driven curriculum that unsuccessfully tries to cram all kids into the same learning style box. The results that can be seen in almost every large urban school district throughout the US are legions of rightfully frustrated teachers and unfulfilled students who drop out because their needs were never met.
    Find out more at

    September 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    Asking for a better Education special ed students ... while exposing school administrators who test score driven should be the reason for this strike. Thus the reason behind the statement "we're doing for the kids"

    Schools being test score driven and teachers complaining about salary are covering up the real victims here; the kids.
    Kids who don't do well on test because they're aren't being taught how to understand what they have read, but rather being taught how to pass a test so schools get the big bucks.

    Teachers focusing in on protecting their jobs rather than getting to the root of protecting their job by shedding light on and picketing the real issues behind this... Downsizing classrooms, better special EDU for special needs kids , ect

    September 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cynthia

    I think if you compared the administrations wages against that of teachers most people would be shocked. Principals and Superintendents make great salaries, with little more education than a well qualified teacher. I don't know about everyone else but I want my tax money in the classrooms and going to the people who really make a difference by working with my child. Not a bunch of upper and mid-management school officials, who wouldn't know the name of a single student on their school campus.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 11B2PB4

    There seems to be a lot of disagreement over some simple to determine facts.
    Northern Illinois University (google Illinois Interactive Report Card) compiles stats for all Illinois public schools. No reason to believe they would skew anything.
    The average salary for Chicago teachers (does not include administrators) is $71,236/year. The average teacher has 13.7 years experience.

    The bachelor to masters degree ratio is 37% to 63%.

    While a masters degree sounds nice, most teachers definately don't need one to do thier job. Do you need a masters to teach a 3rd grader arithmatic or a 7th grader art?
    Even at the high school level it does not make sense. The topics you cover in a master program in chemisty, physics, math, etc are never part of a high school curriculum, they ar too advanced.

    My wife was a teacher and all teachers will tell you there is one reason they get a masters – a guaranteed raise which also means a better retirement income.

    While it is true they don't get Social Security, they were given the option to be part of but opted out.
    Also in IL, teachers get a 5% discount of thier health insuranced premium in retirement for every year worked. If you teach for 20 years, you have no health insurance premium when you retire. Who else gets that?

    $70k+ for a 180 day work year sounds very reasonable to me.

    I live in a district where our teachers average about $56k. Our middle school was just awarded National Blue Ribbon School status by the US Dept. of Education (one of 216 school nationwide). Chicago schools can barely pass any standardized test.

    Quit complaining about not being treated well and get back inthe classroom and do SOMETHING.

    September 12, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott W.

      Well said my friend, 100% agree.

      September 13, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. JW

    I find it disingenious when people say, “We want job security;" you and everyone else. The reality is that security comes from how well you perform. Teachers commonly retort, "there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform," and, once again, the reality is that everyone else has to deal with factors beyond their control too!! Talk to one of the millions of people looking for work, and chance are they will say they are looking for security and probably lost their job due to factors beyond their control.

    September 12, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    Average salary of a Chicago Union Teacher $76,000
    Average Income of a Chicago Taxpayer $46,000
    Raise that the Teachers Union Wants 16%
    Percentage of 4th grade Chicago students who are proficient in reading 15%
    Percentage of Chicago High School students who graduate 56%
    Does the teachers union want them to be evaluated on their performance NO!
    Can you say GET BACK TO WORK...

    September 12, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott W.

      I agree with this 100%. In comparison to Chicago and the rest of the region these teachers have it pretty good in my opinion. This strike is more of an orchestrated football game seeing how strikers seem more interested in seeing how many people they can get to honk horns and wave poms-poms in the air than making the public aware of the key issues for the strike. I don't feel they are genuinely concerneed about education as much as they are having a party. I get the sense that most probably don't even know what they are striking for. Education is horrible in Chicago. And yeah, you can point the finger of socioeconomics and environmental issues, but it is beyond that. I believe if you are a good teacher they can change that and make the student want to learn and be active in their education. I was this child and because of great teachers I excelled. The evaluation process should stay and is not unreasonable. Why do we want our kids to learn from a poor teacher? A 56% graduation rate is unacceptable and you can't just blame that on the environment of the student. Get back to work!

      September 12, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Well said Jim and good to put numbers to back it up. for 76k they shoudl work year round like most of us moes that earn that or less....and if they get the 16% raise it only underlines that more. GET BACK TO WORK and stop asking for unrealistic job security. If GM closes a factory those workers aren't set up with a job at another plant. Why do you feel you should have that?

      September 12, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      Wow – the Gangsters of Chicago are finally feeling the heat from the America people... VOTE ROMNEY 2012.

      September 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moose Drooler

      I am a 7th grade teacher in Montana. Why should MY salary & benefits be based on a child that has innumerable problems at home/life? Or how about the child that just doesn't give a rat's fanny? No amount of drilling it into their head by any means will get them to become proficient. They, and their parents, just don't care? Yes, they just don't care. No one at home is telling them how important an education is.

      They just don't give a rat's petut.

      September 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Sue......You have it made Girl!!!!!....I have 1 security guard at our school........1 nurse=comes in 1 a week......We have no School wide discipline plan=set up by administration and approved by the board....... Kids per classroom avg=35 per class in a 100 year old building with no AIR Conditioning=Start school first week of August. Gee What else here, oh yeah, we live on the borderline of two major gangs.......uhhmmmmm.........and I do not get paid $75000 a year.....I've been teaching for 10 years now........Let this be a lesson to you all....If you don't know, ask. If you do than you are an ignorant ass.........That's it for the lesson today

      September 12, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      What the hell do you know about pretty good.....huh.....Have you taught at CPS???? if you didn't than keep your comments to yourself. Spend a day with one child and tell me how bad your day was. Spend it with a CPS child and I will applaud you.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Another misinformed soul...\
      Teachers make $ 71,200 after 13.7 years of teaching......first of all
      Average Chicagoan makes over 47,000 a year......
      16% raise wasn't not determined by Teachers......Rahm hired an independent arbitrator that determined this was a fair raise (He didn't argue the fact that we made too much.......Wanna call him) Rahm agreed........
      *2011 Year-Highest gains in the Chicago Public School System....No thanks to the board.....
      Our overall scores for grades 4-8th went up from 8 years ago at school wide 19% to 72% even with Chicago Board's Century old Policy that All students pass in grades 4th, 5th, and 7th....Gee I bet you didn't know that about Chicago Public Schools. Yes, all kids pass no matter what......they may give you the finger too because they know......Wait, this can possibly explain the 56% graduation
      oh Yeah, that
      71200 does not include 17 extra hours per week of grading papers, planning and calling parents about their kids discipline....Our school has a Board Approved No School wide Discipline Plan......I hope this puts things in perspective for you all...........Come teach here and see how bad you have it now???

      September 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      hasholes.... Yeah, this is exactly the type of person I want teaching our children. Sounds like she has a miserable day every day at work. I'm sure that helps matters a great deal. "Waiting on Superman"... Good teachers are heroes. Are you a good teacher? If you are, what percentage of teachers would you say are bad teachers? How can we get rid of bad teachers if they are not evaluated in any way? It is basically the only profession where you can just completely suck and not risk getting fired (not all regions but definately ones where teacher unions are very strong). Like "Waiting on Superman" concludes, it isn't about the children, it's about the adults....

      September 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Scott

    Just go back to work. I think it is a good idea to have an evaluation system for teachers. Just because you have a degree in teaching does not me you know what you are doing. Also if it seems to me that alot of them are worried about there jobs if that gets passed since alot of them may suck.

    You picked this as a career. So man up and do it. If you do not like your job find another where you have it easier than you do now and get all of the time off you do now with pay.

    September 12, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Than why go to College?????? Than why teach? Your education is a result of your wisdom???

      September 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim Vaentine

    Seems like they want jobs for life with no risk of anything. Totally opposite from the free enterprise system.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      That's why you work the system that makes the 1% should get off the internet and go on strike.........

      September 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SRJ

    So sad that Chicago teacher have to perform for pay increases and will actually be held accountable to doing a good job. Welcome to the rest of the world, get back to work.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. SRJ

    Teacher compensation for new teachers is lower, but work there for a few years. Not a bad gig when you make more than the average person in the district you work in, get a pension from the tax payers and get to enjoy your multiple vacations. Anyone else on this blog, who's not a teacher, and gets the summer off? I weep for our children, not overpaid, underworked teachers. If it's so bad go to work in the private sector. Funny, none of them ever do, unless it's after they've reached pension age and can draw that and a new salary.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Gina

    Stop saying this is about pay. Yes that is one of the issues. But this is more in depth and complicated than any of you non teachers understand. This is about blaming teachers for everything that is wrong in public schools. Yes, they have bad test scores. Is that solely the fault of teachers, no! I teach in a very upper middle class high school district. We have great scores, fantastic. My father taught 5 miles away in a urban, low income, high population of non English speakers and his test scores were low. Some of his students arrived to his class five days after arriving to this country. Guess what? His scores were way lower than mine, and we taught the exact same subject with the same standards. I am not a better teacher than him, we just have a different socio economic demographic.

    This is not black and white. Do not reduce this to a bunch of teachers wanting more money. This is about trusting the people who are educated and professional that are given the responsibility to teach your children to read!! If you want to attract well educated, professionals to teach your kids compensate them for it. We are not in Ancient Greece people, I need to pay my bills, I need to live close to the school I teach in. Living in Orange County is NOT cheap. I did not become a teacher to make a ton of money, but I also did not become a teacher to live a life of poverty or low income. We are professionals and deserve to be trusted and paid as such.

    By the way, before any of you wonder why I am not teaching right now, this is the passing period, there are no students in my classroom right now.

    September 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Gina, so true. The individuals criticizing teachers don't realize that most teachers have more education than they have and may one day have to compete with a teacher for their job. As I'm sure most teachers are way more qualified than the average joe out there.....

      September 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Appalled

      Gina, I agree with you for the most part. Most teachers should not be blamed for their students' failure. My mother, father and aunt are all elementary school teachers, and I am currently earning my Bachelor's in Elementary Education. My mother's school has the highest test scores in our county, and my father's has horribly low scores. My mother teaches in the suburbs and most of the parents put time and effort into their children's education. My father teaches in Atlantic City, enough said.

      I don't think that your argument applies to this article. The teachers in this video are not "educated and professional".

      September 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DJones

    The teachers salaries are way out touch with reality. Teachers should be paid about the same as people with similar levels of education who work similar hours and they should get about the same job security and benefits. In the real world if someone is willing to do your job for less than you do it and they do it better than you do it you need to fear loosing your job. As such states should use the voucher system, and let Christian and Private schools compete for the privilege of educating our children.

    September 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim Taff

    Doesn't sound like the teachers are concerned about the kids, These greedy, selfish teacher unions are ruining our education system and our kids future. Someone in this country better wake..... this so sad.

    September 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sue

    Those that say this is not about pay may be right – but what this strike suggests is that teachers believe themselves above so many other individuals that work very hard and also help to shape individuals and keep processes moving forward but do not make anywhere near $76,000, DO NOT have job security, DO NOT have pensions, DO NOT have excellent benefits and DO PAY a lot more for the benefits they have. During these times of economic crisis, teachers appear to have no sensitivity to all of the hard workers with or without more education than teachers that have lost their jobs, faced financial ruin and are trying to get their lives back.....or no sensitivity to those that face performance evaluations ever year without a pay increase and have also had their salaries reduced. A teacher is a chosen profession, not a contract for life for security....In the real world of today, employees must perform at their highest level, work more hours than ever before and be successful every day or they will be replaced. Everyone of these employees would love to have a "contract for life". This strike is shameful especially in light of todays economic situation that is hurting so many individuals.

    September 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
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