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. Stephen

    Another issue is Health Care?? Let them have BarrackOCare!! That should put the nail in the coffin!

    September 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Teacher

    Teaching is an extremely difficult career – I have been in private sector (business) and now teaching for eight years. Teaching is stressful and goes way beyond an eight hour day. I have 130 students – that's 130 papers to grade almost on a daily basis. When I was in business at least when you leave the office you are done. Don't forget parent phone calls, professional development and all sorts of accountability paperwork. In Florida, the average salary is 40K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stop whining

    To all Chicago teachers...
    You are public servants, paid by taxpayers. Your job is important, but so are a lot of other public servants' jobs. Your job is hard, but not harder than others,
    Compare your hours, pay, work conditions and quality of life with servicemen and women serving in the middle east.
    If they had your deal, they'd be THRILLED.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • slackeyj

      Stopyourwhining and multiple others,
      I am a service member who has served over seas. I work long, hard hours daily when I am stateside and not deployed. I make a hell of a lot more money than most of the teachers I know who have the exact same level of education. I started out earning teachers with master's degrees and 30 years of experience in the same school district I grew up in when with my very first promotion and I am only talking about my base pay and not including any of the benefits, health care, etc I get compensated for yearly. Before you presume to speak for us service members wanting to take the place of American teachers go ahead and educate yourself. We get paid failry for what we do and few people argue military officers should make less money. Teachers, who also provide an invaluable service to this country, should be compensated fairly as college educated professionals just like military officers. So many parents use public schools as free day-care with little to no regard for their own children's education how on Earth are teacher's supposed to be held accountable for the child's performance. Why not start making parents pay more for a child who recieves C's and pay less the better their child performs to stay in school? I bet no one likes that idea and parents are infinately more likely to influence a child's educational outcomes than even the best, most knowledgable and hard working teacher.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. William

    The record shows that the Chicago schools are failing. The teachers are overpaid and have no accountability. The results speak for themselves. Everything else is just hot air. Yes, we know that the job is not easy in every case and that parents could do a better job. But nothing will improve until you improve the quality of the teachers. All non-union jobs require accountability and performance. And yet one of our most important careers (teachers) has none.

    I have two sons that loved school until we moved to Memphis and their poor teachers turned them off instantly. We were at the school daily talking to the principal and the teachers, but the unions and lack of responsibility won in the end. These terrible teachers continue today (10 years later) turning off hundreds of students. This is a problem nationwide driven by the unions. Until unions are gone, this problem will just get worse and the communities will pay a terrible price, much worse than the inflated salaries.

    September 13, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • slackeyj

      Better methods of evaluating teachers exist than standardized testing. Standardized testing is biased towards a white, upper-middle class demongraphic. Any school district falling outside of that demographic then attempts to teach to the test to the detriment of all students. Student performance does not neccessarily indicate a teacher's ability.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. christina

    I am not a public school teacher, but it seems to me that there are just some children out there who are not interested in learning. In Arizona, my sister-in-law took her kids out of school and enrolled them online because they have 35 kids per class and they weren't learning anything. When you force evaluations based on standardized testing you end up with teachers having to teach to the lowest common denominator. And that lowest common denominator includes gang members and drug users. Why can't we just fail them out anymore? There needs to be higher standards of learning in this country and if you don't want to make an effort then you fail! I am tired of the mentality that everyone should get a trophy and "nice effort". That is horse ... Teachers should be doing their jobs, but they should be able to challenge the students not just "pass them"

    September 13, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dan B

    I want job security – 10,000 a month while working and full beenfits also – I have an MBA and find it amazing that these teachers, With Tenure and a 9 month working window are fighting for more, when many of us are fighting to not loose more.

    September 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • slackeyj

      Dan B,
      Then go teach take that M.B.A. and get a teaching credential and teach. Come back in 10 years and tell me if you are signing that same tune.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rick B

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

    September 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie Jackson

      We don't care when anyone else protest but we turn on the teachers right away pathetic.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KB

    I would love to know where the media gets it's stats for these articles. I have yet to meet a CPS teacher who makes, $76,000. The only way a teacher in CPS could make that much money is if they had been teaching for 13 years and had a masters degree. A teacher right out of college would start out making $49,000, which isn't that much more than other school districts. Further, the end of the pay lane schedule caps off under $90,000 and you can only make that much money if you had a doctorate and had been teaching for a decade, and that in the most you can make. The end of the pay lanes in the suburbs reach $125,000, and in some districts more than that. All salaries are public record, so do some investigation before you spew hatred about inaccurate information. Additionally, consider the source that is giving you the information, and their inner agenda.
    First, teachers are not fighting against evaluations, but it is the process of the evaluations

    September 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      no they are greedy, they make double their private sector counterparts. Unions are useless in toady's age and do nothing but cost us a ridiculous amount of tax dollars. A sixteen percent pay raise over four years you got to be kidding me, thats obnoxious they dont deserve any raise with the way our nations education system has performed

      September 14, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Eicking

      So, teachers right out of school should make, How much? Benefits, lets take a walk and ask people about their benfits. Evalutions, I agree with them, should not be based on student scores. But in all give then 2 days to show up and if they don't replace them.

      September 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • StephenB

      Stop comparing school districts to each other. They're the ones jacking up the price on everyone in the first place. One district gets a pay raise, suddenly the other districts believe they too deserve a raise. Compare a kid right out of college with other kids. Most kids right out of college don't start off at $50K/year and NONE of them only work 6 – 7 months of the year. When you count the number of days teachers actually work, it's not the same. They're getting paid $50K + to work about 6 to 7 months. You can't compare teachers to everyone else. Everyone else has to work all year round.

      September 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS mom

      Look ar CPS teacher salary yourself:

      September 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie Jackson

      Hey rob is everyone else who protest greedy are fat cats greedy, koch brothers, sports players, refs, why turn on the teachers so fast.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb

      Rob – teachers deserve every dime they get! They are brining up the next generation. They should make double their salary!

      September 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • incognito

      @StephenB: Teachers do not work only 6-7 months out of the year, students go to school for 7-9 months out of the year. During the summer "break" teachers spend the entire time planning curriculum for their next year students and they teach summer school, run sporting activities, get all of the materials they will need thoughout the year and take required refresher courses that update current curriculum. It is a common misconception that teachers get a 3 month break during the summer. In all actuality, they may get about a week to relax which is less that most people get for vacation every year.

      I don't know why people are complaining about their tax dollars being put toward education. So you think that cutting funding hurts the teachers? It doesn' hurts the students. The reason schools are having a hard time providing an adequate education is because the expectations are constantly being raised and funding is constantly being cut. Just recently Texas, in a last minute decision, cut over 4 Billion dollars in public education funding. How do you think that impacted schools? It caused rooms to be over-crowded because thousands of teachers had to be fired. It forced schools to use outdated books, and sometimes not have enough books to even go around. Imagine how well you would learn if you were stuffed into a room like sardines, and your school didn't have enough money to fix the AC during 110 degree weather?

      Don't blame the teachers, blame the backwards logic. "Oh, public schools are doing poorly? Lets take their funding away and see if they get their act together."

      September 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jamessavik

    We're run by people throwing away money. The teachers just want a piece of the action.

    September 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie Jackson

      so true we have a lot of greed going on but people think it's only the teacher who are greedy and instead of doing alittle homework they mindlessly attack them now I'm not to fond of protesting but sometimes things need to be done to get a response.

      September 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    That's why Chicago has over 150,000 gang members in the city. How many of them are School Teachers? Don't given in Chicago!!! Do like President Reagan did with the Air Traffic Controllers and hire new teachers! You can't tell me that fat teacher who is always showing her face on TV is good at anything other than eatting donuts.

    September 14, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. Linda Richard

    The average teacher salary is $74,839. That's about what my husband and I make together- and we have 30 years experience as Pastors and a Masters Degree. I am tired of hearing about poor under-paid teachers. They deserve a good salary, but I'll bet 3 folks in the general public would be happy to split that average salary. I have some sympathy for unions but at times like this I think greed is wrong in any form.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      Linda, Many congregations supply their pastors with homes, does yours? If you are supplied with a home than you and your husband are making more than the 30,000 you stated. It is a crime on how we value our children in this country and the people who take care of them. I wonder how often the various members of this blog have stepped foot inside a classroom to help their local school district. I have read numerous paragraphs of accusations of greed and name calling but I have not heard any suggestions for positive change. Education is a complicated system with many members. I have noticed that people equate teaching with a vow a poverty. The last time I looked a strike takes two sides. I have also noticed that when there are two sides one side is always made out to be the villian and the other side is always made out to the saint. It takes two sides to compromise. Compromise, by definition, each side gives and each side takes. This fight isn't about evil unions, greedy teachers, or politicians. This argument is about the education of children in a population that has detrimental problems. We need to show these children that we as a society care about them, want them to succeed in life, and will support them in all their endeavors. We as a society need to look at ourselves and wonder what type of message we are sending to our children. We pay our ball players millions of dollars (the majority are horrendous role models) but our pastors 30,000?, teachers (in Chicago 70,000). That is not the message that I want my own children to know

      September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John B

    I agree with many others who have made comments that any teacher who remains on strike should be replaced! They are lucky that they have a job. When and where does this B.S. end?

    September 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dean Ford

    The 3rd highest paid state for teachers are in Chicago, and they make min starting at 65k........way more than most other states, and they are crying cause they don't get paid enough........SELFISH i would say, what about the kids, and my word i have never saw so many FAT WOMEN IN MY LIFE.

    September 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Suzy Daley

    Stephen B
    How do you figure teachers only work 6-7 months a year!? You cannot add, evidently. I do not know a school system in the country that does not work a minimum of 9 months of the year. Also, you tell me a job where a "college kid" with a Master's Degree does not earn the same. Assuming they get a job in the area in which they earned said Master's Degree. I have been teaching 27 years now in a school system in Ohio. I love my career. I started with a bachelor's degree, making $15,000 a year. My day does not end when I leave my school building. I take time out of my evening to grade papers, and several hours are spent on the weekends doing school work. I am not complaining, and never have. I also am not complaining about my salary. But why is everyone suddenly calling me GREEDY?? I work very hard for my pay. I support my two sons, make my house payment and car payment, work an after-school tutoring job and a summer job just to be independent. And I am called GREEDY? I am so tired of being insulted and having people suddenly trashing my way of life and my career. I am doing what I love, and I just don't understand the hatred coming at the teaching professing suddenly from all over this country, simply because we are unionized. The economy tanks and suddenly people are jealous that I have decent benefits. And I know a LOT of people in the private sector with EXCELLENT benefits! I went to college and prepared for a GOOD career....maybe you didn't.....get over it!

    September 15, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Freedom

    Chicago teachers are paid more than any others by people that make less than they do, taxpayers do not get paid healthcare and huge retirements. Fourth graders can't read or spell, teachers work approx. 9 months a year and get huge benefits. Greedy union bosses make huge salaries and take the rest not to help their members but to pay off corrupt politicians.

    On Union leader once said "I will start fighting for the children's interest when they start paying dues." That pretty much says it all.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
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