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. Eric

    So 75k salary, benefits, and job security that makes teachers fairly untouchable... Yea sounds like they have it horrible. If they cared about the kids like they claim and wanted them to be educated they would stop going on strike and do their damn job. It is not lack of funding. It lack of care from educators and parents and children. The teachers slack cause they aren't compensated fairly (bunch of bunk), the parents slack cause they feel like its the educators job, the children slack cause no one in their life cares between their parents and teachers.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    I'm done defending you, Chicago teachers.
    Good luck.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rae Ann Pointer

    It's for the children...

    September 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck G

      Lets see the teachers go to the private sector and make those demands...... Play them more, don't test because they all do such a great job, And only work 8-9 months a year. What a shame they have pulled off. And the people still vote straight democratic? What a crock of BS. Wise up people. Get off your lazy butts and vote to take back your rights and tax dollars. WE CAN AND ALREADY SPEND WAY TOO MUCH ON YOUR BRATS. Rae Ann needs to wake up .......

      September 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cnydmas

    Couldn't the CTU find a better spokesperson? I mean, really?

    That said, even the most well-spoken CTU talking head would have a difficult time convincing the public that this strike is justified.

    In New York it's illegal for teachers to strike, and at the same time they are protected in that the provisions of their expired contract must remain in place until resolved. That seems fair to me.

    My understanding is that the state of IL was set to pass a law that would make teacher strikes illegal there, but legislators caved to the demands of the unions who line their pockets instead.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sidewinder

    The average is nice to know, but I'd also like to hear what the high and entry level pay scales are.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS

      Entry level for as teacher straight out of college with a BS is $50,777,with a masters, $54,800. Average asfter 25 years on the job is $79,526 ith a BS; $82,899 with a masters. The numbers being thrown here are misleading.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      50K a year right out of college with good benefits is better than 90% of college grads today. Engineer and hard scientist can only expect to make in the mid- 30's right out of college with a bachelors.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hank

    Clark1v could not have said it better. Just you it's not over yet. Just wait until the auto unions do there thing and the price of
    that car you want goes up and then the teacher and everyone else will want raise because the price of that car went up and then the union for the food stores want more so the cost of bread will go up to cover that its a never ending cycle!

    September 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • BassmanUW

      Hank, the fact that you think grocery store employees have a union is both hysterical and terrifying in its ignorance.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      Bassman some states do have unions in grocery stores. I worked in a grocery store for 8 years in CA and I was union. I did not like being union but I had no choice. There are also Unions in grocery stores in CT.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Al

    Let's see... same health care benefits, a raise and guaranteed job no matter what... wow, what looney toon fantasy world are they living in? Everyone's having to make sacrifices, cops, firefighters, military, etc., why are teachers so much more important than everyone else? Tired of listening to it.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Enough

    I AM for the Teachers and against what ever the Evil Republics say about this strike.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fourleaf Tayback

      Stupid is as stupid does.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Fourleaf Tayback

    Public employee union strikes are nothing more than EXTORTION. To suggest that the government won't "treat employees fairly" with labor laws that it writes is SHEER NONSENSE. This is greed ladies and gentlemen..nothing more than greed and they are extorting the taxpayer...and making the children, whom they are supposed to teach, suffer. DEMOCRATS CONTROL YOUR PEOPLE.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DV

    Why should I, the tax payer, have to pay for all of your health benefits when I have trouble paying for my own. And I work all year long. I know that teaching is one of the most important professions in this country and that is why we have high expectations for our teachers. I also know that parents have a much more important roll in educating our children. So let's be realistic. Parents need to be much more involved and teachers need to be held accountable. You didn't become a teacher so you could get rich. If you want to be wealthy on tax payer dollars you need to become a politician.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JW

    I'm pretty pro union as I think the good outweighs the bad in many cases, but I have to say that it doesn't seem like the board of education is being very unreasonable here. I do understand the salary issues as $75k is not a huge amount in Chicago, but 16% over four years seems fair. I wish I was getting that.

    Everything else seems pretty fair minded to me. I think the teachers are a bit out of line on this one.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Are you kidding? $75K for 9 months work is very good in Chicago.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. out of work teacher

    OK, here is my solution. The "AVERAGE" pay of a teacher in Chicago is 76k per year. FIRE all the teachers. Put an offer out to the nation that teachers who are looking for work and are willing to base their tenure and subsequent raises on THEIR individual results. Offer these new teachers a 50k average starting salary with an extra incentive of up to 20k in moving and relocation expenses for the first 5 years, Then the teachers who are good get their salaries bumped back up to the 76k average, while the underpreforming teachers either get let go or get no salary increase. Simple

    September 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS

      This is the average pay after they have worked almost 25 years. Please, go and try to work with some of these kids who threaten the teachers, and come back to say they don't deserve it. Those who bish about it have generally never taught a day in their life and would not understand what a teacher IN CHICAGO goes through.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mike johnson

    ... wow ... this is fricken unreal ... currrently 75K per annum, 16 % increase next 4 years ... and max $20 per pay period for health insurance ... and they think it is unreasonable. They should all be fired

    September 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I agree! They are working, what, 9 months? Have they any idea what family health insurance costs? Fire them all and have those who choose to teach do so under a right to work contract!!!

      September 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS

      Try teaching IN CHICAGO and then come back and tell us how cushy it is. Please. You can always become one if you think it's so great.

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

      The so called "16%" is really 2% raise in addition to actually paying them for the 14% longer work day that Rahm didn't want to pay for. Also what the media isn't letting the public know that Rahms extra hour "where students are getting more math, science, reading, and arts" only adds a recess/lunch period. In reality it only adds 4 minutes to the classroom. Please tell me how that makes students smarter

      September 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brent

    Isn't this Obama's hometown? I guess he hasn't done much to help Chicago over the past 3+ years either.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mike johnson

    ... and another thing that needs changing ... deals with the public unions should be ratified by the taxpayers during general election instead by some board of politicians

    September 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
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