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. Curious

    How may weeks of vacation do teacher's have with $75K base in average? Just curious.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      To answer your question, Curious, ZERO. Summers off is a myth. We spend SO much time during the school year working passed our contracted hours. Most teachers I know arrive an hour to two hours prior to the students' arrival and stay hours afterward working. Then, we take our work home with us during nights and weekends to lesson plan, evaluate, grade papers, communicate with the parents and families of over 30 children, attend workshops, fill out paperwork, attend meetings, complete continuing education credits, and go to technology seminars. If someone works about 70 hours a week during the school year, don't you think a little time off to keep from going crazy is warranted? I do.

      But WAIT....everyone I know works over the summer! Teachers DO work via tutoring, summer school, and heck, I even wait tables at TWO restaurants and tutor to supplement my measly income. Do you understand how much of that salary (which by the way is no where NEAR $75K...trying cutting that into a third) is spent paying for school supplies and buying breakfast for the children I teach who cannot afford to eat? Or paying for books so my students can read interesting literature because my district doesn't pay for them?

      I have NO time for my family or friends. Instead, I spend what little spare time I have defending myself to hateful, ignorant, mean-spirited people like you who have never walked a mile in my shoes.

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

      Oh and one more thing....some of the key issues not mentioned here involved in the strike is reducing classroom size to benefit the students, so that all of their individual needs are met and they have the opportunity to learn and flourish. The media conveniently forgot to include that. Or how about including air conditioning and breakfast programs so that students can learn in the most healthy and ideal of conditions?! Nope, that point also was failed to mention.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclingbob

      Curious: FYI A teacher working in Chicago @ $75,000 is getting $375 a day based on 200 working days. I teach in NM so I am not sure as to how many days are in a CPS calendar year. If that teacher were paid like the rest of the world and were made to work 351 days with 14 days un paid vacation their salary would = $131,625. Now think of it this way, if you sent your child to day care @ lets say figure low @ $5.00 per kid per day and we paid teachers that amount for the kids they saw lets say 180 kids a day x 200 days that equals $180,000. Seems like the people of Chicago are getting a great deal for the $75,000. Day care does not teach reading, writing and arithmatic or suppy ANY intracurricular or extracurricular activites. Again, before you complain, walk one day in the shoes of those you are judging.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclingbob

      Nicole I agree. I see 192 kids a day.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rubout


      Your comments are the usual exaggerations about teachers working over summer or arriving early to work. Get a new story this one is old and tired. In NJ teachers often surf the internet during open periods and not for lesson plans. Teacher’s convention in November is often an excuse to go on a vacation to the Caribbean. Yes amazingly enough NJ still has paid time off for teacher’s convention. Summers are spent on a second job. And not because they need the money but only because they can take a summer job while the rest of us in the real economy must work to pay the exurbanite salaries and benefits of public sector workers.

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

      Rubout: No.It is the reality of a teacher in Chicago. CHICAGO. Not NJ, Not NM, CHICAGO. The sooner you realize conditions are not the same at every district in every state, the better.

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

      heres a solution – fix the student classroom conditions. forget the raises. i was a teacher for 10 years – private sector does not get guaranteed raises.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • nimrod

      OK, cyclingbob, I'm willing to follow your example. If you "see" 180 children per day, there must be at least five other teachers who see the same 180 kids, so you would only be responsible for 1/6 of their time, so let's divide the $180,000.00 by six and give you your $30,000.00. Logic such as yours makes me glad I don't have kids in school, but concerns me for our nation's future, for if you can't see the flaw in your premise, you certainly have no business attempting to help children learn to think.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • cps

      nimrod over here missed the part where $5 was ridiculous steal for day care without the benefits of their babysitters teaching also.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes pun intended...ha
      I see 125 kids per day as cyclingbob does......680 yearly......125 students x $15 avg. babysitting salary pay per 7 hours 5 days a week........Do you see where I'm going with this.......You probably did not spend much time in your math class.....1/6???????????????????????

      September 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Curious, I'm glad you are....
      The reason the system is set up this way so, high school kids can get jobs in the summer...I'm sure you had one too.......It also prevents student and teacher burnout.........I would love to know how you would handle one child for 7 hours a day as compared to 125 per day as I see.....680 per year.....You think our jobs are easy....You have no clue

      September 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shawn

    $76k in Chicago is probably about equal to $56k in small towns, which is pretty reasonable pay. I think they should be happy with what they got. There's plenty of people with teaching degrees out of work so they can be replaced if they don't like it.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclingbob

      Gov. Romney and Sen Ryan must have taught you math?

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

      I have yet to make $40,000 a year with a masters, 8 years teaching. I've been assaulted, cursed at by students and parents, paid for classroom materials myself, and I do work in the summer. For all of you who have all the answers . . . go spend a week at your local high school. If you still feel the same way after, I can at least respect your opinion, but until you have a clue . . .

      September 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      Lisa, I am sorry you have hard working conditions. So do a lot of us. That doesn't mean we get to not show up to work on Monday. At least the students and parents don't sign your paycheck. I have had many bosses who were difficult, and I have had to suck it up and still perform despite, because I needed to keep my job.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. City On a Shining Hill

    Of course, private and parochial school teachers earn only about 30-40k a year, don't have a lifetime pension or 100% paid health insurance, and job security.

    What they do have is the satisfaction of treating their students with respect, bringing God and moral values into the classroom, and having those students outperform their public school peers 2 to 1 on standardized testing, and readiness for college and the work world. And, saving tax payers the high taxes paid for educating our kids.

    Yes, it is about the kids after all!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclingbob

      And the classes are 15 to 1 TPR. Last I checked I pay 1/2 of my pention and a large portion of my health care premium. Compare apple to apples. In NM our public schools perform as well as the private. We just cant pick and choose our students. Try getting your child with special needs into a parocial or private school. We have to educate everyone, not the elite top 1%.

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

      The reality of Chicago is not the same as NM, nor is the student to teacher ration. The reality is much different here in CHICAGO.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Let's not drag God into this.....its a Public School for the love of

      September 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael

    These teachers should be fired and hire real non union workers! Almost $75,000 a year for a part time (9 month job)? Who gets jog security in the real world? Why shouldn't a teacher lose a job if they can't score well on a basic test? Why should they be allowed to teach our children if they can't pass their own tests? Of course, after so many years, they get near full retirement? Who is getting that these days except government "workers". I'd fire them all and hire whomever chooses to work.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Michael, see my reply to Curious. Stop spewing your poisonous, hateful, misinformed rhetoric before you walk a mile in the shoes of a teacher. I'm praying for you.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Augie March

      It's clear you've never actually worked as a teacher, particularly in an urban setting.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyclingbob

      Michael you are as ignorant as the day is long. Part time job? Really? Last I checked I work a full day every day of my contract. My summers are not paid vacation. Please look at my earlier post and do the math yourself. That is assuming you can do math!

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

      Michael, the tests are taken by the students, not the teachers. Wow, you must have ridden the short bus.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rubout


      Stop the condescending BS!

      "... I'm praying for you."

      September 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Another misinformed soul......jesus where you all born in one place..???

      71,200 per 13.7 years in the service......
      Let's mentioned that our CPS system only has less than 20% of teachers over 5 years of teaching.........

      September 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Elva

    Try teaching in the Chicago school system for a few days. $75K might not seem too much...

    September 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      then don't teach

      September 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      @Chris: by that recommendation, we would have no teachers at all because no one would want to deal with all of this nonsense and how will that help anything?

      September 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • flyboy

      If $75,000 isn't enough for the job – see if you can find another job in this economy.

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

      It is always about the money.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bob

    Just fire all these teachers!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gina

      I'm assuming if they do fire all those teachers, you will be the first to sign up to become a teacher since you know so much about the profession.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      I think he is a plumber.......good luck

      September 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. cps

    CPS teachers must live in the city where the cost of living is much higher already. I believe New York has teachers making 100k but cost of living there is even higher. The school board is also asking for teachers to teach 1 hour more every school day for the entire year. Teachers have been putting in hours outside of the class room for years with planning, grading, and coaching and the board wanted even more with no compensation. I work 11-12hr days on average between teaching and coaching (doesn't include the planning/grading I do once I get home or on weekends) and get paid for 6.25hrs last year and 7.5 (same salary as last year but longer day so hourly was cut)

    September 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rubout

      Teachers work 6 hrs a day, 185 days a year. If you coach after school you get extra $. If you occasionally need to do a few hours of work at home TOO BAD! Poor thing sometime you may actually have to work an 8 hr day!

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

      @ Rubout Where do teachers work 6 hours a day??? Please post specific data about location – I'd love to cut my work time in half.

      September 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cps

      your right i get paid...$1200 stipend for approx. 350-400 hrs of coaching...i coach because i enjoy it and I want to provide the same opportunities some one gave me. I dont do it just for the money.

      September 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gold Finger

      Rubout. Get a clue. That is just the contact time spent with students. Most teachers spend 10 hours a day or more getting ready for class.

      September 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes have it
      I get $625 for 250 hours of work....I also do this for fun and the kids....
      I do get shot at different schools with my kids which adds to the fun......

      September 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. m0tzilla

    Way to put the kids first teachers.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bob

    Don't know what is the base for asking 16% increase for next 4 years? With current economical conditions, how can you expect 16% increase in your pay? Do you mean we will need to pay 16% more Tax in 4 years? Fire all these teachers, all of them!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ryan

    As a Chicago resident this is a complete and total joke. Another black eye for what used to be a great city. CPS is a laughing stock and many couples move out of the city when they have children into the suburbs and you consistently hear "the schools" as the #1 reason.

    But they want more money and less accountability. Ah yes, the "new" American way.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Cronies and Politicians make money off of you.......What does that say about you??

      September 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DeeDee

    Someone should have asked the really tough questions before hiring Jean Claude Brizzard in Chicago. Such as why he, as City School Superintendent here in Rochester, was forced into an early termination of his contract with the City. We had the same problem here and most of us are still upset about his "Golden Parachute" early termination deal. I'm not a teacher, just a Rochester City School taxpayer and we didn't get what we paid for,and the problems here were the same. The man just doesn't get it. The blame doesn't just rest with the teachers. Mr. Brizzard lives in a fantasy land.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mary

    Nobody really has job security these days. Why should they?
    Not saying it wouldn't be nice to have, but they are no better than anyone else, and should receive no guarantee of a job if their's is eliminated.
    Let them go, with resume in hand, to interviews at other schools. That's what we all have to do. If they are good enough, they should find another teaching job.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • hasholes

      Why shouldn't people have security after paying taxes all their lives, teachers taking out 100000 loans to pay for school, and hard work put into the system. Has the private sector screwed your mind with this work hard for nothing philosophy???? Stand up and fight for your right. I bust/busted my butt to become a teacher and to have some Money Hungry Cronie Emmanuel degrade my profession and our kids seem fair to you???? Fire me then and pay my loans off!!!! Than you can have my job and we will be having this conversation in less than a month of you working.....I would say a week....correction

      September 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fish

    The average is 75k, that doesn't mean a teacher makes 75k. I know I don't. After ten years teaching, I bring home about 40k after taxes... 40k, and I pay taxes in the city. In an expensive city like Chicago 40k for a very well educated teacher isn't much at all. I'd like to see the politicians survive on 40k, and link their pay to merit pay.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS

      THANK you!

      September 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rubout


      I know this will come as a shock to you but; YOU DO NOT PAY TAXES YOU ARE PAYED FROM TAXES. I work in the private sector I PAY TAXES YOU GET PAID FROM MY CONTRIBUTIONS. Got it?

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

      I work 8 hour days teaching in an area that is pretty expensive to live in. I make $29,000 a year. I work year round. I have a Masters Degree. I work with all kinds of kiddos. While I do feel overall that teachers are underpaid (masters degree and 15 years and I make $29000 a year!) I also feel that I went into teaching for other reasons. I wish we made more. I wish it was easier, but it is teaching.....

      September 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lahdee Dah

      @ Rubout Your statements are the best argument I've read for the need for a longer school day and calendar. Your level of ignorance is astounding.

      September 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gold Finger

      Rubout is a tea bagger. He thinks he is special and that money just appears in his hand. He thinks because he sells a vacuum cleaner that he invented the vacuum cleaner. Teachers teach students how to do jobs. They teach them how to invent and make vacuum cleaners that you sell.

      September 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. chris

    then quit teaching.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Real World

      Interesting how Obama and Co keep shrieking about EVERYONE paying their fair share....I have no problem with that, but the Unions should be held to that same standard, to pay at least in the same ballpark what THE REST OF US PAY into our health and retirement benefits. And being held accountable for your performance? Jeez, what a terrible concept....Seems like I heard of that before.. Oh yeah, EVERYWHERE ELSE. 12 weeks off overy year sounds like a pretty good gig to pull down an average salary of $74k per year....

      September 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gina

      Well, since we make so much money and have such a great job maybe you should ask yourself why you are NOT a teacher. Join us and see what it's really like before judging us.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gina

      Will you take his/her position then? It seems like you know what you're talking about and know exactly what it's like in the classroom. Sarcasm intended.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kristal


    If you think the grass is greener, go somewhere else.

    Good luck finding a job that pays above the average income in Chicago, gives you three months off a year, and where you can go on "strike" regarding job security–something else none of us have.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • lol

      Looks like someone is ready to home-school their kids.

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

      Hello!!!! The starting salary for new teachers is in the 30k range, then you have your 100k student loans, then you work 50-60 hours with no compensation, then you purchase school supplies for kids out of your pocket and then they try to fire you because of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. If test scores are low, blame the lazy parents that do not help their kids.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • R U Xenophobic

      Are you anti immigrant and anti black? There will be no blaming lazy parents for low test results, high drop out rates, high illegitimate birth rates, skyrocketing crime and incarceration rates, high unemployment rates, and all the other social maladies Chicago faces. We just need more social programs paid for by the rich and administered by great men like community organizer Barack Obama.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
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