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. Concerned Parent

    Why are people making a big deal about a %4 raise per year when the teachers are being asked to work %20 more for the year. Simple math means the teachers are taking a 16% paycut.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      and still overpaid even with the cut.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • TEACHERS

      Teachers and the general government workforce, seem to forget that they work for the school districts, not the school districts working for them. If you want more beneftis, money, job security etc.. QUIT.. no one is forcing you to be a school teacher.. Will you find a job.... where you get paid a 12 month salary and only have to work 6 months a year. NO... quit gripping.... about long hours.. most professionals work longer hours than your and DONT GET PAID for their time.... only government workers get this so I suggest you be glad for what you have and that you even have a job...

      September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned Parent

      You are correct, Teachers work for the school districts who happen to be the tax payers. Guess what...All chicago teachers are taxpayers who have to live in the city of chicago. So when 30,000 taxpayers are NOT OK with the appointed school board then listen to the tax payers and not people complaining from outside the city.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DouginCali

    Stop complaining about teachers and become one. If you think the job is so rosy, put yourself through school, spend 50 grand to get your degree, credential and masters and start riding the gravy train.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gkibarricade

      I would. Do you have to study education to become a teacher? I'm studing Engineering. I feel confident I have all the skills necessary to teach.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lagos

      Yay, lack of context. I've posted facts regarding the ridiculous rates Chicago teachers are paid vs the rest of the nation, taking into account cost of living. They're also paid substantially more than private sector public service workers you can play the "LOOK AT ALL THE GOOD THEY DO" card with such as nurses, general practice doctors, etc.

      Hint: Everyone that wants a decent job needs to get a degree or very lucky, spend 50 grand to get their degree. Not many are getting 55k+ out of the gate with no experience, and very very few of those are getting annual cost of living increases, and get to be immune to health insurance premium increases that are a result of policies supported by the unions they're paying to represent them. Do some basic research.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPS

      I have not read one fact from you; only supposition. Further, unless you have been in the trenches of the everyday reality of the CHICAGO public schools, your facts are meaningless. Please tell me which CPS you are currently teaching in, and then I may give credence to something you say.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • 30,000 School Teachers

      What is that less than 1% of tax paypers in Chicago??, if you have a grip with the school board, they you (teachers) need to deal with that and and quit putting your burdens and petty, greedy crys on 99% of the rest of the tax payers and a life time of tax dependency on the kids you are so called teaching. Chicago is no different than any other big city.. every state every district has their challenges... Los Angeles I think has more students than Chicago has tax payers... do you really think Chicago has to deal with any issue LA, Oakland, NYC, Detroit... etc.. hasn't already?

      September 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gkibarricade

    Posted this as reply. I thought it would be good enough for a comment:

    As a teacher it is your job to get the students to do well. Does the hot dog guy blame the meat company for selling bad hotdogs? Sure, parent involvement would make better students. However, that is not within your control. If I was a teacher I would force all students to do well. Call the parents everyday. Stay with students till 8-10 PM. Saturday tuturing. Online study chats. Is it hard? Sure it is but, not impossible. Do you want to be the the hotdog guy who says: "hey, I just put the hotdog in the bun" or the one who says:"I guarantee this is the best Hotdog you will ever eat"

    September 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Augie March

      Gkibarricade, you're apparently unaware that many teachers do this already. In some cases they're required.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. smdahl

    Congrats to the teachers for having the guts to stand up! I hope this spreads all over the nation. Don't pay any attention to the negative comments…they're always here at Corporate News Network;)

    September 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Green

      It's not about having guts. It's about government workers who aren't held accountable for excellence like those who work in the private sector. If I "demanded" what they're demanding, I'd be gone. I actually have to perform and I still get no guarantee.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonny b Good

      It is pretty nice out today. I do not like the grey days, these sunny days make me smile. What aout you? All you need is love, love, love; Love is all you need.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonny b Good

      You might spell Grey, g-r-a-y. I do not care which way. Do you know which one is considered proper, or is is personal preference? IThis is not like P=r=a=y, and p-r-e-y, with two different meanings. How do you spell it?

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

      How disgusting to see "educators" that put their own well being above that of their students. Teachers should be held to performance standards just like everyone else. Poor teachers should be fired. Teachers' unions are solely responsible for the failure of public education. Michelle Rhee had it exactly right.

      Studentsfirst

      September 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Let's see, a 16 percent pay increase which would put average pay at nearly $90K per year. How many are tenured, and how many are tenured and ineffective as teachers and should be replaced because they are dead wood.Tenure should not exist.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ash

      Are you kidding? They make $76,000 a year plus benefits in a school system
      with a 50% high school graduation rate. They should have the "guts" to think
      about the needs of their students instead of making unreasonable demands.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • cynicalme

      Who pays? What's another $16 triliion in debt? Oh, yeah that's right, we're going to tax the rich and all the tax those millions and millions of jobs Obama is going to create (but when)?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lahdee Dah

      @Dan Green I have no problem being held accountable for the quality of my own work, and my own production. I will put my 60+ hour workweek, my multiple advanced degrees, and my self-paid summertime professional development courses up against any other professional.

      My problem is being held accountable for every student who doesn't do assigned homework, or study for tests, or who doesn't see the value in excelling in academics. Are dentists held accountable for patients who refuse to take their advice and floss twice a day [and then lose their teeth]?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • paulm5545

      In regards to the evaluation process & test scores: There must be a middle ground, somewhere. I understand the need for evaluations, but to place too much emphasis on test scores would have me rattled. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force him to drink. There are too many variables that could impact test scores: non-interested students, students whose home life is horrific, abuse, substance abuse, poor study habits, lack of parental control, encouragement or support, just to name a few. The best teacher in the world can only do so much and the rest is up to the student.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ed

    There are a lot of us who work harder and longer hours and never make anywhere close to what these people are making. While I will admit that teachers do sometimes get the short end of the stick, it’s hard to sympathize with them in this current economic climate. If they’re not satisfied with their level of compensation, then perhaps it’s time to find another profession.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bilbil

    I want job security too..... why should a union get special treatment?

    Teaching is definitely a tough job. I don't feel the least bit sorry for anyone who went into that career NOT knowing it would be hard. I want the salary of a brain surgeon, but you know what? I CHOSE not to slave decades of my life in school and paying off hundreds of thousands in loans. I don't deserve anything. I EARN my job every day. Nothing should be guaranteed.

    What a load of hogwash

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

      Oh... and I wish I got summers off, too......... how nice that must be

      September 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonny b Good

      You are lying sweety. You would switch places with a brain surgeon right now if you could. Your sentiment is correct, I do think that happiness is what matters (Your Union views are not correct or anywhere close to being informed, educated, or thoughtful; so I am not addressing them) however I do not think the happiness factort is the case in your situation.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      You must not know, but teachers are required to continue their education and many times pay for it out of their own pockets. As a teacher you are always continuing your education, so the amount of time you spend in school can be compared to a brain surgeon.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • rswfire

      @Jamie – You're able to write those classes you take off on your taxes, which I'm sure you're aware of. So you're paid well, regardless. I'm a computer programmer, and I must constantly learn new skills and technologies. If you're actually making $80k per year (or $90k+ with these increases), then you don't have my sympathy. My job is difficult; I work hard, it takes a great deal of intelligence and analytical thinking, and I am constantly continuing my education also, yet I make nothing close to what you do. Your whole argument falls flat on its face because you're not unique; we all work hard for what we make.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      @jamie you do realize there are many other professions that require continuing education in someway or another that is paid out of pocket. No matter what you do as a teacher outside of abusing or molesting a child you have zero chance of losing your job. The health benefits and pension which teachers contribute little or nothing to adds to the already pretty good salary. Think about it, teachers never work a weekend, never work a holiday, never work the summer, never woken up at night for an emergency. I live on long island in new York and there are plenty of GYM teachers making 120k with like 12 years experience

      September 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      First off, not all teachers make that, and I sure as hell do not.....and that is actually not even accurate numbers so check your facts again. Second, it is your choice to keep up your education. If you don't keep up your education as a teacher, you lose your credentials. I've been in the business world too, and believe me, it was nothing compared to being a teacher. I never had to pay for cost out of my pocket, work in no air conditioning with 30 5 year old's relying on me. I worked 9-5, when I went home, I was done with work. I am constantly thinking about new things to implement in my classroom and the students in it! I worked my ass off to obtain a teaching position because of the cut backs, and plenty of teachers did lose their jobs. Teachers are not to blame and are not the enemy.

      September 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry

    I think this is the biggest point: "As many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs under a new evaluation system "...

    I would love a job that is guaranteed, has excellent benefits, summers off and a pension without any accountability. Let's face the facts, TEACHERS, we are the richest nation in the world, we spend the most per student on education and we continue to lag behind in all subjects.

    Personally, I think all teachers should be required to re-interview for their jobs.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • vahid fozi

      if that's the kind of job you want larry i recommend you not become a teacher in california, we don't have any of those things ... unless by summer you mean eight weeks vacation in exchange for working unpaid nights and weekends during the academic year.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • vahid fozi

      also i want to point out we spend the most per country on a lot of things, but when you say education, i guarantee you we don't spend the most on teacher salaries or schools, but we do spend the most on a huge education bureaucracy and things like computers and new textbooks and fancy projectors for our classrooms *which we don't actually need*

      September 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. this guy

    I don't even think the pay raise is much to ask for if the teachers are being asked to work more in order to achieve better results. What gets me is the demand for job security. Why should there be job security?

    Have any of you watched the movie Waiting for Superman?

    September 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Get a job Hippies

    The average Chicago teacher makes $74,839 while the median average income for a family in this country is roughly $51,000 without free lifetime health care, a pension, and iron clad job security and the teachers want more huh? Stick it to the union there Rahmbo!!!!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JustSayin

      I agree with most of what you have said, but in fact you make a point for them. "the Median Average" Median is the middle and mean is the average, so what number is the median average. You make the point that we need better teachers, at least when it comes to math.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      You are comparing apples and oranges. Chicago is one of the more expensive cities in the country in which to live. So, you can't compare the teacher income there with the average income for the rest of the country, because it costs more to live in Chicago compared to most of the country.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sara

    My salary has not increased in 10 years and I have a Ph.D.! These teachers are expecting too much. I used to think Unions were a good idea but now I am not so sure. They make more than the average salary and have great benefits on top of that!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • 9isme

      And on top of that the community pays for public school salaries, benefits etc. Great – I work 40 years in non-profits to make $35,000, have a $2,500 deductible for health care and pay school taxes for union demands.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • paulm5545

      In my opinion, here lies the problem. People are making some excellent points in their posts, but an underlying theme seems to be: if I can't/don't/won't have it, then nobody can.

      If you have a Ph.D and have not had a salary increase of any kind in 10-years, I think most of us here would ask – why?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Louis

    $75,000 for 9 months work, health benefits, paid vacation time, paid holidays, and pension plan–and these morons are on strike? Fire all of them and hire teachers who appreciate a job with better salary and benefits than most American workers.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      You must think that people are lining up to be teachers. Unfortunately, there aren't enough highly trained professionals willing or ready to fill these positions.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. steph

    Wouldn't we all like a guaranteed 4% raise each year? But I wouldn't think the district is in a position to promise that. The ecomony will dictate what will happen as it unfolds. And I would like to make an average of $74,000. I think they're expecting too much. In this economy be thankful for what you have.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    This article isnt very truthful in the salary area. The starting salary is $47,628. The maximum, for a teacher with 20 years' experience and a doctorate, is $88,680

    September 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. krehator

    Their average salary is much more than that of the average soldier. Do we see soldiers going on strike?

    Don't like your job, quit, and find another.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. KNKLHEAD

    I respect teachers and have many friends that teach. I encourage the teachers to end the strike, though .. there won't be too much sympathy for you, even on the "D" side at this point in time, I'm afraid to say. Be happy you still have a union!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
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