This past week, Anchorage was almost blown away by an early season wind storm that uprooted and blew down many trees, especially on the east side of town. Of course, in Alaska neighbors help neighbors and remove damaged trees, help by providing refrigeration for foodstuffs and hot showers for comfort. But what will happen if the Anchorage teachers’ union issues walkout orders to its members next year? We all should be prepared just as in any storm.
This “storm” could have a much greater impact on kids, parents, businesses and the overall economy. Last Monday in Chicago 26,000 teachers walked off the job and more than 350,000 students were left to learn for themselves. What happened to these kids? Did parents have to stay home to care for them? Were the kids out on the streets causing problems? Does the Chicago Teachers’ Union really care about what happens to the kids? Is the union issuing the walkout order to radically improve education for these students? Or is it only concerned with transferring more wealth from taxpayers into its coffers via union dues?
It is a shame, at least, that the union holds students’ education hostage until the school administration gives in to its demands. How many parents will have to stay home to care for their kids and may thus jeopardize their own jobs? This is all a strategy to apply pressure on the Chicago Public School District from parents, businesses and others who will be adversely impacted by a walkout/strike. These groups will be used by the union to insist that the District come to the bargaining table and give in to the demands of the teachers’ union so parents can go back to work so they can support their families. Parents will put pressure on the District because they have to stay home from work to care for their kids; businesses will insist that the District cave in to the demands of the union so their employees can return to work. Parents and businesses should put the pressure on the Chicago Teachers Union leaders to return to work under the old contract and work out differences so that kids can return to the classroom.
Fortunately, those students in the public charter schools are still attending classes because their teachers are not union represented. This means that 50,000 students are continuing with their education, unhampered by walkouts and strikes. Interestingly enough, in a 2004 Fordham Institute study it was noted that 39 percent of the Chicago Public Schools teachers had their children in private schools. Now that is a two tiered system.
Below are some facts and figures for the Chicago Public Schools. This is a very low achieving District with highly paid teaching staff compared to the median salary of a Chicagoan.
Graduation rates 2011
- Graduation rate: 60.6% (source CPS press release)
- Graduation rate for Chicago charter schools: 76% (source CPS)
- Graduation rate for CPS citywide: 58% (source CPS)
- A 2006 study found that for every 100 Chicago public high school freshmen, only six get four-year college degrees. Among African-American and Hispanic boys, the number is three of 100 (source Illinois Policy Institute)
* CPS spent $8,047 per pupil in 2000. That number reached an all-time record of $13,616 in 2011.
- After adjusting for the cost of living, CPS teachers are overpaid by 31% when compared to public school teachers in large cities in non-collective-bargaining states (source Illinois Policy Institute)
- Average teacher salary: $71,236 (source IIRC)
- Average teacher salary: $74,839 (source CPS)
- Average charter school teacher salary: $49,000 (source Illinois Policy Institute)
- Median salary for a Chicagoan with a bachelor’s degree: $48,866 (source Census)
A quick look at these figures shows that there is little connection between money spent and increased student achievement. Note that the big stumbling block in the negotiations is whether or not student achievement should count towards a teacher’s performance rating. The District wants student achievement on standardized tests to account for 25 percent of a teacher’s performance rating. This eventually is raised to 40 percent of a teacher’s performance rating. The union is staunchly against this. Looking at the data above one can understand why the union doesn’t want any percentage of student achievement counting toward a teacher’s performance.
The outcome of this standoff will be crucial to the education of our children, not only in Chicago but Anchorage as well. So, employers, parents and students get ready for the storm and be prepared so you can cope with a possible unfortunate event.