Here is the scene in Chicago currently: the city, in the midst of an all-time high in revenue, has decided to decrease teacher’s pay by 16 percent over the next four years and is pushing to do away with an accountability system that would measure the teachers’ performance in the classroom. The teachers, whose first priority is and always will be the students, have accepted these terms with open arms in order to better the education system.
Wait. That’s not right. I’m sorry I got all of that backwards.
It turns out that Chicago is facing crippling debt, but still offered the teachers a 16 percent increase to the base teachers’ salary over the next four years. However, the Chicago teachers, who are some of the highest paid teachers in the world, rejected that offer and went on strike, effectively shutting down Chicago’s already disastrous public education system.
The average Chicago teacher makes $71,200 a year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. To put that in perspective, the average Chicago teacher makes more than three times the poverty rate for a household of four, a problem that plagues the vast majority of Chicago students.
The question that needs to be asked is, “Do teachers deserve a pay increase?” The primary purpose of a teacher is to provide quality education for the students. Period. Chicago teachers are not doing that.
Chicago’s 5-year graduation rate has risen to a record high of 60.6 percent, meaning that 4 out of 10 students who go through Chicago Public Schools do not graduate high school. The union cites outside factors as the main cause for the low graduation rate instead of the teachers. Interestingly, Boston, which is plagued by the same outside factors such as poverty, broken families and drug/crime problems, has a 5-year graduation rate of 68.8 percent. Meanwhile, the average Boston teacher earns around $62,000 a year, almost a full $10,000 below Chicago.
The union claims that the strike is not focused on money, though the pay increase is the only part of the 49 points that the union has made public. Supposedly, the union is also opposed to lengthening the school day, despite the fact that the school system hired or agreed to hire more than 500 more teachers so that current teachers would not have to work longer.
Another point that is supposedly contentious is classroom size. The union wants the classroom sizes to decrease. However, reports have shown that there is no correlation between class size and student performance. Not surprisingly, the single biggest factor in student performance is teachers. However, the union is also fighting an increase in the impact of student performance on teacher evaluation.
Apparently evaluating the single biggest factor on student performance by using student performance is preposterous. However, the proposed evaluation system would only weight student performance at 40 percent of the evaluation model, allowing the model to take the outside factors that the teacher has no control over into account.
The union has claimed they are fighting for the children through this strike, yet every point of the 49 that is public is focused on teachers’ wants. It appears that Chicago teachers have forgotten why they even have a job.
Trenton Winford is a junior public policy leadership major from Madison.
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