Today’s big education news comes from The Windy City, where thousands of Chicago Public Schools teachers have walked out on strike. Students pay the price as the American Federation of Teachers union affiliate turns down an offer to boost an average salary of $71,000 (or $76,000?) by 16 percent over the next four years.
Even if CPS officials wanted to be so generous and approve across-the-board-raises for educators who already make about 50 percent more than the average Chicago worker with a college degree, the money isn’t there.
I can’t help feeling a connection to the story. After all, friends of my Education Policy Center friends are on the case. The Illinois Policy Institute’s labor policy director Paul Kersey posted the facts and some scary pictures from a Labor Day union protest march. While many of the 400,000 CPS students may be cheering today to be out of school, the 50,000 attending non-union charter schools are not affected.
Which interestingly prompted Chicago union president Karen Lewis to say: “Real school will not be open [Monday]….” That certainly sounds like she has a low opinion of many parents’ public school options. Too bad for her. But I wonder what the anti-reform crowd in Douglas County thinks of the remark?
And there’s also a point of contrast. As Kersey notes today, all the last-minute speculation about a possible strike-avoiding settlement stemmed from the closed-door bargaining process in Chicago. This year Dougco ventured into the uncharted territory of open negotiations, giving individual teachers and taxpayers a view of how the sausage is made and the chance to see what the union really was bargaining for.
Last week, of course, the Dougco school board formally put an end to automatic dues collection, taxpayer-funded union salaries, and AFT monopoly bargaining power. Despite any scary rhetoric that may be coming out of the Chicago teachers strike, I can assure you nothing so bold is being proposed there. But as the National Review’s John Fund explains, the labor dispute definitely carries with it some potentially major ramifications:
The showdown in Chicago will be a test of just how much clout the public-employee unions wield at a time when the budget pressures they’ve created threaten to break the budgets of America’s major cities.
On a lighter note, it would be a lot better for students and perhaps a lot more amusing if the strike were taking place not by, but against, the Chicago Teachers Union — a la Mike Antonucci’s recent video from within the Oregon Education Association.