Teachers the only clear winners in post-strike Chicago

One of the most publicized strikes in the American public education system came to an end last Tuesday with the Chicago Teachers Union voting to return to the classroom Wednesday morning.

With children back in school and things settling down, one question remains.

Amid teachers’ questionable intentions, what right does anyone have to prevent an already underprivileged educational cross-section of American students from receiving an education?

These teachers had no one but themselves in mind during the eight-day strike.

CNN’s coverage on the strike’s end states that, “The deal, which still must be ratified by the union’s overall membership, calls for an average raise of 17.6 percent over four years, down from the 30 percent initially sought by the union. But it also strips out a merit pay program that would have been tied to increased emphasis on student test scores.”

Now that the strike is over, it is easy to see that a central purpose in striking was to increase pay and decrease focus on student test scores.

All signs point to the reality that teachers in Chicago couldn’t care less about how their students are doing. They are too focused on the funding they receive to do this noble work.

In fact, according to a 2011 Salary Comfort Index amongst public educators, Illinois has the third highest starting pay-rate for public educators. Why then, would teachers pull education from students’ reach in order to obtain higher pay?

While CNN reports that the Chicago Public School System is the third largest in the nation, the state of Illinois has also sought a waiver of exemption in the past from the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, citing nearly 80 percent of students in the system fail federal standards, as reported by Chicago News.

We cannot allow a failing school system to focus more on pay and less on the education of our nation’s future generations as they move forward with business as usual. Although the Chicago Public School System reaches the highest graduation rates in history at about 60.6 percent per year, it is still lagging almost 15 percent behind national graduation rates, with national rates around 75.5 percent in 2009, according to the Washington Post.

Education must be competitive for teachers, not for students. Students should not have to fight for their education — it should be a right provided to all students.

As long as we allow the prima donna teachers’ union of the Chicago Public School system to continue teaching in the ways they have, we will not see an increase in graduation rates. The value of education equal in this country will continue to decline.

Students are falling to the wayside, while Illinois teachers are cashing bigger checks than ever.

Until there is a stronger focus on success, and enforced teacher evaluations based on student test scores, we cannot expect anything to change for Chicago-area students.

 

Reach the columnist by email at caleb.varoga@asu.edu, or follow him at @calebvaroga.