After 18 months of teacher’s unions battling my Governor, Scott Walker, here in Wisconsin, I feel I’ve got a pretty good handle on exactly what is going on down in Chicago right now. In case you live under a rock, the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) is on strike; refusing to work another day until their contracts with the city are adjusted to meet their demands. Just like Madison in 2011, the teachers are showing their true colors. This isn’t about the children; its about power.
What’s the big stink about? Teachers are upset because they feel their jobs will be in jeopardy when they are judged on their students’ standardized test scores. They’d rather be judged on… nothing. CTU complains that the tests are not a good representation of how well the teacher is doing their job. The tests are too uniform and don’t take into account socioeconomic factors.
The simple fact is that if we want equal quality education for all of our public schools, the standards need to be equal as well. High standards in some areas and low standards in others will only widen the gap of schools’ performances. In Chicago only 55% of students graduate high school (in the top 5 for worst graduation rates in America). Over 80% of 8th graders are below proficient in arithmetic. The teacher’s solution is to lower the standards so that more kids look like they’re doing a good job. Lowering standards does not produce better results.
CTU is also opposed to individual schools hiring and firing teachers; especially teachers who are not part of their union. Principles know best what their school needs. If one teacher is doing a lousy job, it should be the principle’s responsibility to fire that teacher and hire someone who is better. Some teachers argue that education shouldn’t be run like a business, but it is because schools are NOT run like businesses that their customers (students and parents) are left paying too much for a subpar product (education).
Also in the contract is the change of teachers having to contribute to their own health insurance and pensions; something most private sector employees already do. The contracts also guarantee a 15% pay raise over 3 years. Nothing to complain about there. The problem isn’t necessarily that teachers are getting a raw deal. 5% pay increases for 3 years, great pension and health benefits, an average salary of $75,000, and only 9 months of work. The issue is not money; it’s power.
If principles (who traditionally act more in favor of students and parents than unions) make the decisions of who to hire and fire, the unions have lost their strength. People join unions to help give them job security. If CTU can no longer deliver that security to their members, those members will drop out of the union. In Wisconsin after Scott Walker stripped unions of their collective bargaining privileges over 30,000 public sector workers opted out of unions.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union fears that the same thing may happen to them. The great thing about this is that the battle isn’t being fought between CTU and a conservative Governor like Scott Walker. This time the battle is being fought between CTU and Rahm Emanuel, the lefty mayor of Chicago and former advisor to Barack Obama. Even Democrats are realizing that real changes need to be made in order for public education to work. The momentum is in our favor.
All in all, this is a great sign. More people are listening up and seeing what teacher’s unions are all about. This is clearly not about giving students a better education. It’s about preserving the power unions have over our tax dollars. What was that famous Lord Acton saying? Oh yeah – “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” CTU’s power needs to be limited so that our education system can rid itself of the corruption that is hurting our next generation.