Understanding the Chicago Teacher’s Strike

Chicago Teachers Union Goes on Strike

The nearly two-week-long Chicago teachers’ strike has finally come to a close. The results: “a ‘half-loaf’ kind of day,” according to CNN, with educators and city officials not completely satisfied with the results of settled negotiations. What caused the teachers of the third-largest school district in the United States to strike? The main impetus behind it had to do with a newly proposed teacher evaluation system, job security and several other issues.

Teacher Evaluation System

With emphasis on teacher accountability increasing across the nation, Chicago schools have had to, by law, include student test scores as part of their teacher evaluation system. CNN explains that the Chicago City School District wanted student test scores to count for as much as 45 percent of teachers’ overall evaluations. In an already struggling district with a higher than average dropout rate, many educators feared losing their jobs under such a system. They negotiated to have test scores count for 30 percent or less on teacher evaluations, which happens to be the minimum percentage allowed by federal regulations.  

Job Security

With a struggling economy and huge budget deficits, Chicago teachers have suffered massive layoffs. When a new position opened once more, administrators wanted freedom in hiring. NBC stated that teachers hoped for some security from the schools that they served and were able to attain a settlement under which principals were required to hire the highest performing laid off teachers for 50 percent of vacancies, while retaining freedom to do what they wished with the other half.

Teacher Salary and Longer School Days

Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel had one notable victory in this battle, according to the New York Times. Chicago has been known for having one of the shortest school days in the country, and one of the provisions of the tentative settlement called for extending the instructional day by an hour.

Chicago teachers were also fighting for annual pay increases, originally calling for a 30 percent increase over the next four years. With Chicago teachers being criticized for receiving higher than average teaching salaries ($76,000 average) and a looming budget deficit of a billion dollars, an agreement was struck for a 17 percent increase over the course of four years.

CNN also explained that teachers were able to prevent health care cost increases, but there are lingering concerns over future school closings and further teacher layoffs as a result of decreasing enrollment and the floundering budget. ---

While these deals have not been formalized, Chicago teachers have demonstrated that there is great strength in numbers. Even local parents, who were frustrated with being unable to send their children to school, expressed their support and solidarity with the striking teachers. What did you think of the strike?

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