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Chicago Union Objects to Higher Teacher Pay
posted by: Alix | July 17, 2012, 09:15 PM   

Chicago has been an education reform hotspot ever since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the reins in January 2011. Everything from length of school day to teacher pay have been hot topics over the last few years; however, this week the issues hit a boiling point as teacher union leaders are expected to reject an arbitrator's recommendation of a 15-20% salary hike in favor of a proposed strike just as the new school year is slated to begin.

Beginning as a bitter debate that made national headlines, Mayor Emanuel's flagship plan of implementing a longer school day is scheduled to begin this fall. While union officials balked at the idea initially, they proposed a 30% salary increase to account for the extra hour a day of instruction time. When the district and the union could not come to a reasonable agreement that accounted for both a struggling financial climate and the increased hours of instruction, an arbitrator was brought in to strike up a compromise between the two parties.

Insiders close to negotiations between the union and the district maintain that both parties will most likely reject the arbitrator's long-awaited fact-finding report. Expected to be released this week, the arbitrator's report is expected to recommend that teacher salaries be increased by 15-20% in the contract's first year, based primarily on the longer school day.

That figure falls well below the 30% raise the union demanded, but is still a significant improvement on the 2% raise the district originally offered teachers. For context, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that compared to other metropolitan areas, Chicago's teachers' salaries currently rank high among the country's 10 largest cities. Absent any salary increases, the district faces an estimated $665 million deficit. Both parties acknowledge that any salary adjustments will most likely lead to teacher layoffs.

In an ironic statement that did not address specifics about the salary debate, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis called the issue complex and "about the students" in every way. "Wages, benefits and job protection are important parts of any labor agreement," Lewis said. "We sincerely want to make the learning conditions better for our students." Despite claiming to be interested in students, the union is expected to call a strike following the arbitrator's recommendations and after the 30 day waiting period–just in time for the school year to start in Chicago.

Regardless of the outcome, the overreaching model of the unions has left Chicago Public Schools in an extremely difficult situation. In the quest to produce better outcomes for students through a longer school day, district officials are now encountering a climate where budget realities will leave them incapable of meeting union demands. Hopefully the situation will be resolved before students return to the classroom next month.

Democrats for Education Reform State Director Rebeca Nieves Huffman maintains hope for a compromise. "There is a silent majority of parents that supports school reform proposals," Huffman stated. "They trust our elected officials; they trust our school district leadership to get it together."

What do you think about the situation in Chicago?
Comment below.

Comments (3)Add Comment
Socialists vs Unions vs Pragmatists
written by I hate teaching, July 21, 2012

My one and only comment (for now that is), is that a more money in exchange for a longer work day IS NOT A RAISE! A raise is an increase in the rate a pay not more money for more work and responsibility.
Unfunded longer days don't work
written by Phil Chicago, July 17, 2012

A coalition of Chicago parent groups who fought the unfunded longer day.
Get your facts straight.
written by Phil Chicago, July 17, 2012

The arbitrator who was approved my Rahm and called for by the Stand for Children sponsored SB 7 law found that teachers were being required to work 20% more time and found that paying them only 2% while taking away compensation for advanced degrees and experience was inappropriate. The Chicago Teachers Union will most likely reject the arbitrators recommendation of increasing compensation by about 15% to account for that extra time because it would cause massive class size increases and a further gutting of art, music, phys ed, and other programs as well as cuts to the already meager numbers of social workers and other support staff in school, thus harming students as well as teachers. Have you seen the Aspen Institute video of Jonah Edleman of Stand for Children describing how he rammed SB7 down the throats of teachers. Find it on Youtube. Even with the millions of out of state money SfC and other groups spent trying to hobble the union the objective fact finder that SB7 called for found in favor of the teachers. Facts are facts and CPS needs to take reality into account before forcing a 7.5 hour day on students without having any reason to think it would improve anything. Maybe we should have an elected school board in Chicago so the mayor can't single handedly make such damaging decisions. Some of our schools open in about 2 weeks. This instability is the worst possible thing for our students and as the arbitrator said, it stems from Rahms unreasonable and unfunded political whims. Sad.

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