by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
On Monday, 30,000 Chicago Public School teachers and education personnel went on strike. In this week’s CommenTerry, I take a closer look at the three main issues dividing the teachers union and the school district.
According to the Chicago Tribune, there are three main issues that divide the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
There has been a lot of attention paid to the fact that the average Chicago Public School teacher earns a salary of over $70,000. Paul Kersey of the Illinois Policy Institute pointed out that the average CPS teacher salary is over $20,000 a year more than the median annual wage for a Chicago worker with a college degree (See Facts and Stats below). Their substantial pay allows an estimated 39 percent of CPS teachers to pay for private schools for their children.
Reports indicate that the CTU wanted a two-year contract that granted teachers a 19 percent raise in year one and a three percent raise in year two. In exchange for the substantial increase in the first year, the union would have capitulated to a CPS request to lengthen the school day.
During contract negotiations, the CTU rejected a proposal that would have granted CPS teachers a 16 percent raise over four years. The CPS proposal also included a plan to modify the salary schedule by adding new experience, credential, and incentive pay components. The latter, not necessarily the former, was the sticking point between the CTU and CPS. Indeed, the CTU sees incentive and merit pay on the horizon and is doing everything in its power to stop (or at least slow) it. Their members enjoy the security and protection that comes with a traditional salary schedule and across-the-board pay increases.
The Chicago Teachers Union proposed a recall system for teachers who have been laid off or displaced by school closure. In this way, former Chicago Public School teachers (and, of course, union members) would be called upon to fill vacancies. On the other hand, the CPS proposal would have given laid off or displaced teachers an advantage in the hiring process. In their proposal, principals would be required to interview teachers who forgo a three-month severance and elect to be placed in a special teacher workforce pool. CPS would still require laid off and displaced teachers to compete with all other applicants for vacant positions.
The issue of teacher effectiveness is absent in the CTU proposal. Perhaps an argument could be made that former CPS teachers already demonstrated their effectiveness when they were employed by the system. If that is the case, the CTU has nothing to worry about. Principals will jump at the chance to hire a proven teacher. But not all teachers laid off or displaced by the school districts have records of excellence. Indeed, the CTU plan would require principals to employ teachers based on their previous employer, rather than on evidence of ability and success.
I suspect that few public school administrators in Chicago would welcome a plan that severely limits their pool of applicants. Indeed, this replicates a flaw inherent in much of the thinking about teacher certification rules and other barriers to the profession, namely that certain attributes and credentials are indicative of teacher quality.
3. Teacher evaluation
This may be the most contentious issue between the CTU and the school district. The union sought to include, but limit, the use of test score data in the teacher evaluation process. CPS insists that the union seeks to undo a new teacher evaluation system that the union agreed to earlier this year. Similar to the traditional salary schedule, teacher evaluations based on classroom observations and other qualitative factors often protect weak teachers, rather than provide critical information that teachers can use to improve their craft.
Disputes over pay structure, employment policy, and educator evaluations should sound familiar. North Carolina lawmakers are mulling over some of the same reform proposals and may introduce legislation in 2013 that advances several education reform initiatives. Obviously, proposals and/or legislation will receive strong opposition from well-funded public school advocacy groups. There is one key difference. Their opposition will not produce an unplanned vacation for schoolchildren and a childcare nightmare for North Carolina parents.
Would anyone else like to see a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Yankovic tour?
Facts and Stats
An excerpt from Five things you need to know about Chicago Public Schools (CPS)
By Paul Kersey of the Illinois Policy Institute
Note: Average teacher pay at Urban Prep Academy, the Chicago charter school that has sent 100% of its graduates to college for the third consecutive year is $47,714.
Note: CPS had to return a $35 million federal grant — Teacher Incentive Fund — because CTU refused to implement merit pay. CTU called CPS’ acceptance of the grant a "fraudulent action."
Dispelling longer school day myth: Under the interim agreement, teachers will continue to work roughly the same hours they do now. Instead of requiring teachers to work a 20 percent longer day, the Chicago Public Schools have agreed to hire more teachers to fill the extra instruction time with such classes as art, music and physical education.
I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].
Education Acronym of the Week
CPS — Chicago Public Schools
Quote of the Week
"Next time the teachers claim they had to leave those kids in the lurch in order to provide a quality education for them, ask: How does walking away from the classroom achieve that? And why wasn’t a budget-busting 16 percent enough?" — Chicago Tribune editorial, September 11, 2012.
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