Heartland Institute Reacts to Strike by Chicago Teachers Union

September 10, 2012

The Chicago Teachers Union went on strike Monday morning, the first strike in Chicago’s public schools in 25 years. The union and the Chicago School District could not come to an agreement despite the school board offering a $400 million package including a 16 percent raise over four years and a host of other benefits.

The following statements from education experts at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at tnash@heartland.org and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/731-9364.

“The striking teachers are undercutting their own agreement this summer to provide more needed class time to Chicago children by extending the school day in a district that has almost the shortest instructional time in the country. Research has directly proven that less instructional time hurts kids academically, which in turn hurts them their entire lives in worse preparation for college and jobs. Chicago kids are already among those demonstrating they learn the least in the country, with horrifically low graduation rates and reading and math accomplishment.

“This strike hurts those who can least afford it so that teachers who earn more than comparable workers can continue padding their benefits at the expense of kids and taxpayers in a beyond-broke school district. What a shame.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News

“The strike will injure Chicago’s public school children most of all but also their parents and the overall reputation of the city, which is suffering the highest and rising homicide rates in the U.S.”

Herbert J. Walberg
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute

“Thanks to Chicago’s independently managed charter schools remaining open today despite the teacher union strike, 50,000 of Chicago’s 400,000 public school children will not be shortchanged. That reality could strongly reinforce in parents’ minds the desirability of school choice for all children.”

Robert C. Holland
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute

“A great majority of Chicago Public School teachers are great at their jobs. Unfortunately, Karen Lewis and the teachers union representing them are demanding equal pay and protection for the minority of teachers who are failing our children. It is time that good teachers be rewarded and bad teachers be let go. Instead the teachers union wants to maintain the status quo where 40 percent of students are not graduating and teachers are paid based on years worked rather than being good at their job.

“Ultimately, the numbers simply don’t add up. Chicago Public Schools have offered teachers a four-year package worth $400 million despite the fact that the city is already expected to face a $369 million deficit in 2013. Karen Lewis and the union leadership’s decision to move forward with the strike rather than postpone has put children and parents in a tragic and unnecessary situation.”

John Nothdurft
Director of Government Relations
The Heartland Institute

“The average teacher salary in Chicago is $74,839, plus benefits far better than those available in the private sector. Yet the Chicago Public Schools are among the nation’s worst – which is saying a lot. According to the CPS’s own data, almost 90 percent of Chicago’s public schools failed to make adequate yearly progress in student achievement last year. Children in the city’s private and charter schools do much better at a fraction of the cost.

“Despite this disgraceful public school performance, the union is rejecting a 16 percent pay increase over four years, during a time when tens of millions of people are out of work nationwide and Chicago’s economy and civic budget are a shambles.

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel has an opportunity for a heroic moment, standing up for the city’s overburdened taxpayers the way President Reagan did against the air traffic controllers’ union shortly after taking office. Whether Emanuel has the nerve and strength of principle to do the right thing may well determine whether the city recovers from the economic downturn or goes the way of dying places such as Detroit and Cleveland.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.