Chicago’s public school teachers are the highest paid of any in the 50 largest districts in the country. And yet they are on the verge of striking once again — this time because their pay raise requires them to contribute to their own pensions. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has voted to authorize a strike as soon as October 11, despite Chicago’s budgetary shortfall and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s insistence that this is the best deal financially possible for the teachers.
What kind of squalor is the city forcing on these teachers? The kind with a $78,000 median salary and $27,000 in benefits, and an 8.7% pay increase over the next four years if they agree to the deal that’s on the table.
Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) faces a $300 million shortfall next year, which the city is planning to deal with not by cutting teacher salaries, but by raising taxes.
Even those who support unionized teachers are seeing this potential strike as the irresponsible and selfish cash-grab that it is. Alderman Howard Brookins, chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee said, “Some of the most fervent supporters of the CTU in the City Council believe the best deal they can get is on the table.”
This reveals problems deeper than this one particular fight about salaries and pensions. As National Review Online contributor Frederick M. Hess said in his AEI blog yesterday:
Chicago is a case study in how teacher unions have siphoned vast sums out of classrooms and into retirement and health benefits that do nothing for students — and that frequently, I’m afraid, aren’t configured to help attract or keep terrific teachers.
Chicago teachers are doing just fine. Maybe they should concern themselves with their city’s finances and its students, rather than squeezing as much money as is possible out of the system before it goes bang.