Education

Updated! Why Chicago Teachers Are Striking Despite an Offered 16 percent Raise Over Four Years

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Update: Read this story about how the 45,000 kids in Chicago's charter schools are still going to school even as their counterparts in traditional public schools are cooling their heels as teachers strike.

As Reason 24/7 notes, Chicago's teachers are on strike. This, despite what seems like a pretty plum offer from city officials:

Chicago offered teachers raises of 3 percent this year and another 2 percent annually for the following three years, amounting to an average raise of 16 percent over the duration of the proposed contract, School Board President David Vitale said.

"This is not a small contribution we're making at a time when our financial situation is very challenging," he said.

The school district, like many cities and states across the country, is facing a financial crisis with a projected budget deficit of $3 billion over the next three years and a crushing burden of pensions promised to retiring teachers.

So what's the sticking point? In exchange for the salary increase, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others are insisting that standardized test scores play some role in evaluating teachers and that school principals be given more power to run their schools the way they want to. Teachers say they don't have enough control over their students' socioeconomic situations to be judged on what they teach kids. Responds a union official:

"Evaluate us on what we do, not the lives of our children we do not control," [union head Karen] Lewis said in announcing the strike.

More here.

Come on. Nobody—even Rahm Emanuel, a man about as heartwarming as a bloody stool—is suggesting that teahers be held accountable for poverty, crime, you name it. But it certainly can't be that complicated to come up with a way of benchmarking student progress that takes into account the effect of specific teachers. One of the most ridiculous claims emanating from teachers unions is the persistent idea that teaching abilities can't be quantified in any meaningful way as it relates to merit. Somehow, every other profession on the planet—including teaching at the college level—finds ways to assess and reward good performance.

Then again, all discussions about the K-12 system need to at least consider the notion that educating kids is the lowest priority of what we called "The Machine" in this recent Reason TV video: