Chicago’s Very Well Paid Teachers Go On Strike, Abandoning 400,000 Students

Largely because they are resisting efforts to hold them accountable for their performance, Chicago's teachers are leaving 400,000 students locked out of school.

One of the largest school systems in the United States sits paralyzed today thanks to a walkout by the Chicago Teacher’s Union after negotiations with the city failed to produce an agreement:

For the first time in 25 years, Chicago’s teachers are on strike.

“Negotiations have been intense but productive, however we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said at a dramatic 10 p.m. Sunday press conference. “Real school will not be open [Monday]. … No CTU member will be inside our schools.

“Please seek alternative care for your children.”

The announcement was quickly blasted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as “a strike of choice” that didn’t have to happen if talks continued. He repeatedly declared: “My team is available now.”

But Lewis, just before the midnight strike deadline, said talks wouldn’t resume until Monday. She said she texted School Board President David Vitale and they agreed to meet Monday.

A “disappointed” Emanuel said the latest deal offered to the teachers was “very respectful of our teachers and is right by our children.”

“The issues that remain are minor,” Emanuel said. “This is totally unnecessary. It’s avoidable and our kids don’t deserve this. … This is a strike of choice.

“It’s down to two issues — finish it.”

Although union officials say more topics are still being debated, the mayor said the two remaining stumbling blocks involve re-hiring laid off teachers from schools that get shut down or shaken up and a new teacher evaluation process that the union says puts far too much weight on student test scores.

“The kids of Chicago belong in the classroom,” the mayor said during a late-night press conference at the Harold Washington Library, flanked by his negotiators.

As we discuss this issue, it’s worth noting, what Dave Schuler, who lives in the area, points out over at his own place:

I’ve already expressed my opinion of wage increases for Chicago teachers: half of Chicago’s teachers (plus more than half of Chicago’s police officers and firefighters) are already in the top 10% of Chicago’s income earners. They are the rich. The only feasible way to fund pay increases is by increasing property taxes, the burden of which will fall hardest on the poorest and weakest. We are living in a period during which public revenues are struggling to remain where they are. This is not the time for public employees to demand pay increases.

Interestingly, as Ed Morrissey notes, the strike does not impact the city’s charter schools and the students who attend those institution are still getting an education today:

Leslie Daniels enrolled her son in a Chicago charter school three years ago because she didn’t like the education he was getting in his local neighborhood school.

In the back of her mind, she also knew the school was less likely to be affected by labor problems because its teachers are not members of the Chicago Teachers Union. That’s an added benefit now that the union has called for its first walkout in 25 years. All of the city’s charter schools will remain open Monday.

“I’m glad I made the switch,” said Daniels, 55. “I feel for the other parents because a lot of them are working. What are their children going to be doing?”

Charter schools, which are independently run but largely rely on public funding, have been growing steadily in Chicago over the last decade. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley pushed a major expansion of charter schools in the mid-2000s, promoting them as options for parents frustrated by low-performing public schools in their neighborhood.

As a result, the city’s charter enrollment has nearly doubled in the last five years, reaching about 52,000 students this fall, according to Chicago Public Schools figures. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, like his predecessor, wants to see charter options expand even further, and there are plans for 60 more charter schools in Chicago over the next five years.

The Chicago Teachers Union has fought the growth of charter schools because the majority of teaching staffs are not members of unions and none belong to CTU. Union leaders argue that charters devalue the profession by paying their teachers less, and that public money is diverted from struggling neighborhood schools to support charters, even when charters don’t perform significantly better.

Charter operators said more parents have been asking about the schools in the last several weeks since union teachers first threatened to strike, and charter supporters are capitalizing.

“I just see charter options and opportunities growing in any event (but) if there’s a strike the pace might accelerate,” said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

Indeed, one has to wonder if this strike, depending on how long it lasts, will cause more parents to consider Charter School enrollment for their children when the opportunity next arises. It has to be better than what they’re being subjected to now. This would seem to be especially likely given the fact that, according to reports, the CTU had rejected a 16% pay increase over four years in an era when many people are just happy to be working to begin with, never mind demanding a pay increase in a world where there’s a massive pool of unemployed workers out there ready, willing, and able to replace them if necessary. Not to mention the fact that there’s no other profession in the country that has anything approaching the idea of “tenure.”

So what’s this strike really about if not money, well there is the old issue that teacher’s unions seem to be coming back to more and more each year anymore, accountability:

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.

(…)

[I]t 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.

When I see teacher’s unions resisting calls for accountability on the part of their members, it leads me inevitably to the conclusion that they do not want their members to be held accountable, and they don’t want administrators and parents to have more power to protect children from incompetent teachers. Considering that the unions exist for the sole purpose of protecting their members, that’s hardly surprising, but it does suggest that the days of giving these organizations wide swaths of power and refusing to cave into their demands. Teachers exist to do a job if objective test results are clearly indicating that individual teachers are not doing that job, then there’s no rational reason why it should not be easier to get rid of them regardless of how long they’ve been part of the system.

There’s been some suggestion that Rahm Emanuel is taking a political risk by standing up to the teacher’s union, but I’m not so sure of that. We’ve already seen the electoral benefit that Scott Walker received in Wisconsin for taking on public sector unions, as has New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Just north of Christie in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been as hard-nosed as his Republican neighbor in dealing with the unions, and he’s got approval numbers that would seem to indicate that he’s pretty much untouchable for re-election in 2014 at this point in time. It’s just as likely that Emanuel will reap political gains from this showdown with the CTU, a showdown that, in the end, he is likely to win simply because of the economic and political realities of the situation. The days when organizations like the CTU can hold a city hostage like this are long gone, and the longer they stay out I suspect they will lose more and more public support.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Education, Labor Unions, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    Hmm. This jumped out at me:

    For the first time in 25 years, Chicago’s teachers are on strike

    Coupled with this:

    “The issues that remain are minor,” Emanuel said. “This is totally unnecessary.

    So they’re doing something rare for, allegedly, little reason. This suggests either the issues are more serious than Emanuel is letting on, or that the union has poor leadership. Or a bit of both. Given the optics of striking in this economy (when offered pay increases), poor leadership has to be part of it.

    The issue of performance-based compensation is a huge one. It’s not a minor issue. The teachers union may be wrong to oppose it (and, if they think it’s such a big deal, they should trade away the pay increase in exchange!), but I think they’re correct to view it as a big deal (contra Emanuel).

    Higher pay or greater-than-usual job security. Pick one.

  2. Rob in CT says:

    Woah, I totally screwed up some tags, apparently. Apologies.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Teachers exist to do a job if objective test results are clearly indicating that individual teachers are not doing that job, then there’s no rational reason why it should not be easier to get rid of them regardless of how long they’ve been part of the system.

    On Diane Ravitch’s blog, there’s a post supporting the strike because it’s a fight against quantification. Ravitch was instrumental in supporting vouchers, so she’s hardly a die-hard defender of teachers.

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a big-city teacher who has a good word for a) their union or b) standardized testing. Take this with a grain of salt. Maybe all teachers should be told they don’t know what they are doing, so it’s up to the bureaucrats to rank them.

  4. @Rob in CT:

    I went ahead and fixed the HTML tags…..

  5. stonetools says:

    I’m wondering if unions could do anything that Doug and Dave Schuler could approve of , given their idealogical leanings. I suspect not.
    I don’t know the particulars of the Chicago teacher’s strike. But I support the right of Chicago teachers to union representation. Whether they are right on wrong on this issue is irrelevant to me. The voters will eventually decide who is right or wrong here, rather than the city administration just dictating to the teachers. Thats OK with me.

  6. Teacher’s Unions are what actually degrade the teaching profession. By guaranteeing that everyone gets paid the same and you are guaranteed a job, despite not performing, detracts from the prestige of the profession.
    Since 1990, the student to teacher ratio has declined rapidly, while test scores have remained stagnant. We need to get back to focusing on quality teachers who are paid based on effectiveness.
    To read more, including analysis of education statistics and TNTP’s Irreplaceable report, read here: http://politicsinpink.tumblr.com/post/31144849223/making-the-grade

  7. Rob in CT says:

    Gracias, Doug.

    Re: measuring teacher performance. I find myself torn on this. On the one hand, the vast majority of employees have their performances measured somehow. On the other, I know how ridiculous that can get. That, coupled with my general impression of teachers as society’s whipping boys/girls, makes me wary.

    But you can’t demand significant pay increases *and* refuse performance evaluation. Not in this context.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    “…teacher’s unions resisting calls for accountability…”

    It seems according to what was in the articles that they are actually resisting a specific method of judging accountibility, and not accountibility in itself.
    Certainly test scores on standardized tests can be influenced by many factors outside of the teachers control…including what the kid had for breakfast, or that he saw Mary-Lou and the Quarterback standing at her locker together.
    But I understand Republicans like you have a rabid irrational hatred of Unions. So we should expect this sort of bias and not a reasoned examination of the issue.

  9. Eric says:

    I live in Chicago and as I rode my bike, I saw the teachers with their picket signs.

    The reason why the teachers were able to go on strike in the first place is because the CTU did a damn good job on convincing the parents that it was CPS and Rahm Emmanuel’s fault for not putting in a good deal. Emmanuel didn’t help himself by not talking (straight) to the parents and trying to have the public on his side. The teachers’ union did that and they got huge support and that’s how they were able to strike.

    Plus it lets me know that Emmanuel as mayor is doing something good when this is like the fifth union group in Chicago that wants to fight him.

  10. Scott says:

    [I]t 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.

    I can’t comment on the merits of the Chicago teachers strike but I can comment on the difficulties of teacher evaluation. (I happen to be married to an elementary school teacher and live that life by proxy).

    First of all, if some pay is tied to some measurement, you will get what you measure with all the attendent unintended consequences (e.g. if the measurement is the standardized test, you can be sure the students will be tested to an inch of their learning lives)

    Second, the variables in teaching children are many and uncontrollable: ability, maturity, family life, etc. Each year bring a different set of challenges. Each school is a different set.

    Good teachers tend to get the toughest students, an evaluation system should reward, not punish those situations.

    Teachers often work in teams (not necessarily by choice). Do the teams get rewarded as a group? Does the evaluation system recognize individual effort within a group?

    A reward system should also recognized a differential in subjects, many of which take a lot longer to prep and grade (e.g. Engish teacher vs, health).

    I sure there are more factors that other could add but those are my thoughts.

    All evaluation systems are complicated and most are ineffective in my experience. To say it is not complicated indicates someone who is naive and inexperienced regardless of profession.

  11. Console says:

    @Politics in Pink:

    Meh, I live in a state that doesn’t collectively bargain with teachers. Turns out that the public schools manage to suck even more here than in the average state (Texas).

    At some point the school reform movement has to show results or get over the idea that education policy can be a proxy for actually redistributing wealth to poor people.

    This isn’t 1970, we have vouchers, we have districts with accountability, we have charter schools etc.

  12. Eric says:

    @Rob in CT:

    One of the main arguments the Union has is that because the school day in Chicago is not like 30 minutes to 60 minutes longer, they want significant pay increases. However, in my opinion, its wrong for two reasons. One, Chicago used to had one of the shortest school days in the nation and yet the teacher’s are paid pretty well for the time spent. And two, the student population of Chicago Public Schools has actually gone down (due to families moving to suburbs and charter schools).

    Plus the CTU has threatened to strike for quite a while now.

  13. Barry says:

    @Rob in CT: “So they’re doing something rare for, allegedly, little reason. This suggests either the issues are more serious than Emanuel is letting on, or that the union has poor leadership. Or a bit of both. Given the optics of striking in this economy (when offered pay increases), poor leadership has to be part of it.”

    And, of course, that a certain blogger is being, ah,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, – disingenuous.

  14. JKB says:

    This is an excellent opportunity. Students aren’t captive anymore. The charter schools will see a boom with calls for more. Vouchers should get a boost as well. But perhaps a few motivated students will find Khan Academy to keep their studies up. Small, self-organizing groups of students helping each other using online resources. Plus without all the down/bore time of classroom lecture instruction. Each undermines the damaging teachers’ union.

    Teachers could strike when the only alternative was expensive private school or home schooling on the parents’ own dime but now there are options. Options limited only by undue influence by the corrupt unions. But now the unions have stepped offline while they strike, the alternatives can make good headway.

  15. MstrB says:

    Don’t judge Doug, its for the kids.

  16. Greg says:

    As someone who has family members who are teachers . I am tired of people bashing teachers and the union . You try working on the south side and west side of Chicago with no resources and kids who may be or have family that are members of some of the worlds most dangerous gangs and come in and teach and influence them for the better

    Oh my bad the Free Market will solve everything

  17. Moderate Mom says:

    There are an awful lot of people in the private sector that would be thrilled with a guaranteed 16% pay increase over the next four years, and they wouldn’t mind being held accountable for their performance in exchange for that pay raise. If I was a parent in Chicago, I’d be so pissed at the teachers right now.

  18. Just Me says:

    I can empathize with objections to having evaluations tied to the standardized test score-depending on how they used them.

    I have worked in education and seen enough students take these tests to know that not every student is highly motivated to do their best work on these tests-especially since the test has no bearing on whether they pass.

    That said, if a teacher is there to teach children because the people paying them expect that child to learn, then tying some amount of pay/merit to the student making progress makes some sense-how to measure it seems to be the issue.

    I am not 100% convinced putting so much on a single standardized test score is ideal anyway. Schools already get overly test focused (my 7th grade son who was taking algebra last year had to lose instruction time for test prep for 6th grade math-if the kid is taking algebra I think it can be assumed that he will be okay with the grade level math).

    Our school used to use an individualize computer test (MAP) which created a test to each child (miss a question you got an easier one, get one right and you get a harder one). The test was given 2 to 3 times a year depending on grade. I think a test like this, which clearly marks an individual’s progress from one point to another and with immediate results so teachers can use them makes more sense than using a test given once a year and where individual scores often aren’t known until the student has moved on to the next grade.

    I believe teachers need to be held accountable for the individual progress of their students, I am just not convinced a large, annual, standardized test is the best method to do it.

    As for pay, in an environment where most professions are seeing little to no increases in pay, at this point in time the teachers, who aren’t paid poorly, should suck it up because I doubt there is going to be much sympathy for their plight in this regard.

  19. wr says:

    @Rob in CT: I had a meeting this weekend with a local high school drama teacher. He has 61 students in his first period class and 55 in his second. The school has decided he should also teach stagecraft, but then used that class as a dumping ground for all the “special needs” kids — which means he’s got many teenagers who are below par mentally, many of whom have never held a hammer, now suppposedly working in a scenery shop.

    I imagine he’d have some qualms about being judged on students’ test scores, too.

    We load these teachers down with impossible tasks — go ahead, any of you union-haters, tell me how you teach 61 teenagers anything in 45 minutes — and then want to penalize them for not being Mr. Chips. All because we will hurt freedom’s feelings if we restore taxes to what they were in the Clinton years — or if we try to slow the incredible growth of layers of administration.

    Yup, it’s all the fault of teachers and their evil unions. Because they hate freedom.

    I hope they grind Rahm into the ground.

  20. wr says:

    @Moderate Mom: But of course you’re not a mom in Chicago and you’re pissed at the teachers anyway. Because for some reason you hate unions. To the right, the notion that workers should ever not be perfectly happy with whatever an employer chooses to give them and that they should demand more is pure evil.

  21. wr says:

    @Just Me: “As for pay, in an environment where most professions are seeing little to no increases in pay, at this point in time the teachers, who aren’t paid poorly, should suck it up because I doubt there is going to be much sympathy for their plight in this regard.”

    So how do we ever escape the race to the bottom? Most professions are being paid poorly — so we should pay the rest of them poorly, as we transfer yet another chunk of this nation’s wealth to a handful of billionaires? Or maybe it’s time for workers to stand up to wage theft and time theft. to demand decent pay for hard work and an end to a thirty-year Republican program of impoverishing the workers to enrich the rich.

  22. mantis says:

    @wr:

    So how do we ever escape the race to the bottom?

    This ain’t the way to do it. The people being hurt today are the parents who have to take off work or find someone to care for their kids, who in large part are not going to be on the union’s side because most of them have been living with stagnant wages for years and still go to work everyday. The teachers have overreached on this one, and this is from someone who largely agrees with their criticisms of the quantitative assessment methods.

    In the end, Lewis is punishing the kids and parents of Chicago because she doesn’t like Rahm Emanuel. It did not have to go down like this.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    I’m all for holding the teachers to produce. Providing we hold the parents to a similar standard and we hold kids to a standard as well. It may be possible for a brilliant teacher to do something with a black kid who comes from a dysfunctional family and who hangs out with a gang that teases him about “acting white” when he does well in school, but it’s not that bloody likely. We can’t push all the responsibility on the teachers; the parents and surrounding culture impacting the kid are as least as responsible.

    Heck, stop babysitting kids in school and apprentice them out. Maybe we should go back completely to the guild system and get rid of public education altogether. Dump them back on farms. Maybe if the kids realized their choice was between being attentive in school or working as a farmer’s field-hand for the rest of their lives, they’d be more appreciative of what they’re being offered.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. I’m also for testing before allowing people to become parents, so that shows how misanthropic I am about the whole activity of parenthood.

  25. C. Clavin says:

    Here’s a letter from professors and researchers at 16 universities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area to Emanuel and Chicago school officials warning against implementing a teacher evaluation system that is based on standardized test scores.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/researchers-blast-chicago-teacher-evaluation-reform/2012/03/28/gIQApdOfgS_blog.html

    The link to Schuler (above) says that teachers are rich…then he says the median pay for a Chicago Public School teacher is $76,000. Trouble with consistency? I don’t live in Chicago but I do not believe for a minute that $76K in any major urban area qualifies as rich.

  26. mantis says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The link to Schuler (above) says that teachers are rich…then he says the median pay for a Chicago Public School teacher is $76,000. Trouble with consistency? I don’t live in Chicago but I do not believe for a minute that $76K in any major urban area qualifies as rich.

    It does not qualify as rich, but it’s still way above average. The median household income in Chicago is $38,625–half of that of CPS teachers. The median family income is $42,724. Chicago teachers are the highest paid in the country (or second highest after New York City, if you look at the numbers slightly differently).

    The teachers here do pretty damned well for themselves.

  27. It’s complicated. As the son of a school teacher and a school secretary, I’d say:

    – Teachers don’t really like to acknowledge where their compensation has outpaced the private sector

    – The sad thing about “performance” is that it doesn’t say who cares the most.

    So you may end up with a passionate teacher who is not actually as effective as the surly monster next door, and who doesn’t quite understand that retiring on 90 to 110 percent salary is a pretty amazing deal.

  28. Nikki says:

    Of the best countries in which to be a teacher, the US ranks 22nd out of 27. We are doing it wrong.

  29. stonetools says:

    Whatever the merits of the strike, the right wing of the blogosphere has sure gone all in demonizing the teachers union, if you look at Memeorandum. Of course, its all Obama’s fault.
    I sure hope this gets settled soon.

  30. Nikki says:

    Oh sorry, that was Teacher’s Pay.

    Isn’t it funny that we are consistently told that corporations must provide outrageous CEO salaries to ensure they get the best qualified candidates for the job, but, somehow, we absolutely refuse to believe that the same applies to the education of our children.

  31. @Nikki:

    When my mom’s district turned Asian, with 1st gen Chinese immigrants, it was day and night. They had been a fairly “Fort Apache” school, and suddenly it was Teacher’s Day, with every kid bringing a little present for every teacher.

    (I’m pretty sure this was before the US had an official Teacher’s day, they just carried it over. It took my mom by surprise.)

  32. wr says:

    @mantis: “The people being hurt today are the parents who have to take off work or find someone to care for their kids, who in large part are not going to be on the union’s side because most of them have been living with stagnant wages for years and still go to work everyday. ”

    And the correct answer is: Tear down the person up one or two rungs up the ladder from them and ignore the people who are actually impoverishing them. It’s the old Plantation mindeset: “Sure, we rich folks keep you white workers poor and overworked, but you’re better than those black folk over there.”

    I get the parents have had stagnant wages. It ain’t because their kids’ teachers don’t go to be hungry.

    Parents and teachers are on the same side. But the right is very good at pitting people against each other.

  33. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: ” I don’t live in Chicago but I do not believe for a minute that $76K in any major urban area qualifies as rich. ”

    Any teacher earning over 70K is rich to a Republican. Although it’s apparently terrible even to consider a “businessman” who makes over 250K rich, as we have discovered when righties have talked about the Terror-level brutality of higher marginal taxes on any amount over that.

    In short, a Democrat who makes 76K is a fat cat who is impoverishing freedom loving job creators. A Republican who makes 300K is barely scraping by.

  34. @wr:

    Find someone in the private sector who earns $75K and then retires on a high percentage of salary.

    It’s not the pay alone that blew things up. In my dad’s day pay was low, but benefits were good. That worked. That was sustainable. What you couldn’t do was bring salary up “to match” the private sector, while leaving the salary-indexed benefits in place.

    That’s what broke the bank, again and again, in city after city around the country.

  35. Nikki says:

    @john personna: I believe it still comes down to the failure of the rich and the corporations to pay their fair share in taxes. After all, it is taxes that pay the salary and benefits for public employees, isn’t it? When those upper echelon tax cheats start paying, won’t it “trickle down” to the rest of us?

  36. Greg says:

    The Mayor is done. After this summer where the city look like something out of Scarface and now pissing off any every union in the city . I really do think he was fired from the White House.

  37. @Nikki:

    Let me tell you a parable. It is about copyright law, but the story carries over.

    Someone suggested shortening copyright term because economic studies said that something like 35 years led to optimal economic returns. At first returns accrued to authors, and then they accrued to re-users. The nation as a whole would benefit. The response was, “wait a minute, what about the widows of those authors?”

    That response actually sold pretty well politically (even though corporations are the owners of most copyright, not widows). The thing was though, that no one took “what about the widows?” and generalized it. What about widows whose husbands had been dry cleaners? Etc.

    So, if the concern is about wage and benefit, are we being fooled? Are we focusing on a group when we should generalize?

    If the problem is retirement and medical care, maybe we should try to address that for everybody, and not get bogged down with a group enjoying “emotional appeal.”

    (IMO, teachers, police and firemen, after genuine years of underpay, oversold themselves, and now have to deal with being fat cats in their own communities. Some beach lifeguards in my area make over $200K. Same thing.)

  38. michael reynolds says:

    We move fairly frequently, so my kids have been in more schools than most – everything from private learning disability schools to private gifted schools to large public high school.

    The single most impressive school so far? The public high school, followed by a private grade school. The two most useless schools so far? A public middle and a private gifted.

    What’s interesting to me is that all the schools I’m talking about had middle class or better students. None of these were poor schools.

    Politicians and axe-grinders want to use this issue to flog their own agendas, but the truth is that education is complicated stuff that does not conform to a simplistic political agenda. I think it has a whole hell of a lot more to do with the principal and his/her philosophy than it does with any other single element.

    The lousy middle and the even lousier gifted school mentioned above were both monomaniacally devoted to test scores. They had great test scores — and we pulled our son out of them because in their obsessive search for scores they were destroying his love of learning. We ended up un-schooling him, and now he’s back in HS, doing beautifully, in a public school with excellent scores that simply doesn’t put test scores at the center of their teaching philosophy.

    There’s no simple answer unless it is to put the education – not scores – of students first, under the leadership of gifted principals devoted to same, and put everything else second. But there will be different paths to that objective.

  39. Hoot Gibson says:

    @Nikki and others

    Illinois has a flat tax. In January of ’11 the Democrat controlled legislature with a Democrat governor approved a corporate and personal income tax increase of 67%. Illinois corporate tax is among the highest in the nation.

    Most of this new money went to the public employee union pension fund. Illinois vendors providing services to the poor, needy and disabled were told to wait their turn. They are still waiting since they don’t have the well-funded lobbyists the unions do. Also,unions are a major Democrat special interest.

    It seems obvious to me that in blue states like Illinois the poor and the taxpayers need better lobbyists because bigger, better more massive taxes inevitably benefit Democrat client groups.

  40. stonetools says:

    Whatever the merits of the Chicago teacher union’s arguments, this is a bad time to be striking:

    1. Although the cushiness of their jobs has been overstated, they do have relatively good, high paying jobs at the time when unemployment is 8%. They’ll have zero public sympathy for going out on strike.

    2. Their natural allies, the Democrats are in a life and death struggle with Republicans, who oppose even the idea of public sector unions. Its really time for an all hands on deck effort against the Republicans. You should postpone disagreements with allies till after November. Why couldn’t this dispute have been punted till next year?

  41. PD Shaw says:

    Residents of Chicago make half of what teachers make, but the lawyers, doctors, etc. that make the most money in the metropolitan area do not live in Chicago. What kind of system increases taxes on the have-nots to give to the haves? Its certainly not progressive.

  42. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Pointing out that a collection of liberal Democrats are hypocritical imbeciles is like saying the sky is blue. It goes without saying. Like every public sector K-12 union the CTU is a farce. Sun rises in east.

    The Chicago public schools are no different from the schools pretty much of every other big liberal city controlled for decades by Democrats: they’re cesspools. The reasons are obvious, although ironically enough the irony would be lost on much of the chattering classes.

    As for what to do about the horrible public school systems, especially in big cities, definitely that’s a quandary. Liberal Democrats are entrenched as the rulers of those systems and liberal Democrats are like Mustard Gas: they destroy or at least severely maim everything with which they come into direct contact. It’s impossible to dislodge them. It would be easier to get the corruption, poverty and crime out of the likes of Chicago. In other words there’s no chance in hell of fixing matters. These systems are too broken to fix. Plus liberal Democrats from the standpoint of pure politics don’t want people to be educated. That’s especially true of poor people and especially in connection with racial minorities.

    So the approach realistically speaking needs to be one of containment and minimizing damages.

    Vouchers are a no brainer, which is one the primary reasons why the left so vehemently is against them. States and local governments are going to spend that money in any event on K-12 programs. The issue is whether to give the poor a choice and ergo a fighting chance of their kids getting a decent education from private schools or conversely the high probability if not the near certainty from the local public schools of those kids being consigned to lives of poverty, dependency and despair.

    Getting the Feds out of the education business is necessary and appropriate. At this stage of the game routing federal taxpayer dollars towards K-12 education is throwing good money after bad. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. Plus an altogether unreported fact is that out there in Realityville people compete for jobs more with their work experience than their educations and the recent trend is for that to be the case even in connection with a lot of white collar office jobs. You don’t need a college degree, e.g., to work in medical claims or similar fields. You do need experience. Dozens of other white collar jobs fall into that category. So if the Feds are going to subsidize K-12 education we’d be better served to focus those monies on vocational training for non-exempt office employment.

  43. wr says:

    @john personna: Well, yeah. That’s pretty much exactly what I was saying. Corporate raiders leveraged companies and stole the pension funds — and then turned to the now pension-less workers and said “How is it fair that those greedy teachers and cops have secure retirements when you don’t?”

    So let’s tackle pensions as a society. We could start by fully funding Social Security by ending the law that allows a person who makes 100 million to pay the same amount of tax as one who makes 100 thousand. Let’s guarantee a decent, dignified retirement to everyone in the country.

    Or are you saying that we should ignore the “emotional appeal” of respecting teachers and just throw them on the same trash heap with all the other moochers?

    Maybe I’m just confused by your allegory. First because I can’t see how copyright could apply to the widow of a dry cleaner. And mostly because the only reason we’ve extended copyright protections so absurdly long is that Disney is deathly afraid of Mickey Mouse going into the public domain and doesn’t care how many congressmen it has to bribe to keep that from happening.

  44. wr says:

    @stonetools: ” Their natural allies, the Democrats are in a life and death struggle with Republicans, who oppose even the idea of public sector unions. Its really time for an all hands on deck effort against the Republicans. You should postpone disagreements with allies till after November. ”

    Which is exactly why the entire Democratic party should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the teachers’ union right now. Since the Rs hate unions, it’s better for the Dems to run away from them? Hell no — it’s time to stand up for what they claim to believe in.

    There has never been a good time to strike. There never will be a good time to strike. Strikes are terrible, terrifying things. They’re like wars. You don’t go out unless you absolutely have to.

    But sometimes you have to go to war, and sometimes you have to go on strike.

    Oh, and like war, when you strike, you find out who your real friends.

  45. Barry says:

    @john personna: “Some beach lifeguards in my area make over $200K. Same thing.”

    ???????????????????

  46. mantis says:

    @wr:

    Parents and teachers are on the same side. But the right is very good at pitting people against each other.

    The right is not doing this in Chicago. This is the teachers union vs. CPS/Chicago. All are run by Democrats.

    You really cannot blame the right for this, wr. It’s absurd to try. Unions, and especially teachers’ unions, may feel understandably under siege lately, but in Chicago nobody is talking about outlawing them like they did in Wisconsin. This is just normal contract negotiations with some reforms pushed by the new mayor. The teachers did not need to strike today, and doing so pretty much guarantees they are going to lose this fight, IMO. They overreached.

  47. Stan says:

    @mantis: Teachers all have college degrees, many of them have MS’s, and a few have EdD’s. It’s unreasonable to compare their salaries to the median income.

    For what it’s worth, starting annual salaries for Chicago teachers are between $45,000 and $50,000, about the same as CPA’s and a bit more than registered nurses. Average Chicago teacher salaries are in the low 70’s, again about the same as CPA’s and a little more than registered nurses. This beats the starvation wages my small town high school teachers were paid back in the 50’s, but we’re talking about people who live in an expensive city.

    Back when President Obama was trying to rescind some of the Bush tax cuts I read story after story about how $250,000 a year wasn’t really that high a salary for somebody living in a big city. So I question the title Doug gave to this thread. Well paid compared to what?

  48. @wr:

    I guess I get it.

    It made no sense to fight communism in Vietnam, but it was the battle we had.

    It makes no sense to fight broad retirement and medical care problems only for teachers, but it’s the battle you have.

  49. @Stan:

    For what it’s worth, starting annual salaries for Chicago teachers are between $45,000 and $50,000, about the same as CPA’s and a bit more than registered nurses. Average Chicago teacher salaries are in the low 70′s, again about the same as CPA’s and a little more than registered nurses. This beats the starvation wages my small town high school teachers were paid back in the 50′s, but we’re talking about people who live in an expensive city.

    Those are good comparisons, and if benefits packages matched, you’d be home free.

  50. (My dad had free, unlimited, medical insurance for life as a retired teacher. Do you know what that would be worth to a private worker? To a CPA?)

  51. grumpy realist says:

    Why are the pension plans of teachers so much more henious than the golden parachutes given to vanishing CEOs? Or the sizeable bonuses provided to people in the financial sector?

    Either you’re going to have to pay up front for bigger salaries, or you’re going to have to pay on the back end for the pensions.

    Fact is, the average American hasn’t gotten over the idea of teacher from the 1950s, where schools were able to get an absolutely fantastic pick of the population (females) for negligible salaries because it was one of the few professions that women were allowed into. Now, if you want to be competitive, you’re going to have to pay competitive salaries.

  52. stonetools says:

    @wr:

    But sometimes you have to go to war, and sometimes you have to go on strike.

    You are right, strikes are like war, and you have to choose when and where to go to war, even if your cause is just. This is the wrong time ( high unemployment, in the middle of a Presidential campaign) against the wrong enemy (a Democratic mayor).You don’t pick a fight with the your allies in the city when the Romans are at the gate .

    This was an occasion to bide your time, build some alliances, and wait for favorable political winds. There’s a time to keep your eyes on the prize, and a time to go for the prize.

  53. Going to measuring quality and the problems with test scores as an evaluatory metric, here is the New York Times on the NYC school teacher evaluation system:

    intended to show how much value individual teachers add by measuring how much their students’ test scores exceeded or fell short of expectations based on demographics and prior performance. Such “value-added assessments” are increasingly being used in teacher-evaluation systems, but they are an imprecise science. For example, the margin of error is so wide that the average confidence interval around each rating spanned 35 percentiles in math and 53 in English, the city said. Some teachers were judged on as few as 10 students.

    So in English, one could be measured to be a horrendous teacher but in reality, that individual is a teacher who is at least 1 standard deviation above mean, or be measured as an average teacher despite in reality being a negative value added individual.

    There is no precision, no accuracy, no value in metrics like that.

  54. @grumpy realist:

    Why are the pension plans of teachers so much more henious than the golden parachutes given to vanishing CEOs? Or the sizeable bonuses provided to people in the financial sector?

    I notice what you did there. You did not compare teachers to the rank and file of professionals at those corporations.

    You suggested that teachers need to be paid as elites, in order for them to be competitive. Obviously they are not being deluged with CEO offer letters. A more apt comparison is what the could indeed make joining the mid-level corporate ranks.

  55. mantis says:

    @Stan:

    Teachers all have college degrees, many of them have MS’s, and a few have EdD’s. It’s unreasonable to compare their salaries to the median income.

    Is it unreasonable for Chicago parents to compare their own salaries to those of the striking teachers? Reasonable or not, they are doing so, and that’s what I was talking about. And FWIW, I’m not arguing that teachers do not deserve to be paid well. I’m just pointing out some realities about the situation which are quite relevant. This is not the right time to strike. It will not end well for the teachers.

    Back when President Obama was trying to rescind some of the Bush tax cuts I read story after story about how $250,000 a year wasn’t really that high a salary for somebody living in a big city. So I question the title Doug gave to this thread. Well paid compared to what?

    Compared to the rest of Chicago and teachers elsewhere. Oh wait, that’s exactly what I said, which you called unreasonable to note. Make up your mind.

  56. mantis says:

    @Stan:

    Teachers all have college degrees, many of them have MS’s, and a few have EdD’s. It’s unreasonable to compare their salaries to the median income.

    Is it unreasonable for Chicago parents to compare their own salaries to those of the striking teachers? Reasonable or not, they are doing so, and that’s what I was talking about. And FWIW, I’m not arguing that teachers do not deserve to be paid well. I’m just pointing out some realities about the situation which are quite relevant. This is not the right time to strike. It will not end well for the teachers.

    Back when President Obama was trying to rescind some of the Bush tax cuts I read story after story about how $250,000 a year wasn’t really that high a salary for somebody living in a big city. So I question the title Doug gave to this thread. Well paid compared to what?

    Compared to the rest of Chicago and teachers elsewhere. Oh wait, that’s exactly what I already said, which you called unreasonable to note. Make up your mind.

  57. EMRVentures says:

    My father worked as an elementary school principal for many years, and his attitude towards “objective” evaluations was “I’m all for it. When you come with a method that doesn’t have a whole bunch of unintended consequences, let me know.”

    In his school, the good teachers got the tough cases. In an objective performance-based compensation, that would not be the case, because principals would be careful to protect their good faculty from being dragged down by the tough cases.

    In his school, students were matched with teachers after long consideration of the personality of the student, of the teacher, and of the parents. Every effort was made to balance classes from an ability, behavior and personality standpoint to give all the students the best change to succeed, and to prevent situations in which one class was too zooey, one too distracting, etc. With performance-based pay, those considerations will compete with making sure the faculty you most want to retain get a class that will facilitate that.

    In my Dad’s school, teachers were evaluated on how well, in his opinion, they taught students. In pay-for-performance teachers won’t teach, they’ll teach the test.

  58. Brett says:

    Screw that. The Republicans can have their identity politics, but I’m not going to be a part of it just to support a bunch of upper-middle-class teachers hiding behind legal protections and generations of cozy corruption between them and the Chicago city government.

    Personally, I think they should classify them as some kind of critical public sector profession where they can be fired if they go on strike, just like the Air Traffic Controllers that were fired back in the 1980s for an illegal strike.

  59. michael reynolds says:

    @EMRVentures:

    That is exactly right. I am in complete agreement with your father. If you compensate teachers based on test scores you incentivize them to cheat, to get rid of difficult students, to teach the test and only the test, to actively discourage students who want to expand their knowledge beyond the curriculum. It’s a corrupting approach that is utterly ill-suited for the realities of education.

    The simple fact is there is no system better than letting a well-prepared principal evaluate the teachers under her authority. Of course this, too, conflicts with the unions, but rather than fight them in an effort to impose a stupid system, why not fight them to do the smarter thing?

  60. Stan says:

    @john personna: They probably do match, at least for nurses. About CPA’s, I don’t know.

  61. Nikki says:

    @stonetools: Fuck Rahm Emanuel. He’s pushing that sh*tty reform at Wall Street’s behest. We need to get rid of all of those politicians who have their lips firmly pressed to Wall Street’s ass.

  62. Nikki says:

    @stonetools: Rahm Emanuel is pushing that sh*tty reform at Wall Street’s behest. Screw him and all those Democrats who support him. I hope he loses his next campaign.

  63. wr says:

    @mantis: Of course they needed to strike now. They don’t have a contract. If they settle, then they sign a contract for four years or so, and the strike can’t happen at all.

    And while the CPS may be made of democrats, they’re using standard right-wing union bashing language, claiming that the greedy teachers are demanding more money and ignoring many of the real issues here.

  64. stonetools says:

    @Nikki: @Nikki:

    Fuck Rahm Emanuel. He’s pushing that sh*tty reform at Wall Street’s behest. We need to get rid of all of those politicians who have their lips firmly pressed to Wall Street’s ass.

    You see this is the problem here. Rahm Emmanuel is not one of my favorite people, but he is most definitely ON OUR SIDE. When the Democrats line up, he lines up with us. To use the WW2 analogy, there were lots of differences between Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and deGaulle-but they played on the Allied team.

    Maybe I broke Godwin’s law there, but the point is this is the time for all good people to put aside disagreement and come to the aid of the party.It seems to me that there is nothing in the union demands that couldn’t wait till next year. I think Rahm Emmanuel could wait too, by the way.

  65. wr says:

    @john personna: “It makes no sense to fight broad retirement and medical care problems only for teachers, but it’s the battle you have. ”

    Somebody’s got to make the stand, or it will be over for everyone. Look what’s happening at Caterpillar — the company is showing record profits, the execs are taking home obscene, multi-million dollar bonuses, and they’re demanding that the workers take hug pay and benefit cuts — basically because they’ve decided they can.

    This is the future for workers in America. God knows the government won’t do anything to stop this — the Dems are in Wall Street’s pocket and terrified of being accused of hating “job creators.” When was the last time we had a pro-union government? Maybe never?

    You know why the Teamsters hooked up with the mob in the early days? Because no one else would help them.

    That’s not to recommend another collaboration between labor and organized crime — it took years to get free of that stench. Just to say that labor has never had any friends among the powerful, not even from those who claim to be on their side. Because the labor movement is about taking power from those who hold it and distributing some of it to the powerless. And the guys in power have a lot more in common with each other than with those dirty, sweaty moochers on the factory floor… or in the classrooms.

  66. stonetools says:

    @Nikki: @Nikki:

    F#$% Rahm Emanuel. He’s pushing that sh*tty reform at Wall Street’s behest. We need to get rid of all of those politicians who have their lips firmly pressed to Wall Street’s ass.

    You see this is the problem here. Rahm Emmanuel is not one of my favorite people, but he is most definitely ON OUR SIDE. When the Democrats line up, he lines up with us. To use the WW2 analogy, there were lots of differences between Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and deGaulle-but they played on the Allied team.

    Maybe I broke Godwin’s law there, but the point is this is the time for all good people to put aside disagreement and come to the aid of the party.It seems to me that there is nothing in the union demands that couldn’t wait till next year. I think Rahm Emmanuel could wait too, by the way.

  67. stonetools says:

    @wr:

    Of course they needed to strike now. They don’t have a contract. If they settle, then they sign a contract for four years or so, and the strike can’t happen at all.

    Can’t they work under the current contract for a while? It seems to me there are ways around this.

  68. wr says:

    @mantis: “Is it unreasonable for Chicago parents to compare their own salaries to those of the striking teachers?”

    Those same parents take their kids to doctors and dentists. Is it unreasonable for them to compare their own salaries to those of the doctors and demand that medical pay be slashed to match their own?

    Do you think it’s reasonable for the parents of private school kids to compare their own salaries to those of the people who teach their kids? And once they’ve made the comparison and discovered they make ten or twenty times as much as the teachers, should they demand the teachers have pay parity with them?

    Do we simply ratchet down everyone’s pay to the minimum wage? Or do we accept that different jobs have different pay scales?

  69. Katharsis says:

    via Balloon Juice:

    http://coreyrobin.com/2012/09/10/terry-moran-how-much-fucking-money-do-you-make-a-year/

    Love how these numbers (19%, 75k/y) are thrown around and accepted at face value.

  70. wr says:

    @stonetools: “.It seems to me that there is nothing in the union demands that couldn’t wait till next year. ”

    You keep saying this. It’s as if you don’t understand the most basic fact of labor negotiation. The contract is up now. There is no contract between school district and teachers. These issues need to be settled now, or go on hold for three or four years, until this contract expires.

    And then it will be another critical time for the Dems, and thus another opportunity for the teachers to take one for the team.

    Funny how the bankers never have to take one for the team. Or the defense lobbyists.

  71. stonetools says:

    @wr:

    Well, maybe you’re right about this. But make no mistake, the results of this is going to bad for Democrats. Let me quote from a commenter over at LGM:

    You have yet to explain why the Party-Progressives would be wrong and why the “Principle”-Progressives would be right.

    The optics of this are terrible, it feeds into right wing media narratives about unions and Chicago at the worst possible time.

    I agree that teachers are paid shit compared to their terrible working conditions. My mom was a teacher, my sister was a teacher until high-stakes testing got her canned. I understand the difficulties that a teacher faces, I hear about little else.

    But low pay and shitty working conditions are a common feature in American work these days. Even for the educated proletariat.

    And a lot of people are going to look at the relatively good benefits teachers enjoy and their relatively high job security, and their relatively comparable wage-rate and they’ll compare it to the terrible benefits, no job security and low pay that a whole lot of college graduates are working for these days and decide that they are not sympathetic to the teachers.

    And is it fair that these people are essentially saying “because we don’t have nice things you can’t”?

    No, it’s not fair. But it’s mid-September and it is what it is. And we need a lot of those people to pull the lever Democratic in November or we’re going to have another war, another round of useless 1%er tax cuts, and another useless Congress who will aid and abet Gekko and Galt in ripping apart what little fabric remains in the American tapestry.

  72. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    (My dad had free, unlimited, medical insurance for life as a retired teacher. Do you know what that would be worth to a private worker? To a CPA?)

    The solution, then, seems to be to offer free, unlimited medical insurance to every American.

  73. al-Ameda says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m all for holding the teachers to produce. Providing we hold the parents to a similar standard and we hold kids to a standard as well. It may be possible for a brilliant teacher to do something with a black kid who comes from a dysfunctional family and who hangs out with a gang that teases him about “acting white” when he does well in school, but it’s not that bloody likely. We can’t push all the responsibility on the teachers; the parents and surrounding culture impacting the kid are as least as responsible.

    I agree with you. Look on a map, it’s usually not hard to locate the best public schools. Usually those schools are in upper middle class areas where both parents are college-educated professionals and they value education and have high expectations of the school’s teachers and administration.

    It seems to me that teachers who are to be evaluated on the basis of student test scores would be well-advised to get a teaching position in the affluent suburbs.

  74. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you compensate teachers based on test scores you incentivize them to cheat, to get rid of difficult students, to teach the test and only the test, to actively discourage students who want to expand their knowledge beyond the curriculum.

    There are two sayings in business. One is “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

    The corollary, however, is that “once you start to measure, then that’s what you end up managing.”

  75. @Rafer Janders:

    They can do it in Saudi Arabia, right?

    Of course, other than the happy situation of a low population sitting on a valuable natural resource, no one can offer “free and unlimited” anything.

    (I”m fine with teachers making in salary and benefits a wage that matches the prevailing wage/benefits for similarly educated workers in their region. That’s pretty close to the “equal pay for equal work concept” that the left normally likes.)

  76. Rafer Janders says:

    @stonetools:

    To use the WW2 analogy, there were lots of differences between Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and deGaulle-but they played on the Allied team.

    Well, yes, but you always had to remember that while Stalin may have been temporarily on your team, he was never on your side. Once the game shifted, he’d do his best to screw you over and take all the gains for himself.

  77. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Of course, other than the happy situation of a low population sitting on a valuable natural resource, no one can offer “free and unlimited” anything.

    Then how exactly was your dad getting “free and unlimited” healthcare?

    And while we don’t live in world of unlimited resources, we do live in a world where we, just like all other major industrialized nations, can offer comprehensive and universal taxpayer-funded healthcare to all our citizens, irrespective of which job they have. It seems to me that if we did so, we’d remove the ability of the right to play off one group of workers against the other by stoking resentment of their health benefits.

  78. @Rafer Janders:

    Then how exactly was your dad getting “free and unlimited” healthcare?

    Up top I say that when my dad started work in schools pay was low but benefits were good. That was sustainable. What happened over his career, but even more so after, was that pay went up and pay-indexed benefits went up as well.

    Who knows whether the city could have paid, steady state, my dad’s package forever. They didn’t have that opportunity. Pay increases and pay-indexed benefits broke the bank.

    Basically my dad came into education around 1950 and left around 1985.

    And while we don’t live in world of unlimited resources, we do live in a world where we, just like all other major industrialized nations, can offer comprehensive and universal taxpayer-funded healthcare to all our citizens, irrespective of which job they have. It seems to me that if we did so, we’d remove the ability of the right to play off one group of workers against the other by stoking resentment of their health benefits.

    One of the reasons I’d like a National Health is that it would even these things out, but nowhere outside the oil kingdoms are benefits “free and unlimited.”

    A National Health has limits. The very aged are not given aggressive cancer treatments, etc.

  79. ElizaJane says:

    There really needs to be some middle ground on teacher evaluation and teacher tenure.
    I’m as union-friendly as most Dems — some of my best friends are union organizers, truly. Plus I teach at a public university. And yet.
    I have three kids in public schools, in an affluent area with lots of college-educated parents. The fact is that there are still teachers here who are completely, utterly worthless, and everybody knows who they are, kids and parents alike. These are teachers who truly do not teach, anything, ever. The pushy parents make sure their children don’t get into those classrooms, or else they hire tutors to compensate. The lousy teachers are also, routinely, sent to the newest schools in the district, which just happen to be where the most migrant workers’ kids attend.
    It’s not a secret. Any sentient parent knows it. Yet it is almost entirely impossible to get rid of the acknowledged duds.
    So what kind of evaluation structure WOULD work? I too detest teaching to the standardized test. But how can you protect a teacher from being harrassed out of a job (as happened at my own private school) because of their politics or their sexual preference or whatever, without resorting to standardized tests?

  80. PD Shaw says:

    @Stan:

    Teachers all have college degrees, many of them have MS’s, and a few have EdD’s. It’s unreasonable to compare their salaries to the median income.

    This is a problematic metric. Teachers get a ten week summer vacation to take courses that their union contracts guarantee raises for, regardless of whether the advanced courses further their teaching ability. For the most part studies have shown that teachers with advanaced degrees are not better teachers. The one exceptin is advanced courses in hard math/sciences, but its not clear whether or not the type of people who take such courses already have high aptitude for hard math/sciences anyway.

  81. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    One of the reasons I’d like a National Health is that it would even these things out, but nowhere outside the oil kingdoms are benefits “free and unlimited.”

    Well, again, “free and unlimited” was your original phrasing, not mine.

  82. @Rafer Janders:

    I used that phrase because my dad did get awesome benefits for being a retired teacher.

    That’s the point. It was the kind of package no city can afford in the long run, and that no nation can afford for all its citizens.

    My dad died of prostate cancer. It was horribly expensive. It was fully covered.

  83. MarkedMan says:

    I think libertarians and republicans give the game away whenever they start to crank out the high dudgeon whenever unions assert themselves. They can defend virtually anything Bain or a random CEO does to a company, employees or customers by endorsing the principle of letting the market decide and that everyone should be free to maximize their own financial rewards. But by god let a bunch of workers organize into a union and show they have some power and you can just see those L’s and R’s twist themselves up into a spittle flecked spew of contempt.

    If this dichotomy was an occasional phenomena, then it could be based on the merits of an individual case. But since it happens Every. Single. Time. I have to think that visceral reaction is caused by their instinctual admiration for their betters and need to distance themselves from the contemptible peasants.

  84. Rob in CT says:

    JP and I are in the same basic place on this: either you get paid high wages, or you get paid ok with nice bennies. Not both.

    I have two good friends who are teachers. I think they are good ones, though obviously I’m not in their classrooms. They definitely care, and try hard. I think they deserve solid compensation. More than that, I think they deserve respect and understanding they don’t currently get enough of. Like I said before: society’s whipping boys/girls. They get blamed for freaking everything.

    So, if I were in their shoes? I might get a tad unreasonable.

    But, understandable as that may be? It’s still unreasonable.

  85. Stan says:

    This 2009 article in Economix blog of the New York Times

    http://tinyurl.com/mqzl7p

    compares the average salaries of American teachers with those of other countries. American teachers earned more, $43,633/year compared to the OECD average of $39,007, but they also taught more. In 2009 American teachers earned $40.04 per classroom contact hour, compared with an OECD average of $55.72 per contact hour.

    A different Economix article,

    http://tinyurl.com/3bquzjc

    showed in that in 2010 the average salary in the New York City securities industry was $361,330/year.

    I again question the title of Doug’s post. Well paid compared to what?

  86. Rafer Janders says:

    showed in that in 2010 the average salary in the New York City securities industry was $361,330/year.

    Hey, you have to pay to attract and retain top talent.*

    *Platitude not applicable to teachers.

  87. PD Shaw says:

    @Stan: Well Paid Compared to what?

    Average salary of Chicago Public School Teacher = $71,000
    Average salary of Chicago resident = $30,203

  88. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Again, you’re comparing apples to oranges. A Chicago public school teacher has at least a college degree, plus often a masters or other advanced degree, and has to become state certified. The “average Chicago resident”, on the other hand, is a much larger category that includes ALL workers, including many manual and blue-collar workers without a college and/or graduate degree such as janitors, grocery store clerks, cashiers, factory workers, etc., so of course an average teacher is going to (and should) earn more than the “average resident.”

    The appropriate metric would be to compare the salary of a public school teacher to that of other credentialed professionals such as lawyers, judges, medical doctors, accountants, psychologists, engineers, etc.

  89. anjin-san says:

    A National Health has limits. The very aged are not given aggressive cancer treatments, etc.

    Is that a bad thing? My father declined treatment for cancer that was going to kill him regardless. The oncologist actually seemed to be angry when informed of the decision. My mother declined chemo after her second bout with cancer – 18 months later, she is doing fine.

    At some point as individuals, we need to come to grips with the fact we are mortal. As a society, we need to come to grips with the fact we can’t afford the level of care we typically give to people in the last year of their lives.

  90. Barry says:

    @C. Clavin: “It seems according to what was in the articles that they are actually resisting a specific method of judging accountibility, and not accountibility in itself.”

    In other words, Doug was in the wrong.

  91. bill says:

    @PD Shaw: that’s nice, and 3 months off for summer! of course the “pain and suffering” have to be factored in but still.

  92. PD Shaw says:

    @Rafer Janders: Do you understand where taxes come from? They come from the people making $30k, to pay teachers like lawyers.

    Median pay for a Chicago Public School teacher is $76,000
    Median pay for a Chicago lawyer is $77,084

    I’m all ears for the teacher’s unions plan to tax Wall Street and Monte-Carlo, so that they can get a 15% raise, but if there is no plan, they are shaking down the $30,000 salaried worker.

  93. Barry says:

    @Brett: “Screw that. The Republicans can have their identity politics, but I’m not going to be a part of it just to support a bunch of upper-middle-class teachers hiding behind legal protections and generations of cozy corruption between them and the Chicago city government. ”

    Would you like to rewrite this so that it makes sense?

  94. @PD Shaw: I have doubts about that payscale.com survey since according to them the top salary any lawyer makes is under $200k.

    I happen to have two friends who are lawyers and live in Chicago and both make considerably more than that. Not that this proves anything, but non-scientific, self-reported surveys are always a dicey source.

  95. @anjin-san:

    I think you are agreeing with me. On the other hand, ten people up-voted “why can’t we all have free and unlimited health care?”

    Having both “free” and “unlimited” is pretty hard, right? Without a magic money machine?

    (Right now in our uneven health care system some people have “free,” some people have “unlimited” and some people have none.)

  96. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I’m all ears for the teacher’s unions plan to tax Wall Street and Monte-Carlo, so that they can get a 15% raise, but if there is no plan, they are shaking down the $30,000 salaried worker.

    First of all, it’s not a “15% raise.” David Vitale, head of the Chicago School District, said that “the deal comes with a 3-percent raise the first year, and 2 percent the second, third and fourth years of the deal.” That’s not a 15% raise; it’s rather more like 9%. (Link below):

    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news%2Flocal&id=8804372

    The city hasn’t explained how it arrived at the 15-16% figure it’s citing, but it probably includes things like step increases based on seniority, which is not the same thing as an increase in base pay.

    Moreover, the city is also asking teachers to work a 20% longer school day. If you factor in inflation, and the fact that they are being asked to do 20% more work for 9% more money, then the teachers will actually come out behind where they started.

  97. Rafer Janders says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    I happen to have two friends who are lawyers and live in Chicago and both make considerably more than that. Not that this proves anything, but non-scientific, self-reported surveys are always a dicey source.

    Just as an example, a first year associate — meaning a 25 year old fresh out of law school with absolutely no real experience — has a starting salary of $165,000 at Sidley & Austin in Chicago, not including bonus. Senior associates and partners can expect to make multiples of that.

    http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Sidley-Austin-Chicago-Salaries-EI_IE3375.0,13_IL.14,21_IM167.htm

  98. Rafer Janders says:

    I’m all ears for the teacher’s unions plan to tax Wall Street and Monte-Carlo, so that they can get a 15% raise, but if there is no plan, they are shaking down the $30,000 salaried worker.

    “Shaking down”? It’s work for pay. If Chicago voters don’t want to pay a competitive salary to their teachers, they don’t have to. If they don’t think that the people who educate, train and watch over their children all day aren’t worth it, they don’t have to pay them. They should expect, however, that over time the quality of teachers — and thus their childrens’ education — may decline rather dramatically — as teachers get tired of the high stress for low pay and seek better opportunities elsewhere.

  99. PD Shaw says:

    @Bernard Finel: Do they live in Chicago, or do they live in the suburbs, like Oak Park or Kennilworth or Naperville?

    Lawyer’s salaries everywhere fall into a bimodal distribution, the median is not high. Another source:

    While those at the very top of the starting salary scale might earn $160,000, the median among all lawyers is $60,000. So, for those in the middle of the pack, “if you have debts over $100,000, some reaching $150,000, it will be very difficult to pay that debt,” he says

    .

  100. bandit says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you compensate teachers based on test scores you incentivize them to cheat

    That’s idiotic,even for you. Do you have so little respect for teachers professionalism that you think cheating is how they would try to improve?

  101. mantis says:

    @wr:

    Of course they needed to strike now. They don’t have a contract. If they settle, then they sign a contract for four years or so, and the strike can’t happen at all.

    They didn’t need to strike. They could be teaching while negotiations continue.

    And while the CPS may be made of democrats, they’re using standard right-wing union bashing language, claiming that the greedy teachers are demanding more money and ignoring many of the real issues here.

    Citation needed.

  102. mantis says:

    @wr:

    Those same parents take their kids to doctors and dentists. Is it unreasonable for them to compare their own salaries to those of the doctors and demand that medical pay be slashed to match their own?

    Wow, are being willfully dumb here? Do you understand that “doctors” don’t strike? Do you understand that public schoolteachers are all paid entirely with taxpayer dollars? Do you not recognize that parents need to now find something to do with their kids during the day, when they should be in school? Also, nice strawman. No one is talking about slashing pay, and I certainly never said everyone’s salary should be the same.

    My point, which you will continue to ignore in favor of fighting strawmen, is that a public employee strike is an inherently political action. They need the public on their side. If the public sees teachers making double the average income and striking over what the public largely sees as small potatoes, in the midst of a crappy recovery in terms of employment, the teachers will not get the public on their side. That’s a big problem for them.

    Do you think it’s reasonable for the parents of private school kids to compare their own salaries to those of the people who teach their kids? And once they’ve made the comparison and discovered they make ten or twenty times as much as the teachers, should they demand the teachers have pay parity with them?

    You have now gone into utter nonsense. What the hell are you talking about? This is a public school strike, and the perception of the public matters.

    Do we simply ratchet down everyone’s pay to the minimum wage? Or do we accept that different jobs have different pay scales?

    Let me know when you’ve finished with your strawman toys and want to engage an argument I’m actually making, dipshit.

  103. mantis says:

    @Katharsis:

    Love how these numbers (19%, 75k/y) are thrown around and accepted at face value.

    I don’t know where the 19% figure is coming from, but the other figure is solid and has been confirmed by the teachers union themselves. Doug’s number that you point to is BS. He changes Chicago public school teachers (you know, the ones who are striking) to public elementary and middle school teachers in the metro area, eliminating high school teachers and adding in a bunch of non-strikers from outside the city. It’s a number meant to confuse and muddy the waters. I just call it lying.

  104. Lit3Bolt says:

    Throughout this entire union fight, let’s remember our Shibboleths, everyone!

    Repeat after me.

    Wealthy people work hard for their money.

    Teachers earn too much for their lazy work.

    More money makes wealthy people work harder.

    More money makes teachers lazy and fat.

    Wealthy people are always compensated appropriately.

    Workers are greedy and lazy and always want more to do less.

    Wealthy people are evaluated by merit and productiveness and are fired with severance packages with guaranteed income that they deserve.

    Workers seek lazy jobs with benefits and tenure and should be fired with no pay because they are lazy and bad.

    Wealthy people deserve respect from the media, the law, the government, and everyone else.

    Workers should be mocked, jailed, fined, and have their careers ruined. And they should like it, too.

  105. Nikki says:

    @stonetools: Any Dem is better than no Dem? No and no. With the Republicans killing their brand right before our eyes, the Democratic party is about to become the only game in town. All that will come to a quick end when they become just as, if not more, corrupt than today’s Republican party. And Rahm will probably be among the first we will witness pleading the fifth.

    No more Wall Street cronies!

  106. Stan says:

    Another article in Economix (today’s) on teacher pay. Key passages:

    “In most rich countries, teachers earn less, on average, than other workers who have college degrees. But the gap is much wider in the United States than in most of the rest of the developed world.

    The average primary-school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of a average college-educated worker in the United States. The comparable figure is 82 percent across the overall O.E.C.D. For teachers in lower secondary school (roughly the years Americans would call middle school), the ratio in the United States is 69 percent, compared to 85 percent across the O.E.C.D. The average upper secondary teacher earns 72 percent of the salary for the average college-educated worker in the United States, compared to 90 percent for the overall O.E.C.D.

    American teachers, by the way, spend a lot more time teaching than do their counterparts in most other developed countries… ”

    In earlier posts I questioned Doug’s characterization of Chicago’s teachers as well paid. I’d now like to go beyond this. He’s terribly uninformed on this subject, and ought to stick to things he knows something about.

  107. wr says:

    @Nikki: “No more Wall Street cronies! ”

    There’s a lot of corporate money chasing the idea of “improving” education by taking it away from government and handing it over to those who are wise, thoughtful and caring enough to use it as a pathway to profit.

    And there are, as always, a bunch of Rahm-style Democrats who find the idea of a new source of corporate money a lot more interesting than a bunch of lousy unionized teachers who aren’t going to support the Republicans no matter how many times they get kicked in the teeth by their own party.

  108. Nikki says:

    @wr: Our political party choices are evil and less evil.

  109. @Stan:

    One of the things we’ve heard is that teacher compensation is unequal in the US, and the big city union battles are not actually where the lowest pay is found. For that you’d look in small, poor, rural, counties, right?

  110. Stan says:

    @john personna: You’re right, and the two are connected. Unionization is anathema in small towns, and without it teachers lack bargaining power.

  111. robert windfall says:

    The reason why you can’t evaluate teachers in the way that you do someone who deals with computers, commodities, realestatw,or cars is that humans educate human beings; and, human beings are more complex than objects. For instance, if a child does not come to school prepared to learn, then if he/she doesn’t learn can we blame the teacher. Now this seems rather extreme that students would come to school for any other reason than learning, but after teaching now for just a few weeks I can tell you that at some school over 50% of the students come day after day lacking the intent, desire, or calling to learn. They come because they have no place else to go, they come because they have too, they come to get attention and recruit other students into their gangs, they come to crack jokes, they come for many reasons, So, this represents a failure on the part of their parents, churches, siblings, mentors, and the community in general and can not be pinned on teachers by connecting us to their test scores like we are the ones who are responsible for their failures. End of Paragraph!

  112. robert windfall says:

    The reason why you can’t evaluate teachers in the way that you do someone who deals with computers, commodities, realestate,or cars is that humans educate human beings; and, human beings are more complex than objects. For instance, if a child does not come to school prepared to learn, then if he/she doesn’t learn can we blame the teacher. Now this seems rather extreme that students would come to school for any other reason than learning, but after teaching now for just a few weeks I can tell you that at some school over 50% of the students come day after day lacking the intent, desire, or calling to learn. They come because they have no place else to go, they come because they have too, they come to get attention and recruit other students into their gangs, they come to crack jokes, they come for many reasons, So, this represents a failure on the part of their parents, churches, siblings, mentors, and the community in general and can not be pinned solely on teachers by connecting us to their test scores like we are the ones who are responsible for their failures. Yes, we motivate, inspire, and nurture, but this problem warrants a more holistic approach than this administration is offering. End of Paragraph!