It's no good pretending strikes take place out of social
context? The Chicago Teachers' Strike is taking place
inside a city and state that have been hammered by
unsustainable pension commitments and economic
malfeasance at the highest level.
Illinois is at or near the bottom of almost every
measure of a state's financial health used by the
The schools can not remain healthy if the state
and city are going down the tubes. Yet the teachers
are only the first city employees to be negotiating
contracts over the next few years. As David Brooks
points out, by middle class standards, teachers are
astonishingly well remunerated, but they have not been
The average Chicago teacher makes $76,000 a year in a city where the average worker makes $47,000 a year. Rising school costs have helped push the system deep into the red. Meanwhile, the outcomes are not good. Forty percent of students drop out and 8 percent of 11th graders meet college readiness standards.
Rahm Emanuel was elected to bring labor, especially pension
costs under control. The generosity of this contract (a 16%
pay hike over 4 years), especially given the $3billion shortfall
that CPS faces over the next several years may make it more
difficult to obtain concessions from other unions while
negotiating fair contracts, the tightrope act the Mayor will have
to pull off to be a successful public servant.
Make no mistake, if Mayor Emanuel fails to pull it off, then
Chicago faces a Detroit-like future of slow dispiriting decline.
If the teachers have pushed for concessions beyond what is
affordable, they have worked against their own self-interest
in the long run.
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