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updated: 9/12/2012 8:32 AM

What's at stake in the Chicago teacher strike

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  • Thousands of public school teachers march for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in downtown Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations.

      Thousands of public school teachers march for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in downtown Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations.
    Associated Press

  • Teacher pay increases shrink

    Graphic: Teacher pay increases shrink

 
Associated Press

As the teacher strike in Chicago carried on for a third day Wednesday, suburban school officials, teachers and parents are keeping an eye on developments. Policy decisions that arise from an eventual contract could have an influence on future negotiations in the suburbs.

And as teachers across the state face smaller raises and changing job requirements, the potential for strikes could grow in the coming years.

Here is a breakdown of the issues on the table:

Salary and benefits:

Across the state, teachers have been dealing with smaller raises over the years. In the 2004-2005 school year, a base-level teacher got a median raise of 3.4 percent, a number that dropped to 1.4 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

In Chicago, the school district has offered a 16 percent raise over four years -- double an 8 percent offer made earlier -- as well as "modified step increases" that it says reward experience and provide "better incentives for mid-career teachers" to keep them from leaving. The district also wants to do away with the ability of teachers to bank sick days but is offering short-term disability, including paid maternity leave.

With an average salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. To compare, the median maximum salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree in Chicago was $85,065 in 2011-12. Among schools in the Northwest and West suburbs, the similar median salary is $57,229.

Teacher evaluations:

The Chicago Teachers Union is particularly concerned about a new teacher evaluation system, arguing it relies too heavily on students' standardized test scores and does not take into account external factors that affect performance, including poverty, violence and homelessness. They argue it could result in 6,000 teachers losing their jobs within two years. The district says the union already agreed to the new evaluation system, but it has offered to make adjustments.

Job security:

Worried about dozens of schools that could be closed in the next few years, the union has pushed for a policy to recall laid-off teachers when jobs open up anywhere in the district. The district says that could force principals to hire teachers they don't believe are qualified. Instead, it has said that if a school closes, teachers would have the first right to jobs that match their qualifications at the schools that absorb the children from the closed school. It also offered to put them in a reassigned teacher pool for five months or give them a three-month severance package.

Longer school day:

This central issue appeared to be solved after the two sides agreed weeks ago to a plan allowing the hiring of nearly 500 teachers to cover a longer school day without forcing teachers to work longer. But union officials remain angry about how Emanuel tried to go around them to get the longer day in place early, including offering incentives to individual schools. Union President Karen Lewis has complained about how the longer day is being implemented.

• Daily Herald State Government Writer Mike Riopell contributed to this story.

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