Chicago Teachers Strike Day 2: What’s the ruckus?

As of late Monday night, the Chicago Teacher’s Union and Chicago School Board officials had yet to reach a contract deal, and it appeared that 350,000 Chicago school kids would get a second unscheduled day off, as the Chicago Teachers Strike continues. Representatives for both sides have been in contract negotiations for eight months, and still, no deal.

There are three central issues in the Chicago Teachers Strike:

  • Salary and health benefits: The teachers union is asking to maintain current health benefits, and for a salary increase. The city has agreed to a stepped increase of 16% over four years, which the union seems willing to accept. But a gap remains over health benefits—the city is willing to freeze employee contributions from singles and couples, but not for families, which could see a slight increase to their co-pays.
  • Job security and promotion: As the possibility of school closings looms in Chicago, teachers are asking for help for laid-off workers and more training, as well as more roads to promotion. The city thus far has offered to place laid-off teachers in schools that have openings, put them in a hiring pool for five months, or get three months’ severance pay. It has offered no solid proposals for teacher promotions.
  • Evaluation system: This seems to be the biggest sticking point in the strike, as the new system bases a teacher’s performance evaluation on his or her students’ standardized test scores. Teachers say this places too much emphasis on standardized tests, and does not take into account other factors in student performance, such as poverty, violence, and other issues outside teachers’ control. The city says give the new system a chance, and that it will “adjust along the way.”

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It appears that until the evaluation system issue is resolved, there will be no contract deal between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago School Board. This has Democrats around the country wringing their hands, as a Chicago Union embroiled in contract talks is too busy to work on President Obama’s reelection campaign, for which its support is crucial. Plus, unions are already under fire from Republicans, so a striking teachers union in one of the nation’s largest cities is bound to stir up more anti-union sentiment.

The real losers in the Chicago Teachers Strike? Chicago’s working parents and their school-age kids, the majority of whom are poor and minority. Parents are scrambling to find babysitters or other coverage options for their young children and hoping their older kids stay out of trouble during these idle days. Let’s hope the union and city find enough common ground to strike a deal, and soon.

Read more at CNN.