Chicago’s 29,000 public school teachers and support staff aren’t just on strike to defend their own wages and benefits. They’re also fighting for better schools for the communities they live in. Click here to learn about why Chicago’s teachers are on strike.
Here’s five facts — from a well-researched early 2012 CTU report — that you need to know about the abominable state of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system — facts that Mayor Rahm Emanuel would rather you didn’t know:
- Class Sizes Are Among The Largest In The State: Chicago’s kindergarten class sizes in particular are larger than 95 percent of classes across the state. Sometimes kids are sitting in classrooms with 40 students for months as the city drags its feet on lowering class sizes. Right outside of Chicago, in the Matteson School District, the average class size is between 16 and 23 for most of a child’s education.
- Students Lack Access To Arts And Music Education: Instruction in the arts and music is essential to educating gifted and responsible children. But only 25 percent of Chicago public elementary schools have both art and music instructors.
- There Is A Severe Lack Of Social Workers And Counselors:Ai??Over 15,000 homeless children attend Chicago public schools. Yet there are only 370 social workers for the entire district. You do the math. Each social worker, if dedicated totally to homeless children, would have a caseload of 42 kids. Meanwhile, each school has only one counselor, meaning that schools with up to 1,200 kids have only one adult offering intensive counseling services.
- 160 Schools Don’t Even Have Libraries:Ai??Libraries give kids, especially impoverished kids, access to information that they’d never otherwise be able to attain. But CPS is leaving thousands of kids without access to a safe school library.
- Chicago Doesn’t Even Provide Free Public Transportation For Students: Imagine if your child had to pay extra just to get to school. CPS is one of the few major school systems in the country that does not provide fully subsidized transportation to and from school. One high school was so desperate that it created its own system using discretionary funds to help needy children get to school. This isn’t how a 21st century school system should work.
All of this has been taking place, as labor journalist James Cersonsky notes, under a climate where CPS has been pushing for more and more funding for charter schools, many of which are operated by for-profit corporations.
In the coming days, you’ll be bombarded withAi??propagandaAi??– largelyAi??emanatingAi??from the corporate-funded school privatization and anti-union movement — that says that CTU is striking out of pure selfish self-interest. But these teachers in the streets aren’t just there for themselves and their families. They want their kids to be in schools with arts and education, to have access to libraries and guidance counselors, and to be able to get to school without straining their family budgets. That’s a fight we here at PCCC want to help them win. Join the fight with the PCCC by signing up to stay in the loop with our bold progressive activism at the top of this page.
Keep up the good work writing about the strike. Also, I loved James Cersonsky’s piece. Thanks for linking to it.
Seems to me that the schools are failing AND they want a raise (48% drop out rate). The city appears to be out of money, the state is broke AND they want a raise. The teachers don’t want principals to be empowered to get rid of poor performance. Standardized tests are no good (but nothing better is suggested).
Seems to me that if it was privatized many of them would be unemployed,
Did I miss something here? How much is Chicago residents willing to pay for poor performance?
You are referencing a document by the Teacher’s Union!
I’d expect that of Fox News, not a progressive blog.
How about some impartial 3rd party analyses?
Each claim in the report is well-researched and footnoted.
Apparently, you have a reading comprehension problem!
Seems to me that the politicos are telling you our schools are failing. In Florida, they want to privatize schools, making private money off the public dollar. Across the nation, teachers are being put under a microscope with outlandish, awkward evaluation tools that cost districts money. These tools are another way for the elitist educators, (mostly privileged), to make “standards” for teachers and students to follow that don’t allow for human differences in people! There is no money added to school budgets to implement more requirements by the federal government for more student testing, reporting and teacher evaluation. There is a threat of withholding funds if these fad ideas are not implemented. Once a school is deemed to be a failing school, private for profit companies are awarded public funds. You really think this is the way to “improve” our education system? From a teacher’s perspective, we are demoralized, disheartened and totally frustrated that we are not listened to as to what would help our schools. Finland model and philosophy is to fund all schools equally. They have no private schools. Their students are among the top performers. Think about it. IMO – Go Chicago teachers! GO! At least you can strike and not be fired for it!
I feel for the teachers working in schools that are over crowded, underfunded and lack support systems from the community. I also feel for the thousands of families that work hard every day to make sure their child succeeds in school only to have a teacher focusing on 3% over 2% pay raise. On worrying if they will get free YES FREE health care benefits and an obscenely generous retirement package. Unions have a legitimate role, but to have state employees bargaining with the people that they are hiring seems wrong. Teachers salaries have moved in the right direction lately, but we need to make sure that the other resources are available for their students to learn. Drop the pay increase demands. Drop the evaluation demands. OF COURSE YOU WANT YOUR STUDENTS TO ACHIEVE THESE STANDARDS! And Mayor – get the funding for 17 – 20 students per class and the materials to teach them. Oh… and buses to get them to school might help.
Teachers are hard working as well. They work hard to make sure students achieve. They work hard at supporting families and their own children to succeed. They pay taxes and increases just like non-teachers. They pay higher prices at the grocery store. Walmart is a favorite for not only their personal budgets, but the added expense of getting supplies for children whose parents’ income is less than a teacher’s. After 17 years as a teacher, I make almost 40k. Some teachers haven’t had a COL in 6 years, and funding for schools has constantly and drastically been cut. We still pay for health insurance and have recently had 3% of our salaries cut. [This is in Florida, but I see the same pattern happening in Chicago from the news articles]. Retirement packages are so low that most teachers have to go back to work to survive. The point of this though is that we need to stop blaming teachers for the economic disasters created by those controlling the purse strings. I really doubt the teachers don’t teach over focusing on a pay increase. For pete’s sake – get a public referendum to limit class size. Parents in Florida did that and WON! = ]
Teachers supported that referendum created by parents in Florida, [naturally], but parents have a voice. Perhaps they don’t realize this in Chicago. But it is their children and our students that need the most attention.
Has anyone noticed the imbalance between counselor-student and social worker-student ratio? Or how DrAsTiCaLlY the K-12 curriculum has changed over the past forty years?
For decades “The System” has placed responsibility for all manor of social issues that are far afield from the education of students at the School House doors. Programs such as pregnancy and drug prevention, grief counseling, and bullying to name just a few, have been forced into the public school house. The number of hours in the day doesn’t magically increase with each mandated program imposed on the school curriculum. Each time an addition to the curriculum is mandated, something else has to be eliminated. Simple as that. Maybe its arts ed. or math, or reading instruction. How does this rearranging of the curriculum impact test results? Does the State test assess how well a student(s) is equipped to defend herself against a bully, or how well she may have dealt with the grief of seeing a classmate or teacher gunned down in front of them? No! Yet we have allowed much valuable instruction time to be eliminated in favor of these “Essential” programs. Parents of children who attend private school have other avenues for addressing such issues if they need to address them at all. Perhaps decision makers should fashion a plan to reinstate purely academic curricula into the public school work plan while simultaneously creating another mechanism to address non academic needs of children who live in cities/neighborhoods where social and economic issues threaten their education quality and all too often their very survival.
My child attended a private school and I can say that academics were the ONLY focus of the curriculum – I suspect this is the case in Mayor Emanuals childrens school. The idea here should be to free public schools of non academic programs and develop necessary programs for delivery through alternate venues to help kids living in high crime, homeless, or situations that do not/cannot foster safe, educationally supportive environments for children. A tall order at a time when the economy is in a downward spiral. However, it is unconscionable to blame teachers for poor test scores/underperforming students when so much of what impacts student performance lies well outside their scope of control. Throwing barbs at teachers will only serve to exacerbate an already hopeless situation not cure it.
Sue – Great input. It is refreshing to hear a teacher emphasize how students are the most important component. I, for one, had not placed enough of my energy in that area of this argument. Of course teachers need to be compensated with competitive salaries (40 k seems a little low, but in Chicago average is nearing 74 k). The also deserve solid benefits (I hope you are able to eventually retire without taking on a second job). These are important issues.
However, getting the community out there, demanding class room sizes that are manageable, transportation that is reliable, educational materials that are suitable for aiding in the learning process, and facilities that allow all this learning to happen is the more important task. Parents need to be out there – not picketing with the teachers – not handing out leaflets for the Mayor, but demanding the best education possible for their children.
Teachers have been historically underpaid, and actually are among those willing to endure it for the greater good of educating children. They deserve a 10% raise at least. They are under continual attack because corporate America wants the money that goes to education, and they support methods and legislation that harms education and educators in hopes of being able to take over with charter schools – which aren’t any more effective at educating children, on average, and will only suffer from operation under the profit motive, just like juvenile rehabilitation. America really could be symbolized by a Bald Eagle soaring free – we do have the money and the human resources – but under free market fundamentalism, taxbreaks for corporations and the wealthy, America’s become a broken winged Eagle chewing its talon out of a leg hold trap.
As a public school volunteer in my community (a major metro area) and a Union member I must ask the following question? 1. When many of our nations’ public school districts are suffering as is Chicago, how do you feel justified asking for more when all our districts have less? 2. Why is it that the Teachers Union is so against being measured for their work performance? I have heard your arguments that not all teachers work in the same environment and therefore cannot be “measured” effectively. Many of us work in industries where our performance can be impacted by the “area” we work in but we are still measured for our work performance. Simply paying a teacher based on tenure and the number of degrees is wrong unless you also tie it to the performance of that teacher. After all, seniority and education should make one an even better educator. It does not give one a license to stop doing one’s job! 3. You must realize that you are playing into the hands of your politcal “foes” to have this strike before the election. Ms. Lewis….. what are you thinking???
You have made your point and now it is time to get the teachers back to work, stop the “union” mentality that we too often have, sit down and start a comprehensive discussion on how you can make a difference to the teachers AND the students.
What percentage of teachers do you believe have stopped doing their job? What makes you believe that a teacher that has stopped doing their job can’t be fired? Are you aware of the turnover (burnout) rate in the profession? Your arguments would make more sense if they were tied to some objective facts. Demonizing teachers and teacher’s unions and ignoring legitimate arguments about the manner of evaluating teacher performance won’t cut it. Teaching to the test causes students to tune out, and tuned out students do poorly on standardized tests. Using the scores from standardized tests to evaluate teachers is foolishness and is designed to produce the results desired by the above mentioned corporate interests.
That’s just it the unions block the collection of information necessary for objective facts.
I am not trying to demonize teachers at all. That is why I volunteer on my own non-paid time. I don’t even have children in school now but I proudly pay my taxes and do what I can because I BELIEVE in the public school system.
I am all about analysis and being objective but it is hard to get firm facts it is true because as another person pointed out, figures are not always readily available. Here is what I “think” I know and understand about the teacher situation.
Firing a non-performing teacher can be done but is very, very difficult. Now, having said that, I think that no employee should be “fired” just because someone “likes to fire people”. If you want to fire a teacher or any other person you should be able to justify your actions. What is more dismaying to me is the situation where, when a school district has to make cuts, they automatically have to terminate the junior teacher even when they are the better teacher. Seniority should have merit but how a person performs their job should also carry weight.
According to what I have read, over 2000 teachers participated in the evaluation programs being used in the U.S. I think that shows that this must be a well thought out process.
According to what I have read, the Union in Chicago is saying that 28% of the teachers in the District would be subject to termination for poor performance. Really? 28%! So let us assume that is correct…… From what I have seen, they have two years to come up to standard before loosing their jobs………
I have worked in areas where the technicians that I worked with were at a distinct disadvantage compared to others in our area because we had been assigned to the worst scenarios and yet our measurements had to stand up with the others. What I found, in working as a team, is that we were able to overcome those problems if we choose to do so. These teachers have two years to accomplish this task but it won’t matter if they have 22 years if they have the attitude they cannot do it!
And, lastly, assuming the 28% is correct, wouldn’t it be interesting to see if that 28% is spread across the district, grades, subjects, etc or is it concentrated to particular schools, etc. If it is spread across all the 350,000 students then I would say the problem is more “individual” related. If it can be determined that the majority of the 28% are concentrated in certain areas then the Union, Teachers and the Administration should work together to assess what can be done in those targeted areas to improve performance.
Those are my thoughts and I hope Chicago and all of our public schools are successful in resolving this strike and moving on to improve their education system. The future of our country depends on it!
Will the charter schools address poverty and the low achievement ratios of the students by tying the system to the free market and the drive for profits and bonuses? I doubt it. Public education should be a powerful community thing. Those destroying education are looking at the bottom line and would rather have the school dollar go to warrs and executive bonuses.And as for the children? Well if things go wrong tell them to pray.
“And there’s the problem with public schooling: there’s no ‘elsewhere.’ If you don’t like the way your local school district is run, there isn’t a competing school district vying to provide your kids with a better education at a lower cost. You’ve got no place else to go, and unions know this. So they can ask for more employees to be hired, better pensions or health benefits, and they can demand that their compensation not depend on their performance. And there’s very little that parents and taxpayers can do about it.
“That’s what’s happened in Chicago, where the average teacher’s salary is about $75,000 (almost 50% above the citywide private sector average), public sector retirement benefits are so generous that Illinois owes $203 billion for this purpose that it simply doesn’t have, and the teachers’ union has decided that it will not go along with the district’s plan to make salaries depend partly on classroom performance.
“In the absence of real private sector competition and parental choice, public school unions have been able to drive up the system’s costs without needing to show improvement in performance. Sooner or later, Illinois will adopt a system, like education tax credits, that provides real choice and competition, because the current system will ultimately bankrupt the state.”
#3 above states; Meanwhile, each school has only one counselor, meaning that schools with up to 1,200 kids have only one adult offering intensive counseling services. While that is true, what’s even worse is that the counselor in most schools does double duty as the case manager. There is little or no time for actual counseling of children.
1. arts/music: Kids are not going to die if they can’t paint or beat a drum.
2. Free public transportation?? its the parents responsibility to get the kids to school.
3. counselors/shrinks? again, that the parents responsibility.
The only thing wrong with CPS is the bad teachers.
1) Pay teachers a reasonable, market wage of $40-50k/year
2) Take the left over money and make libraries!
Vuala, problem solved! And if they don’t want to work at the lower wage? Fine, fire them and hire new teachers. There are a lot of out of work people who want jobs right now…
Oh, and modernize the management of these public schools. They are managing like they did before we had computers!