Teachers’ Strikes- An Uncivil War

By Larry Teren

Teacher strikes now rarely affect Baby Boomers because we’ve outgrown having children who go to school. We boomers don’t have to worry how to keep the kids preoccupied. We just worry about if the governing commissions will cave in to demands and cause our property taxes to go even higher.

Illinois is becoming the focus for those who fret over teachers’ work stoppages. Let’s take a look at the two highest profile in the media- Lake Forest and Chicago.

The strike at Lake Forest High School started just this week by 152 teachers and no one seems to know when it will end for the 1700 students affected by the walkout. There are no talks with District 115 Board of Education to discuss issues involving pay and benefits. Since this is the first ever strike in Lake Forest, no one has a clue as to how it will play out.

“We’re going to be here until the board understands that we are serious,” said Chuck Gress of the Lake Forest Education Association union. “We want a fair and equitable contract.” Teachers accepted a pay freeze last year and the board wants new teachers paid at a lower scale.
About 80 Lake Forest teachers earn more than $100,000 a year,. To most sane people, that sounds like a ridiculous amount of money to pay people (who are not professional athletes) to work only nine or ten months a year. It should be pointed out, however, that the median income in that north shore village, home to the Chicago Bears main office compound, is close to $200,000 a year. Lake Forest High placed No. 18 on the latest salary ranking put out by the Illinois State Board of Education.

According to Mr. Gress, new hires will start at about $50,000 with smaller raises factored in. Hmm.. [Sounds good to me. I wonder if they will pay for my gas to drive there on a daily basis?]
Most of us who don’t have any connection to unions or collective bargaining agreements are unsympathetic to anyone who is gainfully employed griping about their salary, especially when it is much north of the $50,000 line. Baby boomers who are looking over their shoulder at the next anticipated health care premium increase tend to think of striking teachers as ungrateful, selfish and replaceable.

The board is offering to pay tiered salary increases: 2.6 percent in fiscal year 2013, 3.4 percent in 2014 and 3.4 percent in 2015. The union seeks increases of 5.6 percent, 6.5 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, to compensate for last year’s pay freeze, reports the Chicago Tribune. Board officials say the union’s request is more than double the Consumer Price Index.

One member of the teachers’ faction stated that they understood that they had to accept a freeze last year because of the economic downturn but feel that this year is a different year and need to make up. [Hey, if the economy is that vibrant in Lake Forest, I’m getting in my car there and I call dibs on one of the street corners where I can hang out with my tin can while blessing drive-by motorists who feed the kitty.]

The teachers union wants HMO family premiums to remain 100 percent funded by taxpayers. The school board want to have the teachers pay 10 percent toward those premiums. [Why is it that some put up a stink because now they have to pay a portion of their health care coverage ignoring the fact that too many of us pay 100% of our premiums? The only time anyone deserves to get more is because they’ve done something to earn it. But when teachers prefer to go the union route and collective bargaining, they lose the right to demand across-the-board financial gain when the burdened citizens who have to pay their salaries via the property tax route are financially tapped out. ]
I is an uncivil war. If you don’t believe me, check out the very public uncouth statements by the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, whose members are also out on strike now for several days.
The union leaders for the Chicago teachers claim that their strike is more noble- that is is about teacher evaluations and the principal’s role in selecting teachers. [Hmm.. So, the boss is not allowed to decide who works for him or her?]

A new state law requires that a student’s academic growth account for 30% of the teacher’s evaluation. The Chicago School Board wants it be 40%. The CTU objects and says 30% is good enough. The union says that they should not be blamed if academic growth is stunted by crime, poverty and broken homes. [Hmm… That sounds like a major indictment of the students by the teachers’ union.]

Of course, there are teachers who work at charter schools where they laugh at the public school teachers who think that they cannot motivate students from disastrous home environments. “Every kid can be taught and every teacher can teach every kid. I guess it goes back to motivation,” Bernard Murray, Noble Charter School, teacher. At Noble Charter School, teachers earn less and work more than their unionized counterparts.

“Approximately 10-percent of each teacher’s salary is determined by whatever the principal sets up, that they feel is the most important: test scores or tasks. Sometimes it’s the test scores of the entire grade level or the campus, which creates teamwork,” Michael Milkie, Noble Network of Charter Schools, said.

Thirty states require teacher evaluations. In at least 13 states and Washington D.C., student achievement accounts for half of a teacher’s rating.

The latest contract offer proposes a 16-percent raise over the next four years, money that they nor the State of Illinois has. The State is broke and just recently had their financial borrow rating lowered.

The average Chicago public school teacher earns $74,836. That’s more than the $73,000 average pay in New York. And well above LA’s average: $68,000 a year.

My solution: Tell the teachers to stay on strike and hire replacements. Just like President Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. If teachers are so vital to society as they claim they are, then they should not be allowed to strike. There are more people in a school district who don’t have kids going to school than do and it’s time that our voices be heard. Everyone makes sacrifices including teachers. If they are proud of their accomplishments, then they should not have to fear evaluations. And that’s my evaluation. Good day.

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