by Michael Wille
In their opening round of teacher contract negotiations, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has demanded reduced class sizes, higher taxes on the city's richest residents and a whopping 30 percent salary increase with little accountability in return. Think about what they are calling for. At a time when 10.2 percent of Chicagoans are out of work, the CTU is demanding a pay increase that would bump the average Chicago teacher salary up to $92,606 from $71,236. That's nearly twice the amount of the $46,877 average annual income of a family in Chicago. The teacher salary figure is only for 9 months and also omits the generous benefits and perks that have been negotiated into the contract over the past years.
What have Chicago residents received in return for a spending per-pupil amount of more than $13,000? A graduation rate of 56%, an average ACT score of 16 (compared to the state average of 21) and an unsustainable pension system that is crowding out money for classrooms.
The negotiations require a different approach altogether. What will work for CPS students are reforms centered on parental choice in education. Mayor Emanuel should demand the following:
- An expansion of the number of effective charter schools that operate at a less expensive rate than traditional public schools,
- a voucher program for the city's poorest performing schools that will save taxpayers and
- an increase in cost-effective blended learning programs that will provide more options for parents and students.
We've seen the dismal results of increasing expenditures from one year to the next. The students of Chicago deserve better. School choice is the best way forward to improve a broken system.