Teacher strikes hurt student outcomes and may worsen income inequality

October 2, 2019

Experts are available to comment on the CTU strike announcement today

CHICAGO (Oct. 2, 2019) – As the Chicago Teachers Union plans to announce this afternoon whether it will walk out on more than 360,000 students, studies show strikes negatively affect student academic outcomes.

Research published in the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates strikes can temper growth in elementary student test scores by 2.2%. Given 90% of Chicago Public School students in 2018 were minority and 83% were classified as low-income, this means a strike will disproportionately harm those most in need and leave them to endure the long term negative consequences.

Experts from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute are available to comment on how a strike would hurt minority and low-income students, potentially worsening income inequality.

How strikes harm student populations:

  • Test score decline: Expert consensus finds strikes have long-term negative effects on students. One study published by the NBER discovered that long strikes of 10 or more days have a significant negative effect on math test scores. Another published by Columbia University economists found extended disruptions, such as a strike, have negative effects on math and English achievement.
  • Less instruction: Unless the educational time lost during a strike is made up – such as by extending the school year – students lose the corresponding time in the classroom. In addition, students may require extensive review of material to get back up to speed.
  • Underperforming state averages: CPS already underperforms state academic achievement benchmarks. Its average SAT scores are 56 points lower than the state average, its four-year graduation rates are 11 percentage points lower and the percentage of CPS teachers rated proficient or excellent is 11 percentage points lower. A strike could exacerbate this.

Quote from Orphe Divounguy, chief economist for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute: 

“In the case of a teachers’ strike in Chicago, it is students who will ultimately be left behind. Lost classroom time worsens academic achievement and harms poor and disadvantaged students the most.

“With growing concerns about income inequality, the best way to ensure low-income students succeed is for CTU to accept Mayor Lightfoot’s generous offer and keep students in the classroom.”

For more information on a potential CTU strike and its outcomes, visit: illin.is/ctufacts

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977