Chicago teachers on strike

Update: Not much from the White House yet, but Mitt Romney swiftly issued a statement about the Chicago teachers’ union strike: “I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city???s public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education. Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet.

“President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his Vice President last year to assure the nation???s largest teachers union that ???you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the President???s commitment to you.??? I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that.”

Bad news for schoolkids in Rahm Emanuel???s liberal utopia of Chicago, straight from the pages of the Chicago Tribune:

Striking for the first time in 25 years, Chicago’s teachers set up picket lines this morning after talks with public school officials ended over the weekend without resolution.

Rahm says cut back, we say fight back,” picketers dressed in red T-shirts chanted this morning outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced late Sunday night that weekend talks had failed to resolve all the union’s issues.  ???We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,??? she said. ???No CTU members will be inside of our schools Monday.???

(Emphasis mine.)  So far, the ???fight back??? strategy has gone swimmingly, as unionized teachers have Chicago kids pinned to the mat, MMA-style.  The unions don???t want to hear any of that crazy talk about fiscal responsibility from the government of the worst city in America???s worst basket-case state, and they really don???t like having their performance evaluated:

After an all-day negotiating session Sunday, school board President David Vitale told reporters the district had changed its proposal 20 times over the course of talks and didn’t have much more to offer.

 ???This is about as much as we can do,??? Vitale said. ???There is only so much money in the system.???

 The district said it offered teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years and a host of benefit proposals.

 ???This is not a small commitment we’re handing out at a time when our fiscal situation is really challenged,??? Vitale said.

Lewis said the two sides are close on teacher compensation but the union has serious concerns about the cost of health benefits, the makeup of the teacher evaluation system and job security.

Well, if Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has any guts, he???ll fix that ???job security??? situation right now, by firing the lot of them.  The Tribune reports that the city???s contingency plan for dealing with the teachers??? union strike is to open the schools for half a day, adding that parents ???are being urged to find alternatives and use the schools only as a last resort.???  The kids won???t be learning anything ??? they???ll be ???provided with free breakfasts and lunches and participate in organized activities like independent reading or writing,??? because there???s a state law that says only ???certified teachers??? can offer classroom instruction.

The non-students will get to watch angry union teachers with an average salary of $71,000 per year march in picket lines outside while they enjoy their half-day of independent reading or writing.  CNN reports that police are flooding the streets with officers, including those who normally work in administrative jobs, to handle the tidal wave of children getting pushed out of school at 12:30 P.M.  Civic and faith-based institutions are stepping up to give the kids something safe and productive to do in the afternoons as well.  A lot of parents will have to miss work to go home and watch their kids, or scramble to cover emergency child care expenses.

And the school year only started a few days ago.  Sounds like another triumph of union-dominated public education!

The unions are fighting mad, and ready to punish Chicago???s children as much as necessary until their demands are met.  The Chicago Tribune quotes ???veteran high school English teacher??? Jay Rehak: ???I think people feel like they’ve been bullied, so they want to say, ???OK, let’s do this, let’s dance.???  We know a strike is really going to be painful. People will be hurt on both sides. But in the end, it’s like saying, ???I’ll be bloodied and you’ll be bloodied, but at least you’ll know not to bully me again.’???

That doesn???t sound much like the way public school teachers normally instruct students to deal with ???bullying.???  All that national hysteria over the bullying epidemic, and here you???ve got a whole system full of teachers slamming kids up against the lockers, to teach parents and elected officials the folly of defying them.

The crisis was precipitated by Emanuel???s efforts to balance Chicago???s horrific $665 million budget deficit (on a budget of $5.73 billion!)  Citizens are already taxed to the hilt, so Emanuel tried buying teachers out of their posh union contracts.  According to a study by the Illinois Policy Institute, ???71 cents from every new dollar set aside by state government for PK-12 education went to teacher retirement costs??? over the last five years.

But what really seems to have stuck in Big School Labor???s craw is Emanuel???s effort to lengthen ???one of the shortest public school days in the country.???  That???s one of the big reasons why a 16 percent increase to their huge salaries was deemed unacceptable ??? they were looking for something more along the lines of 30 percent over two years.

The Chicago Tribune says that union leaders were willing to take smaller raises in exchange for enhanced job security, namely ???less restrictive job evaluations??? and the establishment of ???a recall procedure for teachers who???d been laid off as a result of school closings, consolidations, and turnarounds.???  According to Reuters, the unionized teachers didn???t like the notion of being judged by standardized tests that ???do not take into account the poverty of inner city Chicago, as well as hunger and violence in the streets.??? Union officials fear that ???more than a quarter of Chicago public school teachers could lose their jobs if they are evaluated based on the tests.???

Funny how those public school union demands so often boil down to making it harder to get rid of bad teachers.  Reuters frets that union rage could spill over from Illinois into nearby states “such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, where the election with Republican Mitt Romney is much closer.”  Maybe this will mark the beginning of the end of the absolute madness of public employee unions.