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AS I SEE IT

Posted 9/19/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While Chicago teachers move into the second week of a strike that has kept over 350,000 students out of the classroom, one has to wonder just what concessions the city of Chicago is going to have to pony up to get the teachers back into the classroom.
It surely can’t just be more money that the teachers are demanding. After all, the average teacher salary in the Chicago Public School System at $76,000 is already among the nation’s highest salaries for public school teachers. And the city has already offered raises of 4.4 percent annually over the next four years. So it isn’t money that is keeping the teachers away.
So what is the issue?
Apparently, the two main sticking points that have the union leaders upset are the requirements for teacher evaluations and for allowing principals the right to select school staff.
Can you imagine the audacity of the city of Chicago to think that somehow or another teachers should be subject to an evaluation process where the teacher who fails to educate students could face termination procedures? Or how could the city and school administrators be so absurd as to think that principals should have the right to hire the staff that is right for the school?
In other words, the conflict between the teacher unions and the city of Chicago has very little to do with money or education. Rather it has everything to do with the union wanting to control who works and who doesn’t work in a Chicago public school.
So the big reason that Chicago’s teachers are still on the picket line and not in the classroom where they should be teaching is they don’t want someone (ie, the school administrators and/or the parents of the students that they teach) to hold them accountable for what their students learn in the classroom. Yes, they will show up for work. And yes, they will continue to draw some of the best salaries in the nation. But no, they don’t want anyone to judge them on how well they do their job in the classroom.
And that is a fundamental problem with our nation’s educational system. While everyone wants our students to do better and better in the classroom and to become more proficient in math and the sciences, we have teachers unions, like the one in Chicago, that are fiercely fighting any form of teacher accountability.
If teachers are going to hold their students accountable for learning the subject matter that is presented in the classroom, then teachers should also be willing to be held accountable for presenting the subject matter in a manner and form that enables the students to learn and to succeed.
Chicago teachers and their union should be the champions of education reform and embracing the concept of teacher evaluations. At a time when American businesses need skilled and educated workers, the union should be putting the needs and the interests of the students at the forefront of their demands as a union, not trying to maintain a status quo whereby the poor teachers are being protected and the school system continues to turn out uneducated and under performing students.
Chicago teachers, and its union, in continuing to drag out the strike are setting a very poor example to the students that they are entrusted with teaching.