Teachers Unions

Does the Chicago Teachers Unions care about education?  Or poor kids?  Look at the facts.  The Teachers Union wants a tight lid on competition.  Fight charter schools.  Fight reform.  Fight getting rid of bad teachers.  Keep lousy schools lousy.  Raise unfunded pension deficits.  Deny opportunity for educational choice.  Demand fewer school days.  Shorter hours to work.  Yet demand more money.  More benefits.   Read the newspapers.  This ain’t fake news, people.  I have to wonder why.  Why do they do it?   I see no moral explanation. 

Poor parents beg – clamor – for good schools for their children.  They sign up in droves for a chance at a charter school.  Most teachers unions respond to the poor with a snarled four letter word.  And a finger.  Talk about building a wall . . . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reformation in teachers unions.  A reformation in attitude — where education comes first.  Children come first.  The poor are not denied.  Giving opportunity to all kids to reach their highest potential.  I don’t rule it out.  But this is a change that will have to come from within.            


A Race to the Bottom?

According to a 2008 study by the Illinois Education Research Council, Chicago Public School teachers scored an average of 19 (out of 36) on standardized ACT tests. This compares to an average score of 21 among all Illinois high school students and 18 of Chicago Public School students. Younger/newer teachers tended to have higher ACT test scores.   Conclusion?  Many Chicago teachers are likely unfit for teaching.   How about Chicago students?  A mere 33% of Chicago Public School students who enter high school will go to college.  Fewer will graduate.  In an article a few months ago (Philip Elliott; Associated Press), it states that only 5% of African American students are fully ready for life after high school.  Chicago’s educational system is dysfunctional and depressing.     

But there is a glimmer of hope.  When it comes to ACT scores, it was reported several weeks ago that academically the top 11 open-enrollment high schools in Chicago are charter schools.  This is reason for optimism.  I have a keen interest in education – and improving the “system.”  I’ve not been shy about editorial comment or criticism (e.g. see posts of 4/2/12; 4/5/12; 9/12/12; 9/17/12). 

Bottom line?  We need to recruit better teachers.  We need to dump lousy teachers.   We need more charter schools and magnets schools.  We need more tutors.  Mentors.  Accountability.  Family involvement.  Outreach to those who live in poverty.  We need to focus on non-cognitive skills as well as the cognitive.   If the Chicago Teachers Union and the politicians who support them continue to get in the way (which they do regularly on the issues above), they deserve the blame for our children’s failures.   As it is, they seem to be leading Chicago’s educational race to the bottom.  Are we there yet?  Giddyap. . . .

The Chicago Teachers Union

They are outside my window at work.  Across the street from my building.  It’s hard to talk on the phone because of the banging on drums, the yelling, car horns, the loudspeakers, the chanting and the noise.  It’s difficult to get from point A to point B because the demonstrators in their red shirts have locked arms and forced streets to be closed.  Public transportation is disrupted.   There is a sense of entitlement that it’s okay to interrupt everyone else’s day.  And they are oblivious to the 350,000 Chicago school children and their parents who suffer.           

Chicago teachers are the highest paid in the nation (see  http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/06/12/how-much-do-chicago-public-school-teachers-make ) and they work among the shortest hours in the world.  Elementary school teachers have 5-3/4 hour days and work 170 days a year (both stats are less than the national average).  While at the mountaintop of compensation and the basement of hours worked, they want more.  And less.  Chicago teachers are on strike.  They are demanding a 16% increase in pay (how many private sector workers get this?) and push back on the need for more school hours and teacher accountability.    The unions want to control the schools.  Hiring.  Firing. Expectations.   Oppose charter schools.  Oppose magnet schools.  No performance standards (as is found in every other occupation).  More money.  Less work.   Protection of the worst teachers.   And it’s all for “the children.”  Right. 

We spend the most money on public school education and we get dismal results.  Our children are losing.  Every day, they are falling behind the rest of the world.  We desperately need to educate our children.   We need great teachers.  Yet the Chicago Teacher’s Union is blocking the door.   Maybe an “Arab spring” on dealing with teachers unions is what it will take.