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Chicago Teacher Strike is Not For the Children

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
On Monday, Chicago’s 26,000 public school teachers walked out of the classroom and, after a quick stop at Target for red T-shirts, assembled in the Windy City’s downtown Loop to make this crucial point: It’s not about the children. It’s about us.

But this can’t be true!

The motives of teachers unions are always pure and can never be questioned. Unlike other “workers,” teachers are professionals who are never out for themselves. Everything they do is for the children.

Thanks to the Chicago teachers strike, this myth may finally be busted. It’s all too clear that for the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), students and their families are about as important as widgets on an assembly line. Here’s how you can tell:

1.) Average teacher pay in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system is $76,000. (For reference, according to the 2010 census, median household income in Chicago is $38,625.)

Teachers asked for a 30 percent increase to reflect CPS’ desire to extend the elementary school day from 5 hours and 45 minutes, one of the shortest school days in the nation, to a more average 7 hours, and to add 10 school days per year. This would bring CPS’ school year closer to the national average of 180 days.

Even though CPS offered as much as 16 percent in pay increases over four years (who in America is getting that?) and agreed to hire additional staff and classroom aides to handle the increased workload, the union rejected the contract. For the children.

2.) CPS seeks reforms that are tied to teacher performance and wants to uphold principals’ rights to hire whom they choose. The union balks at having to demonstrate, by virtue of test scores, that teachers are effective, though the system doesn’t penalize teachers if students are already behind. It would only chart growth within the academic year. (Current scores already prove Chicago’s students are not being educated properly, and Chicago’s graduation rate is a scandalous 56 percent.)

Stranding roughly 350,000 kids at the start of the school year because you don’t want to be evaluated based on how well they do while under your tutelage, and essentially extorting the power of a school executive to make hiring decisions? Obviously, for the children.

3.) The power within the CTU rests in a group called CORE teachers, or Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators. CORE’s philosophy is in line with the political and social agenda of Rethinking Schools, a curriculum development and publishing company that is part of the legacy of the late Howard Zinn.

Rethinking Schools hopes to improve the quality of education with publications such as “Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word,” “Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World,” “Rethinking Columbus” (expanded second edition!) and “The Real Ebonics Debate” (why teachers need to acknowledge and understand Ebonics to teach English more effectively).

CORE’s agenda for change in the Chicago school system is leftist radicalism, but of course, it’s for the children.

4.) Chicago teachers are recruiting their students to join the picket lines. Using children to swell the appearance of your rallies and make a cheap political statement rather than go to work in good faith while your union and school officials hammer out a contract? Totes for the children.

5.) As Bob Chanin, former general counsel of the National Education Association said upon his retirement from the NEA in 2009, the central issue for teachers unions is power:

“Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child,” Mr. Chanin said. “NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”

For the children.

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