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Will taxpayers pity Chicago teachers?

MORE than 26,000 unionized teachers in Chicago's public school system went on strike recently for the first time in 25 years, using 350,000 students as bargaining chips.

Their demands, gleaned from various sources:

larger raises, teacher evaluations that give less weight to student performance, smaller pupil-teacher ratios, better climate control in classrooms, maintenance of current benefit packages, etc.

Outside observers need relevant facts to evaluate these demands:

 

  • The average salary of Chicago teachers is $76,000 a year before benefits - the highest in any city school system.
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  • The city offered a 16 percent salary increase over four years.
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  • Chicago teachers pay only 3 percent of their health care costs.
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  • The union agreed to the evaluation system earlier this year.
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  • Of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, 71 cents has gone to teachers retirement costs.
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  • Just 15 percent of Chicago fourth graders are proficient in reading.
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  • Only 56 percent of students who enter high school actually graduate.
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  • The school district has a $700 million deficit, expects a $1 billion deficit next year, and is on track to run a $3 billion deficit in the coming years.
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    Public employee unions are one of the Democratic Party's core constituencies. Democrats do favors for unions, and unions support Democrats' campaigns.

    The public has been handed the costs of this happy arrangement for decades. But household economies have cratered, and voters are re-evaluating.

    Public-sector unions take the position that their total compensation - wages plus benefits - should be superior to that of taxpayers who pay the bills.

    Public-sector unions don't seem to see anything unfair about that, but Democrats should figure it out and reposition themselves quickly.


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