Chicago Teachers Union Has It Backwards: The Children Must Come First


The Chicago Teachers’ Union strike is, as expected, bringing people back to the debate about teacher evaluations, pensions, charter schools, and the like. However, as a private sector union worker, taxpayer and mother, my view is a bit different. The strike has placed me in a position of judgment of tax dollar stewardship and a deep concern for the children.

In the private sector union of which I am a member, we have a “no strike” clause that prevents us from striking a construction job that involves schools or hospitals. Never would we want our ambitions to get in the way of the education of children, their safety or the health of those hospitalized. 

Instead, we leave it up to our business managers to negotiate with our contractor groups.  Back in the early 1970s, my father’s union went on strike, contending a poor and hazardous work environment and an improvement of benefits. He worked in a factory where people were becoming ill with cancers and seriously hurt in accidents due to the dangerous work he did. 

Just one year ago, a different construction union did strike but, oddly enough, the main complaint was that the contractors wanted them to take an $8 per hour pay cut and a reduction of benefits to help them cover the costs of Obamacare. The workers simply wanted to stay where they were with regards to pay and benefits; they did not ask for a raise or any added benefits. And, when they were working in hospitals and schools, they stayed on the job during the weeks of negotiations.

In contrast, the public unions of today seem to feel they are owed something more than the average person receives for the same amount of hard work, stress, educational background requirements and hours of work. 

Yes, there is “power to the people,” but to the extent that we reach out and help one another to create the changes needed to make a better America. The teachers (and I fully support genuine educators) need to be mindful of the fact that they should be excellent stewards of our tax dollars. 

Just as our local, state and federal representatives are paid by us and work for us, the teachers who are paid by us should be accountable to us. And though the inner city has its own set of hurdles, there is no excuse for striking, especially when they have not been meeting the expectations of the taxpayers. 

I challenge all parents to seek out the financials of their children’s’ schools to see for themselves how their tax dollars are being spent. The insane amount of funds shoveled into the public school system as compared to the private schools is mind-blowing, yet they are not yielding progress in the educational success of our children. In fact, in underserved populations, there is an inverse relationship between state and federal funding and the educational growth of these populations. 

Further, the more governmental funding provided, the less successful the schools are. The money is mostly going directly to salaries … but it is not increasing the value of the children’s education.

Moreover, the lack of concern for the welfare and education of the students is obvious in the fact that the teachers in Chicago are striking during the school year. Our children are not pawns to be used as playing pieces in an undeserved and unearned power struggle between unions and government. 

As we saw in Wisconsin, many of the Teachers’ Union members do not actually wish to be a part of the union, because their concern is directly for the children. They teach because they love children and want to help them have the opportunity for a better future. I wonder where in our country’s history the system got so turned around that public education put the teachers before the children. 

In addition, state tests are overestimating the proficiency of the students. In a report completed by the Alliance for Excellent Education in March 2012, Illinois eighth-graders testing in math showed an 85% proficiency in reading and 86% in math on the Illinois state tests.  When compared to the NAEP (a national test), these scores only equaled 34% and 33% respectively. How shameful! They want more money from us … for what?!

Unions have had their place in history to improve working conditions, provide training and help create a fair working environment for minorities (including women like myself). However, when unions compromise those who we treasure most, our children, and do not help us with increasing the value of our investment (taxpayer dollars compared to performance), I think it is seriously time to rethink its value in our society. 

If the unions came to the taxpayers and said, “Hey, we recognize this problem, and we are solving it. Here is our proof, because our children are scoring the best in the world,” I’d think they were being good stewards. But that is certainly not the case.

I just hope Rahm Emanuel is as tough as he says he is, and brings in the non-union teachers to teach a real lesson: kids can learn from genuine teachers for a lot less money. Too bad the parents can't go on strike against the teachers.