Mayor Rahm Emanuel is considered a man of iron will who has a deep commitment to reform. He should show it. Push ahead with Chicago Public School reforms and decertify the Chicago Teachers Union if necessary.
The union has opposed a longer school day and is demanding that CPS “keep out merit pay” and stop any changes to teachers benefits.
According to CPS, the average teacher in the system makes $76,000. The union says that’s untrue — it’s only $71,000. If benefits are added, the average CPS teacher costs the taxpayer between $100,000 and $107,000 a year. That’s the highest in the country.
That compensation is not tied to performance, or else it would be much lower. Only 31 percent of CPS students attain the “meets or exceeds” rating. Only 6 out of 10 Chicago high school students graduate, and many of those who graduate are not adequately prepared for college or the workforce.
Emanuel’s solution to the tragic failure of Chicago Public Schools is creeping reform — increased school days offset by limited pay raises with increased health care contributions and the introduction of merit pay in five years.
It’s rarely said, but Emanuel is too kind. He should insist on merit pay now.
Illinois already has an objective measure of teacher effectiveness. CPS was set to implement Illinois’ Performance Evaluation Reform Act this school year, but the union wants to water it down and block any efforts at linking quality to compensation.
A system of merit pay would be fair and reward high-quality, hardworking teachers. If carefully crafted, teacher evaluations would measure individual student growth so teachers are gauged on how well they improve their students’ performance over time.
But the union won’t budge. CTU President Karen Lewis said in June, “We do not believe in merit pay.” The union voted Thursday to strike Sept. 10 if no deal is reached.
Instead of ceding to CTU’s demands, the mayor and the school board should accelerate plans for reform. In addition to merit pay, Emanuel should offer “teacher choice” to parents by providing teacher evaluation scores and feedback to them.
Parents will gravitate toward teachers who are producing results for children.
If the CTU goes on strike, Emanuel should act to decertify (i.e. abolish) the union. First he should ask teachers who oppose the strike to circulate a decertification letter — a petition for a referendum to discontinue CTU’s right to represent them in negotiations with the district. Next he can appeal to Springfield and Gov. Pat Quinn to amend the law on public employee unions to decertify any public union that strikes against the public welfare.
Teachers would be asked to return to school, and those who refuse would be replaced.
Mayor Emanuel, don’t blink. Chicago’s kids need school reform now.
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