Sunday, September 04, 2011

Chicago Teachers Union rejects pay raise to work longer hours

Hey you Chicagoans on my email list, you're letting me down!  You gotta send me news like this!

Now that the Chicago Teachers Union has turned down a proposal that called for elementary teachers to work an additional 90 minutes a day beginning in January in exchange for a modest pay raise, school district officials said there is no need to give the teachers a pay increase.

"It does not make sense to give raises for nothing in return especially during these difficult financial times," said Jean-Claude Brizard, chief executive officer for Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third largest school district with 409,000 students and over 675 schools.

But CTU officials said while it supports a longer school day it also wants to make sure teachers are fairly compensated for spending extra time in the classroom.

Background: Chicago has one of the shortest school days and years in the country – for example, Houston has "about 250 extra hours in the classroom per year, which is roughly equivalent to three extra school years from first grade through 12th grade." (  I remember visiting KIPP Ascend in Chicago last year (run by rock star April Goble; see pic from the KIPP Summit at: and at a little past 1pm, I heard a lot of noise outside – students from the other school out in the courtyard.  So I said to April, "It's lunchtime, eh?"  And she said, "No, they're done for the day – they're going home."  (The article above says the typical school day in Chicago ends at 2:45pm, but I know it was much earlier than that – I'm not sure why.)


My jaw hit the floor (like it does pretty much every day from the stories I hear and read – and this is after 22 years!).  Given that this was in one of the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago (and that's saying something!), there's little doubt that only a tiny fraction of the students outside were reading at grade level – meaning they're pretty much screwed for life – yet everybody was going home just after lunch.  Unbelievable! 


It reminds me of one of my favorite Geoffrey Canada analogies (from memory): "It would be like your house is on fire, so you call the fire department and they come and are putting out the fire.  But then at 3pm, they pack up and go home.  But you say, 'Wait a second!  My house is still burning!'  And they say, 'Sorry, the contract says we're done at 3.'  I know of no organization in the world that is failing as badly as our schools, yet everybody goes home at 3pm."  Hear, hear!


It also reminds me of something I heard (I can't recall who said it – someone please remind me): "In our school system today, time is the constant and achievement is the variable.  We reverse that.  We will spend as much time as is necessary to make sure every child is doing well and on track to college."


To address the travesty in Chicago, new Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as one of many reform measures, called for extending the school day for 90 minutes for elementary schools and offered a 2% pay increase.  That's obviously not very much, but – hello, earth to unions! – Illinois has a horrific fiscal problem, among the worst in the country.  I'm sure you will shocked – SHOCKED! – to hear the union's reply:

"Yes, we fully support a better, smarter school day for our children but teachers are now being asked to work 29 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase," said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. "To that we say thanks but no thanks. For a teacher earning $57,000 a year the increase would mean a mere $3.41 an hour, less than minimum wage.  Teachers on average already work 21 hours more than they are paid for; we grade papers, create lesson plans, confer with parents and counsel our students. There will be little time for us to do any of that."

Lewis added that the pay raise swap for working longer hours was not made directly to the CTU but instead on TV.

"Rather than negotiating through the press and setting up political committees, CPS needs to sit down with teachers and come up with a better plan.  Other school districts have found ways to lengthen the school days by good planning, and we welcome doing that as an interim step while we negotiate," Lewis said.

Translation: "Rahm, taxpayers, and children: we're looking out for ourselves, and you can go f**k yourselves!"


It would be hard to find a better example of what the unions are all about: themselves, not taxpayers and certainly not kids.  As I write on page 98 of my school reform presentation (, in explaining why the system is so resistant to change:


      Answer: the system, while failing millions of children, works very well for the adults

-         Over time, there have been five clear trends: more jobs, higher pay, better benefits, fewer hours worked, and greater job security


The system has worked so well for so long for the teachers (and all of the other adults) that I think they're in this cozy echo chamber, largely oblivious to the fact that the world has completely changed around them – and, to the extent that they are, have no clue how to respond so they do stupid things like lash out, burn bridges, go into denial, wallow in self-pity and feelings of victimization (the single most debilitating mindset a person or organization can have), etc.  Ironically, what's really given reformers momentum is the mostly idiotic behavior of the unions.  Thank you!


I saw a lot of parallels when I read this WSJ article ( about Gadhafi's regime – here's the opening line: "Reams of confidential documents reveal mounting desperation and disarray among top leaders of Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime this past spring as power slipped through their fingers."  Here's another key line:


Documents from early in the year suggest a casual dismissiveness of the rebellion. One field officer in February—around the start of the crisis—reported to his superiors in Tripoli that the protesters in his city of Al-Marj were merely local alcoholic troublemakers. A report from Tripoli's suburb of Tajoura dismissed marchers there as a nuisance akin to "stray dogs."


This is exactly what the unions are doing, dismissing reformers as profiteering hedge fund managers, extreme right-wing/Tea Party union busters, etc.  This is a BIG mistake, which I'm delighted that they're making…


My best reading of Randi is that, to her credit, she appears to understand better than any other union leader that the train is leaving the station, so she'd better hop on and try to guide it, rather than pretending that the train doesn't exist or isn't moving, but her hands are tied by union politics, the far more backward NEA, etc.


But then she says things like this (


"I believe those who have not walked in a teacher's shoes lack both the authority and experience to make sweeping judgments about teaching or teachers…"


This is, of course, a silly statement – that the only people who have been K-12 classroom teachers have any right to comment about our public schools and how to improve them; yeah, right, and only doctors or nurses can comment on our educational system, and only soldiers can weigh in on whether, say, we should be in Afghanistan – but perhaps there's a silver lining: maybe it will finally put a gag on Ravitch – LOL!  (Ravitch has never been a K-12 public school teacher; see her bio at:


Chicago Teachers Union rejects pay raise to work longer hours

, Chicago City Hall Examiner

August 27, 2011

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