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The Chicago Teachers Union’s “Day of Action”—planned for April Fool’s Day, naturally—will see the union’s 22,000 members walk off the job en masse. Not content with only denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning, they will congregate downtown during rush hour, thus denying people the ability to get home and businesses the ability to conduct commerce.
Already of dubious legality, the union insists its Day of Action is necessary because CPS announced its plans to end experience- and education-based “step and lane” raises, which the union deems an unfair labor practice. This also comes after the union rejected a contract offer from CPS that would have seen a pay increase for teachers, a cap on privately run charter schools and the barring of any layoffs.
Lost in this turmoil are the students of Chicago.
While union representatives say all the right things, including how much they care for their students, any time the best interests of those students conflict with an opportunity for the union to make more money, it is always the children who the union tosses aside.
Chicago’s teachers are some of the most handsomely compensated of any group of public school teachers in the nation. The union teacher’s median salary of $73,000 is 64 percent higher than the median household income for the city as a whole. Union members’ average lifetime earnings are the highest in the country among major metropolitan school districts, and pension benefits have increased over 400 percent since 1987.
Meanwhile, standardized tests show roughly only one-fourth of Chicago‘s students are being educated to a level that allows them to transition comfortably to the next grade level and then, if they’re lucky, on to college.
The union continually paints its members as victims, but the real victims are the children the union members seem to have no qualms casually and flippantly walking out on. Parents should not have to fret over how they will keep their children cared for while the union forces them from their classrooms.
That is why the Heartland Institute will fully unveil its proposed “strike voucher” program in a Policy Brief in April.
Here’s the idea: The strike voucher would allow any student from a CPS school to leave temporarily for any school not run by the district. Any charter, secular, private, or parochial school in the district with the room to take in additional students would be given a stipend of $50 per day for each student it welcomes through its doors. Funding for the daily stipend would come out of strike makeup-day pay fund, which is compensation received by union teachers for any strike days made up later in the year.
Since seating at brick-and-mortar non-district schools will not be available for every child during a strike, parents would also be allowed to take their strike voucher stipend to tutoring facilities, online virtual schools, and, for very young students, daycare facilities. Strike voucher funds could also be used to reimburse organizations for extra costs incurred while accommodating CPS students. For example, the Chicago Children’s Museum, or any other city museum, could be reimbursed per head and per day for each admitted student. Any costs for extending hours and personnel organizations such as the YMCA would incur would also be covered in full, as long as they provide at least a half-day’s worth of educational activity.
The goal of the strike voucher is to ensure Chicago children have the opportunity to attend a safe and effective school and to free children from being caught in the middle of the continual tug-of-war between school districts and teachers unions. The tug-of-war begins again on April 1.