Thursday, July 19, 2012

Curmudgeon won't take sides in the looming Chicago school strike... however....

Maybe this isn't national news yet, but it will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union seem to be careening headlong toward a strike this fall.

The issues are familiar: The teachers want more money, smaller class sizes and job security. And they don't want to go along with the Mayor's plan to keep the kids in school longer each day (he's backed down from his original proposal of 7½ hours, to a 7 hour day).

Cynics might charge that the longer the kids are in school, the less time they have to be shot at in the streets.

I'm pretty sure our rising murder statistics have made the national news -- basically, the street gangs in certain areas of our fair city are at war with each other. While they don't always succeed in killing each other, they too often succeed in killing or wounding bystanders.

Of course, there are some areas of the City where some accommodation with the local gang culture (if not outright membership) is pretty much required. And there's a deeply ingrained "no snitching" concept that (as you might expect) makes police work so much more challenging. If it weren't for the unseemly mortality rate among persons willing to testify against gang members, it might be easy to criticize that "no snitching" concept....

But this is an essay about Chicago schools, not about (far too many) Chicago students.

Suffice it to say that the teachers believe that, in addition to a raise, the teachers should receive an increase in salary to cover the lengthening of the school day. On a superficial level, of course, this makes sense: If persons ordinarily work on the assembly line at the widget factory for six hours a day, and Mr. Simon Legree, the factory owner, decides that everyone must work eight hours instead, then, logically, the employees should receive extra compensation commensurate with the longer workday.

The Chicago Public Schools would lengthen the school day to seven hours (in recent years, many Chicago kids attended school for only five hours and 45 minutes). But the analogy to the assembly line at the widget factory simply does not hold -- as the teachers themselves argued! Quoting now, from pp. 36-37 of the fact finders' report (footnotes omitted):
The Union attacks any implication that CPS teachers have short work days, citing a study conducted by University of Illinois Professors Robert Bruno and Steven Ashby, Beyond the Classroom, An Analysis of a Chicago Public School Teacher’s Actual Workday (April 9, 2012), which concluded:
Results from this survey revealed that claims that teachers are working “too short a day” are unwarranted at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. The following are some key findings:
  • Teachers on average work 58 hours per week during the school year.
  • The work of a teacher happens before, during, and after the school bell rings.
  • Teachers on average work a 10 hour and 48 minute standard school day.
  • Teachers are at school an average of almost nine hours per day even though elementary students attend school for 5 hours and 45 minutes and high school students for 6 hours and 45 minutes.
  • A typical teacher spends almost 2 hours more working at home in the evening.
  • Teachers carve out another 3 hours and 45 minutes to do school-related work each weekend.
  • A teacher’s role goes beyond merely instructing in the classroom. Teachers spend just over 3 hours each day performing non-teaching related activities.
  • Teachers also spend an average of 12 days during summer break doing at least one school-related activity.
  • Teachers average 30 hours of professional development training while the school year is not in session.
But would a teacher's already-long workday really get longer because the kids are in the building (and off the streets) for an extra hour? That is by no means obvious, even if the fact-finder seems to have assumed it. And how much longer? Minute for minute, like the poor slob on the assembly line at Mr. Legree's widget factory? (That's the way the fact-finder calculated what CPS should pay as a raise -- even though he readily acknowledged that the money for such an increase doesn't exist.)

Of course, it doesn't really matter. The City rejected the report almost instantaneously, Mayor Emanuel offering his 'thanks' to Mr. Benn in the same tone of voice that one might 'thank' the IRS for demanding an audit. Not to be outdone, the Chicago Teachers' Union unanimously rejected the report as well.

Mr. Benn was certainly right about the "toxic" relationship between the parties.

But Long Suffering Spouse is happy.

Long Suffering Spouse is a teacher in the Chicago Catholic schools. Barring a miracle, she will never get paid what a kid straight out of teacher's college gets from CPS right now ($54,000). But the compensation is not what she's thinking about.

My wife is thinking about her own job security. Catholic schools are getting very expensive -- a family that undertakes to send their children to a Catholic school is making a major sacrifice. If the local public schools are even arguably competitive, it is very difficult to justify that sacrifice.

On the other hand, with the prospect of a public school strike this year, a possible attempt to break the union, labor strife for years to come... well, Mr. and Mrs. Bungalow Belt will be more willing to bite that big bullet and pay the Catholic school tuition after all. The CTU says it is concerned about job security -- and it is providing some... for my wife.

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

AND at least the kids in catholic schools are LEARNING! the public school system is so dumbed down i cannot stand it! in palm beach county 25 is a passing grade in history. 25!!!!!! oh don't even get me started.... grrr.

smiles, bee