Chicago public school teachers went on strike after attempts to reach an agreement with public school negotiators failed on Sunday. There are many issues at stake for Chicago, but the struggle is basically about job security and control of hiring decisions by school principals. As school reform is being further implemented in Chicago, teachers are bearing the brunt of tightening fiscal priorities. Reuters reports:
In Chicago, last-minute contract talks broke down not over pay, but over the reform agenda, both sides said Sunday. The union would not agree to Emanuel’s proposal that teacher evaluations be based in large measure on student test scores.
Nor would the union accept his push to give principals more autonomy over hiring, weakening the seniority system that has long protected veteran teachers. Already, the demographics of the teaching profession in Chicago have notably shifted, as the private managers who run charter schools tend to favor rookie teachers who are younger and far less likely to be minorities, studies have shown.
The increased emphasis on centralization and testing is costly for the school system and necessary resources are being wrestled from the teachers. The management of Chicago public schools laid out its strategy for taking funds from teacher salaries and benefits to fund more centralized administration, charter schools and testing in its 2011 financial filing:
As we look forward to the FY2013 budget cycle, we have identified numerous initiatives, such as the longer school day, common core state standards implementation and a comprehensive teacher evaluation process, which will require significant funds. In addition, we continue to invest in charter schools and turn-around actions to support our continued drive for improved school performance. These incremental appropriations will require tough decisions to find savings to offset the additional costs.