After marathon negotiating sessions this week, the teachers union won concessions from the city on pay increases as well as the percentage that teacher evaluations will focus on student test scores. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it an “honest and principled compromise.”
The city wanted 40 percent of each teacher evaluation to be tied to their students’ test scores, but the agreed-upon number, according to published reports, is likely to be more in the 30-percent range. For their part, teachers worried that the sudden use of test scores as part of the evaluations would unfairly punish some teachers.
The pressure on politicians to rein in the unions is high, even in Democrat-controlled Chicago, where the strike exposed a rift among Democrats about how to rein in school costs while dramatically improving the city’s low test scores and high dropout rate.
So-called “Cadillac” benefit packages negotiated by public unions have been widely blamed for fueling public debt at an unsustainable rate, sparking mayors and governors to debate the future of such benefit packages.
Exacerbating that trend: Poor economic conditions, which have helped stir class resentment as private industry workers with stagnant wages compare their compensation to deals like the one now in front of Chicago teachers: a 16 percent across the board raise over four years.
The philosophical clash was evident in Wisconsin, too, where large-scale protests last year were unable to stop a new law that stripped collective bargaining rights from most public employees, laying the groundwork for Gov. Scott Walker – who also became the first US governor to survive a recall election – to steer the state from a $3 billion shortfall to a slight surplus in the span of a year.