Some 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) went on strike today, leaving 400,000 students out of school and parents scrambling to find safe places for their children to go. “I think it’s crazy,” 17-year-old Ebony Irvin told The Chicago Tribune. “Why are they even going on strike?”
Good question, Ebony. The CTU has been in negotiations over pay and benefits since last November, and members demand an impossible 30 percent pay increase. Chicago’s public school system already has a $700 million deficit, and Chicago teachers earn $71,000 a year on average before benefits.
Chicago Mayor and former Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel offered a generous 16 percent pay increase over four years, but as of last night, the union rejected the offer. Despite being a Democrat—the party that traditionally embraces labor unions—Emanuel has found the union can and will turn on its political patron, even when its demands clearly hold hostage children, parents and taxpayers.
If any of this sounds strangely familiar, it’s because we’ve seen this scenario play out in Pennsylvania multiple times. The most infamous example is Neshaminy School District, where the teachers union cannot agree to a new contract after more than four years of negotiation, where the union went on strike twice in 2012, and where the average teacher salary and benefit cost is $107,002 a year.
Pennsylvania is one of only 12 states that allow public school teachers, who are accountable to taxpayers, to go on strike. It’s a policy that has made Pennsylvania the teacher strike capital of America.
In Chicago, picketing teachers with tambourines chanted, “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, so we tell them: ‘We are the teachers. We are the parents. We are the students. We are the union, the mighty, mighty union.'” Make no mistake: Teachers’ unions are mighty in Pennsylvania, too—and they don’t care if their show of power puts children last.