With the unfortunate news that the Chicago Teachers Union has set a strike date for September 10, we are in desperate need of creative solutions. The core problem is easily stated: The Chicago Public Schools does not have any additional revenue. In an attempt to balance the budget this year, it raised property taxes to the maximum extent allowed by law and drained all its reserves.
In this fiscal climate, teachers want a raise that the district cannot afford.
Is this problem intractable? Hardly. Among the 116 charter schools in Chicago that are in our network, 10 have independent unions representing teachers in negotiations with school management. These schools have been able to reach agreements, largely by acknowledging that expenses must be in line with revenue. Management and teachers at these schools have balanced their books, extended the school day, and recognized the critical contributions teachers and leaders make in creating successful schools. They have done this while the per pupil payments for charters increased a modest 8% over the past five years (compared to the 16-42% overall wage increases for CTU teachers noted by the arbitrator).
This sort of solutions-based teamwork should be a model of partnership for the city. Once again, charter schools in Chicago are on the leading edge of innovation, this time in the field of labor relations.
Failing that, here is a modest proposal: tie the teachers’ proposed raises in each year of the contract to the rate of funding provided to Chicago through the general state aid formula. Then, both sides will have skin in the game and an incentive to work in Springfield to revamp our terribly outdated school funding formula.