Students lose out in teachers’ strike

As if education in Illinois wasn’t in dire enough straits as it is, the Chicago Public School System has figured a way to make a horrible situation even worse.

The current strike by Chicago teachers, now into it’s second week, has graphically illustrated the deplorable situation the city’s educational system is in. The recent budget cuts have broken the system’s back by ensuring disastrous monetary problems for the already strapped system.

More than 4,100 jobs already have been eliminated since 1979, when the Chicago school system collapsed financially. A system so hard-pressed for money and personnel can only be so secure. It can only take so much. Forcing it to swallow the bitter pill of drastic budget reductions was an open invitation to disaster. State and city officials should have realized this.

The resulting strike—as do most others—centers on teachers’ salaries and benefits. Chicago teachers are not being offered a fair choice when the Chicago Board of Education proposes a 1.7 percent pay cut.

At a time when the dropout rate in Chicago high schools is a staggering 43 percent and only 5 in 65 of Chicago high school students can read, write and compute on a level equal to or better than the national average, offering a pay cut is dangerously inappropriate.

The number one priority of the school board should be to maintain at least the current level of teachers’ salaries or risk losing the services of many qualified people within the system.

On the other hand, it also was unrealistic for teachers to expect any sort of pay increase this year. Every budget in the state has suffered cuts. There was no conceivable way to come up with more money for anyone—teachers included. Whether or not the raise is deserved is irrelevant. Raises were simply impossible. Gov. James Thompson, when asked if the state could somehow come up with a few dollars to help the situation, replied, “forget it.”

Both the school board and the teachers are missing the point. By going on strike, the teachers have succeeded only in depriving 430,000 students of an education.

It has become apparent that the strike is turning into a test of wills. The injustice is that there is nothing to be gained—but so much that can be lost.