Today, the Chicago Teachers’ Union has gone on strike after rejecting a proposed pay raise.

The union that represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff in the nation’s third-largest school district called the strike after negotiators failed to reach a contract agreement with school administrators despite eight months of talks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said teachers were harming Chicago’s children by striking.

“This is, in my view, a strike of choice, and it’s the wrong choice for our children,” he said. “Stay at the table. Finish it for our children.”

He said negotiators had resolved all but two issues — teacher evaluations and provisions dealing with jobs for laid-off teachers.

However, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said teachers had no choice but to strike, despite “intense but productive” bargaining sessions.

Basically Chicago government school teachers are holding the city hostage until their demands are met. They’re demanding more pay, more job security, and less accountability. It is not about improving the quality of education or the lives of their students. It is about plundering the taxpayers of the city of Chicago.

Just what are the “successes” of the status quo in Chicago?

The coverage of the strike has obscured some basic facts. The money has continued to pour into Chicago’s failing public schools in recent years. Chicago teachers have the highest average salary of any city at $76,000 a year before benefits. The average family in the city only earns $47,000 a year. Yet the teachers rejected a 16 percent salary increase over four years at a time when most families are not getting any raises or are looking for work.

The city is being bled dry by the exorbitant benefits packages negotiated by previous elected officials. Teachers pay only 3 percent of their health-care costs and out of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, a full 71 cents has gone to teacher retirement costs.

But beyond the dollars, the fact is that Chicago schools need a fundamental shakeup — which of course the union is resisting. It is calling for changes in the teacher-evaluation system it just negotiated by making student performance less important.

Small wonder. Just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and only 56 percent of students who enter their freshman year of high school wind up graduating.

What Chicago’s government schools need are true reform, not pay increases and job security for terrible teachers.

First thing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs to do is fire every single striking teacher. This will send the immediate message that strikes will not be tolerated.

Secondly, institute a merit pay plan that rewards good performance in the classroom. At the same time, there should be a plan developed to get rid of poorly performing teachers.

Finally, the Chicago School District needs some competition. A school choice plan, either vouchers or a tax credit program, needs to be developed. This will force government schools to compete for students and their money. This will result in higher test scores and better educated students.

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