Friday, September 21, 2012

Zero sum games

Chicago’s schools

Zero sum games

A politically embarrassing strike

THE arguments had been rumbling on for months. But negotiations between the city of Chicago and its teachers’ union finally came to an end on September 9th. Just a week after the city’s children returned from their long summer break, their teachers began their first strike in Chicago for 25 years. About 25,000 teachers have stopped work, keeping 350,000 pupils out of school.

The mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is now in an unenviable position. Improving Chicago’s disastrous school system, where four in ten children fail to graduate, is one of his main priorities. In negotiations over a new contract for teachers, his demands have been reasonable. He wants the school day lengthened to seven hours for elementary children, for teachers to work 38 weeks a year, and to be able to introduce differentiated pay. This is a mix of performance-based pay and extra pay for working in jobs that are hard to fill and for taking leadership roles. In return for all this, teachers have been offered an average salary increase of 16%, costing $320m over the next four years. Which, given the state of city finances and a deficit in the school system of $1 billion, will be a squeeze. [More...]