Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis knew what she was doing by calling a teachers strike on the first week of school two months before Election Day in a city whose mayor is President Obama’s former chief of staff. The union is now debating whether to accept a tentative deal that includes a big pay raise but dodges the most consequential reforms. How much more does it want?
The union had demanded a pay increase of 29% over four years, but the 25,000 teachers will still get 16%, which is far more than most workers in the private economy get these days. Chicago teachers already make on average far more ($71,000) than the average private worker ($47,000), not counting benefits and summer vacation, and this deal will increase the wealth redistribution.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel did win a longer school day—to seven hours from five hours and 45 minutes. But the city had already agreed to a union demand to hire 500 additional new teachers to help fill the longer school day, and the average teacher will work a mere 15-20 minutes more per day.