Chicago spends ~$12,000 per year to "educate" its public school students in grades K-12. Less than 50% of those students eventually graduate. Less than 6% complete college.
The vast majority lack proficiency in core subjects compared to students across the state of Illinois, the U.S. (non-urban but that's another similar to Chicago story) and the world.
That means taxpayers spend $24,000 per year on those 50% who graduate from high school and the very few of those who do go on to finish college.
Poverty is blamed by all concerned for both the performance of students in schools and the inability of teachers to improve the performance level of their students.
In an effort to come to grips with the achievement problem and improve schools, Chicago's government officials want to tie teacher pay, retention and such in part to student performance. Sounds reasonable to me. However, teachers says that's not fair because the students are poor and therefore don't perform well. Hence, the teachers union argues that the teachers can't be held accountable for lousy performance in the classroom because the students are poor.
But this same teachers union is adamantly opposed to parental choice, vouchers, charter schools and other possibilities which would weaken the hold of the union on Chicago's public schools. Union officials very much like the MONOPOLISTIC conditions under which they operate.
One reason for pervasive urban poverty is the lack of education, of course. But the direct cause of poverty is the lack of employment. Since the lack of a good job, or any job at all, is generally attributable to a lack of education, the poverty isn't the fault of the impoverished. He's poor because he doesn't have a good job, and he doesn't have a good job because he's poor. His lack of a good education is the primary reason for both, and he is usually following in the footsteps of his parent or parents.
It's one continuous circle of poverty and it's evidence of a lack of accountability. The situation is accepted as the "way things are."
Now let's consider the Chicago strike itself and the lack of accountability aspect. It's generally accepted that Chicago's schools produce a "product" that drops out 50% of the time. It's also generally accepted that the vast majority of the "products" are educationally unable to go to college and later compete effectively for good jobs in a globally competitive economy.
Here's the sad story in a nutshell. The "products" begin school in poverty, leave school in poverty and spend the rest of their lives in poverty. And it's nobody's fault. Nobody's accountable. It's the "way things are."
Teachers unions hate the word COMPETITION. All unions hate that word. Except, of course, when they're competing with their employer opponent to get a bigger piece of the pie.
And the size of the pie is a very big problem today. The size of the pie is not growing. And that's due to a weak and highly indebted global economy which doesn't provide enough jobs, which in turn makes it more difficult for employers to pay more to current workers and to hire additional workers. Thus, unemployment grows and jobs decline. Poverty and the cycle of dependency then strengthen.
A weak economy results in fewer jobs, less income and lower tax receipts for governments, including cities.
Lower tax receipts result in less money being available to pay teachers and create better facilities and instructional programs for K-12 students. Thus, performance suffers, and the "products" don't show improvement. Their job prospects become even weaker. COMPETITION at work. There's that word again.
Then the uncompetitive "products" become adults, have children of their own and send their kids to school. And the cycle continues. The kids go from an uncompetitive world of public education to an ultra-competitive world involving global competition. And the "products" aren't of competitive quality.
And nobody's at fault. Not the city, not the teachers, not the teachers union leaders, not the parents, and certainly not the kids. COMPETITION is to blame.
Who's in charge of Chicago's public education, even if not accountable for the "products" thereof? Certainly not the taxpayers and not the city officials either.
My take is it's the teacher's union leadership. They're in charge. And that's a shame.
My further take is that they're held accountable to nobody. That's simply the nature of public sector unions and unions in general. UNACCOUNTABLE in a MONOPOLISTIC UNCOMPETITIVE MAKE BELIEVE WORLD.
When the good times roll, public sector unions get more for their members from government negotiating officials spending OPM and who are willing to buy peace and anxious to share the growing tax receipts from taxpayers. But when times are tough, union officials just raise hell and blame the employers for the dreadful situation. In Chicago today the union's highly personalized target is Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That allows them to skip a discussion of the real issues.
But in reality, here's how it works. Unions get the city officials off the accountability hook. It's the union's fault, at least according to the city's story line. So students suffer and taxpayers pay and nothing ever changes for the better.
As a result, and for the next several years at least, the stalemate continues in a non-competitive, failure to improve, refuse to be measured atmosphere. Then the parties will negotiate a new contract. What a deal!
Watch your wallets, fellow taxpayers.