The Long Hot Fall

The second shoe has dropped in the battle of wills between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago public school teachers. As is required by a law, the arbitrator has produced his report and it has not gone the mayor’s way, proposing an 18.2% raise this year and a 35% raise over three years:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday dismissed as unaffordable and “not tethered to reality” a fact-finder’s report that recommends an 18.2 percent pay raise for Chicago Public School teachers.

“If we were to follow that report, we would have to fire 4,000 teachers and dramatically increase class sizes, neither of which are realistic options. That’s why that report is not fiscally or educationally tethered to reality,” the mayor said.

Pressured by arbitrator Edwin H. Benn to choose between fiscal reality and his signature push for a longer school day and school year, Emanuel refused to blink.

The mayor said he would not agree to yet another contract with the Chicago Teachers Union that benefits adults who work for the school system, but leaves children “on the side of the road.” “I believe in a fair deal — one that’s fair to our children, one that’s fair to our teachers, one that’s fair to our parents,” he said.

“When you have the shortest day and the shortest year of any major city, you shortchange your children. I believe everybody should be properly compensated, but I don’t believe you have a system that doesn’t give our kids what they need because this is their future.”

This is the next step in the process that looks very much as though it will lead to a strike. Think the summer has been hot? Wait for the fall!

The leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union already have a strike authorization. At this point I think they smell blood:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis responded to the mayor’s hard-line by saying that Chicago’s first teachers’ strike in 25 years can still be avoided, but only if Emanuel bends.

“There are other ways to achieve these goals by looking at staffing — by looking at a variety of things other than lengthening the day to an arbitrary length he picked,” said Lewis, who has gone toe-to-toe with the mayor in public and in private.

“If he’s not willing to make any compromises, then he can’t have what he wants, now can he? You can’t have it two ways. This is up to him. We’re gonna do our part.”

Asked to predict whether there would be a teachers’ strike, Lewis said, “That will depend on the mayor. He doesn’t want a strike. But the question is, what will he do to avoid it? That’s the question that needs to be asked of him — not me. Our members have already spoken on the issue.”

The mayor has already inked an agreement calling for a 2% pay increase for the teachers next year. That’s as much as CPS’s budget will stand.

As I see it there are three outcomes:

  1. The mayor backs down on lengthening the school day and school year. That would result in a loss of face for the mayor and could potentially turn him into a lame duck. Temperamentally, Rahm Emanuel doesn’t strike me as a gracefully-backing-down sort of guy.
  2. The CTU backs down on demanding more pay for the additional time worked. Given that there’s already a strike authorization, I see little reason they would do that.
  3. Some face-saving compromise is found. The school year and day are lengthened a little less. The teachers get a little more pay. I think this is the most likely.

The problem with the most likely outcome is that Chicago is, as I’ve pointed out before, tapped out revenue-wise. The cupboard is bare. It’s even possible that raising sales taxes or real estate tax rates could lower total revenues.

I think it will be a long hot fall.

1 comment… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Is Rahm aiming for the White House? I’ve read that speculation and I think the underlying concern is that he might want the teacher’s union’s scorn to make a run in four years and won’t be around to follow-through on the problems that will emerge.

Leave a Comment