By Scott Reeder | Special to Watchdog.org
SPRINGFIELD — You’ll hear a lot of numbers bandied around in the coming days regarding the Chicago Teachers Union strike – average salary, anticipated size of the district’s deficit, level of state financial support.
But the number I find most disturbing is: 19.
That’s the average Chicago Public School teacher’s score on the ACT test if they took it when attending high school, according to a 2008 Southern Illinois University study.
Despite all of the bright teachers, there are enough who scored so badly on the ACT that they dragged the average down to 19 out of a possible score of 36.
To put that number in perspective, today every high school junior in Illinois – whether they are going to college or not – is required to take the test. This year their average test score was just shy of 21.
Even though Chicago is drawing its teachers from a below-average talent pool, it is paying them handsomely.
According to the Chicago Teachers Union’s own figures, an average teacher earns a salary of $71,000. The school district pegs the number a bit higher at $76,000 without benefits.
But regardless of which number you believe, it is worth noting that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average Chicagoan with a bachelor’s degree earns $48,866.
Don’t the taxpayers deserve better?
Before they went on strike, Chicago teachers were offered a 16 percent raise over the next four years.
So why is the CTU on strike? It comes down to standards.
Unfortunately, both administrators and unions have held the bar pretty low when it comes to policing the ranks for underperformers. Administrators have given meaningless, sugar-coated evaluations.
But now the school district is talking tough on evaluations. It wants to link teacher evaluations to student performance. And some underperforming teachers would be let go. Not surprisingly, the union is saying no way.
CTU has a history of defending the worst of the worst under the guise of “due process.”
After reading 20 years of tenure dismissal cases in which the union vigorously defended each teacher, I can say, whether they ultimately kept their job or not, none of these individuals were people I’d want teaching my children.
Apparently, many rank-and-file Chicago teachers feel the same way about some of their colleagues.
A 2004 Fordham Institute study found that 39 percent of Chicago public school teachers send their own children to private schools. That’s compared to a national average of 12 percent of all children who are educated privately.
Think about that: Four out of 10 Chicago teachers are willing to pay money to keep their kids from attending the schools where they teach.
That speaks volumes.
Scott Reeder is the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, and a senior contributing editor to Watchdog.org. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.