Chicago has a history of high dropout rates, with around half of students failing to graduate for the past 30 years. Criticism is directed at the CPS for inflating its performance figures. Through such techniques as counting students who swap schools before dropping out as transfers but not dropouts, it publishes graduation claims as high as 71%. Nonetheless, throughout the 1990s actual rates seem to have improved slightly, as true graduation estimates rose from 48% in 1991 to 54% in 2004.
The strike began Sept. 10 when more than 26,000 teachers walked out from their schools, leaving 350,000 kids with a day off. Part of the cause of this strike could be attributed to a teacher evaluation system based on standardized test scores. Lewis said this could have caused 6,000 teachers to lose their jobs from, according to CNN. Mayor Emanuel’s office, the city of Chicago and school officials have questioned that job figure. The union has been offered a pay raise of 16 percent over four years, according to the Chicago Tribune. Chicago school board President David Vitale said these raises could cost the city $300-$400 million, and that Chicago can’t afford more concessions. “We have no more flexibility when it comes to finance,” Vitale said.During the strike, Mayor Rahm Emanuel did himself considerable damage by provoking a mass walkout. The teachers didn't fare much better, because they looked more concerned about guaranteed employment than the fate of their students.
Stanford University scholar Eric Hanushek says research indicates that if the worst five to 10 percent of teachers were replaced with merely average ones, "the achievement of U.S. students would rise from below the developed country average to near the top if not at the top." Good enough teachers, it turns out, are good enough.
How broke is America, while we're giving out raises to teachers? Well in Cook County (Chicago) the Treasurer recently reported that the debt is $108 billion dollars. Most of that is for pensions for overpaid government employees. $108 billion dollars in one county, in one city. In particular, the Chicago school district faces a $700 million deficit. -
Still, everyone involved in the dispute emerged with an achievement to trumpet: Teachers said the strike sparked an important national conversation about school reform. Union activists said it helped inspire public employee unions that have been losing ground. Emanuel declared it a boon for students trapped in failing schools.
Thomas Hatch, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, said the strike focused attention on teacher evaluations and fears of closing neighborhood schools.