A Suggestion to the City of Chicago on its Recent Teacher Troubles

Those paying attention to national news have doubtless heard that teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, have gone on strike after months of failed negotiations with the city. Why? Well, they weren’t satisfied with a proposed 16% increase to their salaries, the nation’s highest, over the next four years. They also objected to a proposed performance evaluation which incorporated test scores, for the tiresomely predictable reason that it might cost thousands of teachers their jobs. But really, don’t these teachers deserve to be angry at their treatment, when they’re the diligent public servants who:

-Have only taught 20% of their charges how to adequately read.

Work nearly an hour less per day at the elementary level compared to the national average, without a commensurately longer school year.

-Only get 56% of high school students to graduate.

-Insist upon shrinking class sizes (and hiring more teachers to do it) despite a massive budget deficit and almost no evidence that this incredibly expensive reform adequately improves educational outcomes.

Based on this, it’s clear that the teachers are being horribly mistrea…wait, that didn’t come out right. That sort of evidence seems to indicate that Chicago’s teachers are horrible and wholly undeserving of the enormous public trust invested in them. Well, then.

So far, the city and its “educators” seem to be at an impasse, but I think a simple solution exists for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Fire them. All of them.

Okay, not all of them. Emmanuel could give them until Wednesday morning to report back to work and then pink-slip all who fail to report. Destroy the Chicago Teachers Union, root and branch. God knows they deserve it. The media may say that these teachers are striking against the government, but as civic employees, the teachers are a part of the government, and they are striking against the taxpayers who employ them. A government which goes on strike against its own citizens is striking against civilization itself. In striking, the teachers have attacked the wellbeing of parents, many of whom must miss work despite having jobs they actually have to show up for, or else risk leaving their children unsupervised. In addition, the teachers have exposed all other citizens, including the children they apparently do not care about, to a potential increase in crime from the sheer volume of bored youth being turned out into the streets. They have utterly vacated their duty as public servants, and like all public servants who abuse the people’s trust, they ought to be fired and barred from holding public employment ever again. 

Of course, after such a drastic step the city would have to hire a very large number of new teachers very quickly, but this could probably be done. With Illinois’s unemployment rate an unenviable 8.9%, there are thousands of college graduates who would jump at the chance to make over $70,000 a year with spectacular benefits without even working year-round. 

But wait, this anarchic process would doubtless cause chaos and endanger the education of hundreds of thousands of children? Right you are, invisible reader person. However, with the teachers’ union out of the way, Chicago could afford to exercise some actual quality control. Tenure would obviously be out the window, and new principals (perhaps hired from the city’s charter schools, which of course are still fully operational) could be given wide authority to fire unsuitable teachers. There would be a period of very rapid change, where new hires would flame out and require replacement, and it could make for a difficult year. However, lessons would be learned, and without the shackles of tenure and a dominant union, adaptations could be made rapidly, like in any well-functioning work environment as opposed to the Cloud Cuckooland that is public administration. 

Even if the situation did turn into a fiasco, it couldn’t really get much worse than the status quo, which is rivalled only by D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago’s own even worse educational past (that 20% figure for reading proficiency is nearly double that of a decade ago).

So man up, Rahm Emanuel. Somebody needs to think of the children, for once.

–Blake Neff