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Chicago Teacher Strike Underscores One of the Most Important Issues of Our Time

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Teachers in the Chicago Public School District went on strike for the first time in 25 years Monday after 10 months of contract negotiations came to an impasse over health benefits and teacher evaluations.

"We are concerned that too much of the evaluations will be based on students' standardized test scores. This is no way to measure teacher effectiveness at all," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis Sunday night.

The teacher walk-off in the nation's third largest school district has left families scrambling to find alternative childcare for the roughly 350,000 students who are affected by the strike. The school district plans to keep 144 of the city's 675 schools open on a limited basis with non-union workers.

Lewis acknowledges that some progress has been made in the negotiations, including putting more than 500 teachers back to work, restoring some liberal arts classes to the curriculum and guaranteeing new textbooks on the first day of school versus having to wait six weeks for instructional materials.

Moreover, the Chicago school board offered teachers a 16 percent pay raise over the next four years, slightly more than previous offers.

While teachers and education are an important part of our society, "I don't know anybody in this country that is guaranteed a raise of any kind," says The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the accompanying video.

According to reports, the average teacher in Chicago currently earns $76,000 a year, well above the national average income of roughly $30,000 a year.

"This is one of the most important issues the country faces right now," says Henry Blodget of the backlash many government workers are facing over their wages and pensions. "The private sector has changed [and] the middle class has been gutted. You now have 1 percent of Americas who work at Wal-Mart, most of them on the floor making $12 dollars an hour."

While Chicago teachers make much more than the average private sector employee, Blodget is shocked to hear that the labor union is stalling negotiations over performance evaluations based on the outcomes of standardized test results. He does, however, acknowledge the union's argument that teachers do not have complete control over a student's performance.

The Chicago school system faces a $667 million deficit this year, which will balloon to nearly $1 billion by next year. Chicago is not alone in its fiscal crisis. Many cities and states around the country are grappling with how to maintain the education status quo and keep teacher pension funds solvent.

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