The Real Reason Chicago's Teachers Are On Strike

Written by Steven David Horwich on Wednesday, 12 September 2012. Posted in Opinion, Steven David Horwich

Chicago's teachers claim their strike is "for the children." The real reason they are on strike is because they are themselves pampered, spoiled children. Disagree? Read on....

The Real Reason Chicago's Teachers Are On Strike

For the second day, 350,000 public school students in Chicago are all dressed up with no place to go. They are ready for school, but their schools aren’t ready for them. And why is that? The teachers are on strike, all 30,000 of them, in the third largest school district in the country.

And why do the teachers claim they are on strike? Why, claim the teachers through their union spokesperson, it’s all for the children, for their educational well-being. In their words, “We are fighting for our students, we are fighting for education justice.” 

While the kids wander the streets.

Is this making any sense to you? No? I’m not surprised. Lies rarely make sense when looked at for more than a minute or two.

Teachers never go on strike because of their students. They go on strike because their unions direct them to strike. Students don’t have a union. But teachers sure do.

I saw an interesting statistic yesterday that explains in large measure why teachers are on strike in Chicago. (There are other explanations, and we’ll get to them.) The average teacher in Chicago works about 170 “instructional” days each year, or about 1039 instructional hours.  Nope, that’s not the sort of year’s worth of work most of the rest of us have to put in, but then, well, Chicago teachers have a great and powerful union. How powerful? The average pay for Chicago teachers, including the many perks these people enjoy, is in excess of $68 an hour!

How many of you readers are making that kind of money? Show of hands? That’s what I thought. You’d strike, too, if you were riding that kind of gravy train and someone blocked the track.

So when Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a DEMOCRAT mind you and not one of those fire-eyed “cut every budget” Republicans, started to put just a little heat on teachers to get them to actually EARN their incredible, exorbitant pay, they went immediately, “righteously” on strike.

For the kids, they said. Uh-huh.

What did Chicago’s mayor request of his teachers? First, that they work a 7 hour 40 minute day. (Not even eight hours, folks.) The spokesperson for the Chicago Teacher Union described such a workday as “unworkable.”

Yup. Well, no eight hour days for public school teachers. They’ve got to spend some time, after all, figuring out better ways to spend their money and enjoy their perks. They clearly aren’t concerned with spending that time improving children’s education in their fair city. In fact, that’s “unworkable”. Their words, not mine. And the results in Chicago schools certainly serve as the proof of their monumental disregard for children, and their complete failure to educate. The nearly 40 percent drop out rate in Chicago speaks for itself.

By the way, the average 8-hour-a-day laborer in Chicago makes just over $23 an hour. Their unions just aren’t doing the job for those day laborers, I guess. Of course, their pay doesn’t come from the taxpayer, like public school teachers' does. So I guess those tax-dollar pockets are of nearly unlimited depth, and well, teachers deserve their “fair share” of your money, right? Right?

There’s more. What else did the mayor ask for? Well, he asked for accountability. That sure sent those teachers howling into the streets in a hurry. 

Oh, teachers claim they are close to resolving the 49 issues that they went on strike for. There are just two issues left, the teachers say. Ready for the reality of this strike? The two points: teacher evaluations, and jobs for laid off teachers.

That’s it, the two remaining points. Teachers don’t want their job security determined by whether or not they are any good at their jobs. Most of them are unbelievably lousy and they know it. That 40 percent drop-out rate, remember? So they sure don’t want teacher evaluations that might result in, well, deserved unemployment. And when the very, very few of them get laid off for cause, well, there better be a golden net to catch them. How will they maintain the life style to which we would most of us like to become accustomed? By the way, the teacher union stated today that these are the sticking points in negotiations. This isn’t me guessing, it’s their statement.

So the strike isn’t about children, or education, or “educational justice.” Yes, teachers lied about all that. It’s about teachers who don’t want to invest time in their jobs, want the big pay checks, and want guarantees that they will never lose their jobs no matter how awful and destructive they might be at their jobs. And really, folks, if the teachers were striking “for the kids,” wouldn’t they have struck long, long ago, given the miserable quality of education in Chicago’s public schools? Why wait until teacher evaluation is put on the negotiating table before striking, if it’s “for the kids”?

The strike has nothing to do with our children.

The result? 350,000 kids wandering the streets! Probably receiving some sort of education for the first time in their lives. If they’re really lucky, parents will finally throw up their hands in despair and form homeschool groups. Then Chicago would indeed become one smart town, a city of big shoulders. And a town no longer in need of public schools and their insanely pampered, unconcerned, soul and city destroying teachers.



A young Chicago student read this article and wrote to tell me that it was bull. She’s very bright and very motivated. I wrote her back. I pointed out that my quotes and figures all came from the Chicago teachers and their union, and the government. How was this bull, and why was she so passionate about it? She kindly wrote back to inform me that her teacher HAD BROKEN DOWN IN TEARS IN FRONT OF HER CLASS, COMPLAINING ABOUT PAY!!!


Well, I could see why this young student was so upset by the article. The teacher had made her own work situation her student’s problem! The teacher had accomplished this by having an apparent emotional breakdown, a demonstration of emotional instability before a class of students, I might add.

Welcome to Chicago public education.

I wondered for a moment if this wasn’t a strategy employed by the union and executed by individual teachers to earn sympathy points from parents and students. It is certainly not beyond the teacher unions to pull such a stunt. Chicago Parents and workers who make, on average (when they have employment) around $40 less per hour than these teachers weeping and beating their chests before impressionable children.

What are children learning from such a display? Nothing good. And it certainly isn’t math, or science, or anything else we send kids to school in order to learn. But the child is being manipulated by an adult they have already been intensely manipulated to respect and even admire, even when that same adult treats the student like garbage…as this young student’s teacher did to her.

Image Credit: CC BY-NC 2.0 (Flikr)/Chicago Man   

About the Author

Steven David Horwich

Steven David Horwich

Steven David Horwich has been both a professional writer and a professional educator his entire adult life. Simultaneously, he has had a long career in the performing arts, winning an Emmy Award at age 17 for My Littlest Revue, a musical theatre piece he authored, directed, and performed in. He has subsequently worked with some of Hollywood’s most well-known stars, including John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jonathan Winters, and others. As an educator he has taught at USC in the Professional Writer’s Program and in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He currently runs the Website that provides a proven home school and classroom-use curricula for ages 5-adult.

Copyright © Steven David Horwich. Used with Permission.

Comments (2)

  • Steven Horwich

    Steven Horwich

    18 September 2012 at 18:42 |
    They also work nine months a year. And most teachers never arrive at Master's degrees and higher, certainly not at the public school level, as you are probably aware, Clark, that's a small percentage. The required on-going education demands on public school teachers is generally small to none - teacher unions have seen to it. I've "done my homework" as you put it for over 40 years. Yes, teachers do put in prep time - but nothing remotely like what you describe as a rule. Your personal experience is not a universal truth, Clark, in this case, nothing like. And I would be very curious how you arrived at the idea that your wife worked the equivalent of five extra months - or let's say 14 months in a year.

    Also, Clark, you avoid the most damning elements of the story, which I find very curious. 1) Teachers are paid nearly three times what Chicago's average working force is paid! So much for your complaint about the expense of "required" higher degrees, which in fact are not required, and in fact do not seem to improve in any way the quality of education in Chicago public schools. 2) The teachers struck because the mayor wanted teacher evaluations, pure and simple. That was the point they refused to settle on - that a teacher could be fired for poor performance. Clark, in the real world where the rest of us work, if you do not perform at your job, your fired. Teacher unions make sure that people like your wife can NEVER be fired. So you have a well-defined vested interest motivating your response. Enough said.
  • Clark


    17 September 2012 at 22:15 |
    Please do some more research. Just because a "The average teacher in Chicago works about 170 “instructional” days each year, or about 1039 instructional hours" and gets paid for those hours doesn't mean they work 1039 instructional hours....hello, there is prep time teachers have to do at home after school on weekends to get ready for the day. My wife is a teacher and we calculated her extra hours of work and she worked 5 months of extra work besides her normal work day.

    Also, teachers make good money, but they are also required to continually stay current and educated, which means master or higher degrees. They have to pay for all that and it isn't cheap.

    That's it!

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