Editorial: Teachers vs. reality
Editorials July 22, 2012 8:58PM
Bruce Rauner and Laurence Msall | Ramzi Dreessen - Suntimes
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:05AM
It is time rage met reality.
Buried in an independent fact-finder’s report last week that sought to resolve the bitter contract dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and the school system, arbitrator Edwin Benn spoke of the union’s “rage.”
That rage, which Benn describes as “understandable,” is fueled by a decision by CPS last fall to cancel a 4 percent raise for teachers, coupled with a move to a longer school day and year without a major bump in pay.
Yet CPS’ decisions are deeply and correctly rooted in an undeniable fiscal reality.
The board prudently canceled the 4 percent raise not because it fails to appreciate teachers, or the rage they feel about poor working conditions, poor learning conditions and the injustice of a poorly funded school system.
The raise was canceled last fall for the same reason CPS can’t offer a major pay increase today: It doesn’t have the money.
Plus, as Benn noted, between 2007 and 2012, teachers benefitted from an “extremely lucrative contract,” under which they earned raises ranging from 19 to 46 percent. This coincided, of course, with the Great Recession, when raises of any kind were scarce.
A new report released last week puts a fine point on this rage vs. reality debate. The Civic Federation, a nonpartisan watchdog group, came out against CPS’ proposed budget. The spending plan faces a vote as soon as Wednesday but more likely next month.
The group opposes the budget, which drains the system’s reserves to help cover a $665 million deficit, saying CPS is “delaying the inevitable by not addressing its devastating financial reality.”
Civic Federation President Laurence Msall is most concerned about a looming spike in pension costs, which are expected to push next year’s deficit to $1 billion. His group also is concerned about CPS’ growing debt burden, as is Moody’s Investors Services, which just downgraded its credit rating.
This flawed budget, it’s important to note, allows for only a 2 percent raise for teachers this year. That percentage likely will rise, but reality says it can’t go up by much.