In his column today George Will argued that teachers in Chicago were being reasonable in objecting to the large implicit pay cuts that would result if they were required to put in roughly 30 percent more hours for no increase in pay. However, he also implied that teachers in Chicago are currently overpaid.
This is not clear. Government workers in general get roughly the same compensation as private sector workers after adjusting for education and experience. Will refers to the generous pensions that Chicago teachers receive without having to make an employee contribution. However, this benefit is compensation for a wage that is lower than comparably educated private sector workers.
Will also is in error in taking Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's assertion at face value, that more charter schools will improve the quality of education. At this point there is considerable research that shows that students in charter schools perform no better on average than students in public schools. Presumably Emanuel is aware of this research, which suggests that he has some other motive for his confrontation with the teachers union.
It is also worth noting that if Mayor Emanuel is correct that Chicago's schools are in awful shape then it speaks poorly of the person who ran them for almost a decade, President Obama's education secretary Arne Duncan.
Finally, Will is confused about the affiliation of the Chicago Teachers Union. He begins his column by telling readers:
"The name of the nation’s largest labor union — the National Education Association — seems calculated to blur the fact that it is a teachers union. In this blunt city, however, the teachers union candidly calls itself the Chicago Teachers Union."
The reason why the teachers union in Chicago is so blunt is that it is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, not the National Education Association.
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