4:24 PM CDT, June 11, 2012
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have voted by a nearly 90 percent majority to authorize a strike, which could happen this fall. That doesn't mean it will happen. But teachers may be forgiven for thinking they can get their way by walking. In the past, they always could. This time, I think, is different.
Teachers have great leverage because once schools are shut, parents quickly run out of patience and just want their kids back in the classroom. The short-run pain often forces school boards to give in.
But parents and taxpayers have figured out this particular tradeoff is a very bad one. Everyone in Chicago knows that money is tight, that teacher benefits are unaffordable, and that we can't stay on this path. Not to mention that the Chicago public schools fall short of legitimate expectations about student performance. The people in charge of the purse strings simply can't accept another capitulation.
So if the teachers decide to walk out, I'm betting Mayor Emanuel will let them stay out. The success of his administration hinges in large part on his ability to restore fiscal sustainability, and in the immediate future, that means curbing the costs of public employees. He has to win this battle. I hope the teachers see reality and spare themselves and the rest of us the cost of fighting it.
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