'More' is not an option

Striking Chicago teachers displaying blindness to reality

The word for today is “myopia.”

“A visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred; ... nearsightedness. Also called short sight. ... 2. Lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning.”

On Monday, 400,000 public school students could see myopia demonstrated on the streets of Chicago, as myopic teachers shut down the city’s classrooms in a strike aimed at making some of the nation’s best-paid teachers – $76,000 a year on average, before benefits – paid even more, despite Chicago’s obvious inability to afford it.

Chicago teachers are already the highest or second-highest paid teachers in America. But remarkably, the teachers’ union turned down an offer of a 16-percent raise over four years.

This, despite the fact that the Chicago school system says it is already headed for a $1 billion shortfall this year.

Nor are Chicago teachers clamoring to be compensated for doing a great job. Fact is, one of their grievances is about the city’s desire to use student achievement as one benchmark in teacher evaluations.

Indeed, you can see why they’d fight that: A 2009 report indicated that on one state standardized test, “more than 70 percent of high school juniors fail to meet state standards.”

“It is clear that the vast majority of Chicago’s elementary and high schools do not prepare their students for success in college and beyond,” said an official who commissioned the report. The official, suspicious of information coming out of the school system, called for “an independent auditor to ensure the credibility of published reports on student achievement at Chicago Public Schools.”

And despite dropout rates that are said to be near 40 percent, one report faults Chicago Public Schools for “inflating its performance figures ... through such techniques as counting students who swap schools before dropping out as transfers but not dropouts.”

And that was before the massive cheating scandal in Atlanta public schools.

The bottom line: It’s quite likely the system isn’t being completely honest about its effectiveness, and the teachers’ union still wants more. And at a time when “more” just isn’t an option.

Moreover, as commentator John Fund writes, the union wants more when the average family in Chicago earns $47,000 – and “at a time when most families are not getting any raises or are looking for work.”

And myopia can blind you to other plain realities as well. Fund notes that, “Teachers pay only 3 percent of their health-care costs and out of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, a full 71 cents has gone to teacher retirement costs. ...

“The showdown in Chicago will be a test of just how much clout the public-employee unions wield at a time when the budget pressures they’ve created threaten to break the budgets of America’s major cities.”

Nor do public-sector unions across America either understand or care what their demands are doing to our country. Can they not see what is happening in other union-heavy nations such as Greece? Apparently not.

This is not a purely Chicago matter. This is a crisis of vision in just about every major American city, including Washington.

But whatever else unfolds, at least Chicago students can now use “myopia” in a sentence.

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