Teachers’ unions are quite noble when you first think about it. It’s the one union that you always want to support because teachers educate our next generations. They are key for the success of America’s children. If you don’t support them then you are certainly not supporting children. Right?

That’s what Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union believes. She accused Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard for not caring enough about Chicago students, which is really just a backhand way of getting what she wants.

There is a difference between endorsing a union and their employees. Let’s make a distinction. Endorsing the latest strike by the Chicago Teachers Union is in no way trying to improve the education of the 400,000 Chicago public school students of which around 85% lives near or below the American poverty line. This strike is all about self-interest. They want to address class sizes, job security, and teacher evaluations. If they were striking due to pay or benefits then Mayor Emanuel would have the option to sue them by law.

The Chicago Teachers Union is definitely abusing the system. They are striking even though they were given a 16% increase in their wages for the next four years. To put facts in context, Chicago teachers have an average salary of $76,000 while the average national salary for a teacher, for example, is $43,624. New York City nears Chicago with an average salary of $73,751, but Chicago is ranked first in average teacher salary in the nation.

Teachers are taking a raise while they complain about the class size and the lack of materials needed in classrooms. If they so care about the student’s future, they should not strike since most of these students families are unable to compensate another caregiver, let alone another tutor to pick up where public school left off with the students’ lessons.

If the issue of class sizes and student resources is really that pressing, cut the salaries and spend the money that is necessary for classes to flourish. Wouldn’t it be strange to see people who are ideologically tied to the idea of fairness and redistribution to actually give something of theirs for the benefit of someone else? In no way is Chicago a role model to deal with teachers. If I were Mayor Emanuel, I wouldn’t have agreed to such high salaries and pay raises (the City of Chicago is under a $635.7 million deficit). Instead of raising teacher salaries, improve the schools. 

An essential issue with Chicago’s education is the lack of oversight on the teachers. When it comes to teacher evaluations, merit pay is a sound system. This is a topic on which both Governor Chris Christie and President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, agree. It makes sense to continuously evaluate teachers. For example, my school, Knox College, evaluates professors to try to get a student’s perspective and whether the professor met or lacked standards. Tenure is often abused and doesn’t allow for much room to improve today’s teachers. A teacher’s job should depend on the success of today’s children. If a teacher is paid $76,000 a year, then I would expect the best of teachers.

The public deserves free and good education. Chicago today has the highest taxes in the nation. For this reason, public schools in Chicago should be the best in the country. The money should be there for Chicago students to excel. Teachers should not be striking, but teaching. Put politics aside, and put kids first.

Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz