“Unthinkable and intolerable.” So President Franklin Delano Roosevelt considered strikes by government employees. Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU), has a different view. She called a strike to block Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s (D) education reforms.

Chicago Public Schools have a 40 percent dropout rate. Emanuel considers that unacceptable. He has proposed evaluating teachers on how their students learn. With Chicago’s finances tight, he proposed giving teachers a raise of “only” 8 percent.

Chicago Public School already teachers enjoy the highest average pay of any district in the nation—$76,000 a year, plus benefits. (The CTU argues it is only $71,000 after taking out contributions for their pensions and health care.) The union wanted a 30 percent raise but has indicated it could settle for the 16 percent the city is now offering (raising average annual pay to $88,000).

But the union adamantly opposes the mayor’s education reforms. They want the teacher evaluations watered down. They also want the school district to rehire teachers who lose their jobs in layoffs or school closings—no matter how ineffective they are. Emanuel refused, so the union shut down Chicago’s schools.

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