Epstein Argues for Charter Schools

How to Stymie the Teachers Unions
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
September 25, 2012

On September 18, 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union negotiated a settlement with the City after going on strike for seven days. At issue in the dispute were critical issues like teacher salaries, working conditions, and teacher evaluations. As is typical in these situations, neither side held all the high cards. The two parties had to agree to compromises that patched up the current difficulties without implementing any sensible long-term reforms.

The wage piece of the deal is likely to add about $74 million per year over the next four years to a municipal budget that is already deeply in the red. The extra dollars that go into wages will be taken out of other budgets, rendering classrooms and other facilities less suitable than before. The moderately stiffer standards for teacher evaluation, both before and after tenure, may make marginal improvements in teaching performance, but none that will be significant in the short term. The overall dismal performance of the Chicago public school system, with its 60 percent graduation rate, will remain more or less what it has been.

The recent news affirms that public education in Chicago and other major cities needs to be fundamentally overhauled. The first item on the reform list should be the collective bargaining system, which has taken over public education for the last fifty or so years. Collective bargaining has its roots in the private sector, where it received a huge boost from the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935

Faculty: 
Richard A. Epstein