Out of Touch – Guest Post by Jeff Pryzbyl

On February 1, the Chicago Teachers Union began the negotiation of their June 30 expiring contract.  Their requests – raises of 24% in year 1 and 5% in year 2 (on top of annual raises and advanced degree raises), smaller class sizes, and the hiring of 2,600 support staff.  At a cost of over $700 million, their proposal suggests the state and city raise taxes to fund their request.

How do the proposed increases square with the current economy?  Since 2001, the annual rate of inflation has exceeded 3.25% just once (2008) and was even negative (-.34%) in 2009.  Social Security recipients have gone 2 of the last 3 years without any cost of living increases.   Last year was the first year my real estate taxes actually declined, finally following  the decline in property values in my area.  In last January’s lame duck session of Congress, the Illinois House and Senate passed a 66% tax increase on personal income.

How many businesses can afford a 25% increase in compensation expense and enjoy the pricing power to pass this cost along to its customers?  Especially for a workforce that works 39 weeks per year, receives two weeks of vacation during the 39 weeks and requires at least one year of mentoring and guidance before being terminated.

I know plenty of teachers, public school and private school, City of Chicago and suburban.  A common argument is that the profession is severely underpaid for the work they do.  It is a demanding occupation and, even after leaving the school at 3:00-3:30 in the afternoon, they must grade papers and/or create lesson plans at home.  How many of us can get to work at 8:30 am, leave by 3:30 and not have unfinished work?

So now, the Chicago Teachers union, led by Karen Lewis, who recently came under fire for mocking Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s speaking lisp, wants local politicians, who already voted to extend the Chicago school days and approve a tax increase just 13 months ago, to increase taxes again so the whole state can fund their requests.  Any wonder Wisconsin and Indiana have moved to reduce collective bargaining among public sector unions?

Jeff Pryzbyl is a guest contributor to SMB Matters.  Views and opinions expressed are those of the contributor.

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