Striking Chicago Teachers Reject Pay Officer, But Talks Continue

By Cindy Currence — December 12, 1984 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School and union officials in Chicago last week continued negotiations in late\night sessions over the teachers’ request for a pay increase of an undisclosed amount.

The school system’s 28,000 teachers went on strike Dec. 3, giving the 450,000 children in the nation’s third-largest school district an early holiday.

Another 12,000 school employees, who also were on strike or were honoring the picket lines, did not report to work last week. Only about 1,200 people, mostly administrators, were at the schools.

In addition to requests for wage increases, a major point of contention in the contract disputes has been the school board’s decision to require most employees to pay part of their medical benefits. On Nov. 16, the administration began deducting the funds from employees’ paychecks. (See Education Week, Oct. 24, 1984.)

Last-Minute Offer

Although school officials agreed shortly before the strike to restore the medical benefits to the teachers--to reimburse them for the money withheld from their paychecks and to increase salaries at a rate linked to new money the state is expected to allocate to Illinois public schools this month--the union rejected the offer.

Jacqueline Vaughn, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, told reporters last week that the offer was “too little, too late.”

School officials had asked the teachers to forgo a pay increase this year, pointing to the school system’s limited funding resources and balanced-budget requirement.

“The board’s stand is that we’re underfunded, the money isn’t there,” said Bob Saigh, director of information for Chicago Public Schools. “Apparently, the teachers don’t believe that.”

Of the school system’s $1.5-billion budget, 89 cents of every dollar is spent on salaries and benefits for school personnel, Mr. Saigh said.

The average teaching salary in the district is $26,257, about 30 percent less than that in the suburban school systems, union officials said.

Tax-Amnesty Program

School officials were only able to restore benefits and offer a salary increase after it became clear that the state’s tax-amnesty program would provide the district with a significant amount of additional funding for this school year.

The amnesty program, which allowed delinquent taxpayers to pay back taxes with reduced penalties during a two-month period that ended Nov. 30, has increased state revenue by $42 million.

The General Assembly last summer appropriated $20 million in anticipated amnesty funds for public schools.

Legislation adopted by the Senate and pending in the House would earmark another $22.7 million from the amnesty windfall for schools.

Because the Chicago school system is so large, it receives about one-third of all state funds for education, according to David Fields, a spokesman for Gov. James R. Thompson. The school system also will receive one-third of any tax-amnesty money earmarked for education.

The Governor supports the tax-amnesty legislation before the House, according to Mr. Fields, but did not support proposed legislation to give all of the tax-amnesty windfall to the Chicago Public Schools. That measure was defeated by three votes in the House late last month. (See Education Week, Dec. 5, 1984.)

The Governor would like to see the strike in Chicago end as soon as possible, Mr. Fields said.

“He was a little unhappy that things have gone on this long,” Mr. Fields noted, and was also “not very happy” that his 6-year-old daughter, who attends a Chicago school, was at home last week.

Board’s Proposal

The school board’s proposal to the teachers was to link any salary increase to the amount of funding provided by the tax-amnesty program. The state legislature is expected to vote this week on just how much of the windfall will be allocated to the schools.

If the teachers are awarded a salary increase that requires funding above what is provided by the tax-amnesty program, the board will be forced to make cuts in the personnel and instructional-materials budgets and that will probably increase the budget deficit the system will face next school year, Mr. Saigh said.

Other Negotiations

Both school and union officials have said they expect this year’s strike to be shorter than the 15-day strike that took place last fall.

However, Mr. Saigh said, contract negotiations with some of the other unions representing school employees are not progressing as quickly as those with the teachers’ union. Even if the teachers settle quickly, he said, the other disputes could extend the students’ early vacation even further.

A version of this article appeared in the December 12, 1984 edition of Education Week as Striking Chicago Teachers Reject Pay Officer, But Talks Continue


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP