CHICAGO — “The teachers want more and more money,” says Patricia Rodriguez, “and while they fight for that, it’s us, the parents, that are spending money today that we don’t have.”
The teacher strike in Obama’s home city of Chicago is keeping almost 350,000 students out of school, putting parents who can’t afford to lose a day’s pay in a tough position. This clash over greater education spending comes on the heels of nearly $100 billion in federal stimulus spending for America’s schools. While it may have saved jobs, the results for students have been average, and even poor.
Offered a 16 percent raise over four years, Chicago teachers are striking for even higher salaries. They already earn an average annual income of $75,000, while the average Chicago family makes only $47,000 per year. In America, government spending on K-12 education is higher than in most developed countries. The Obama administration has spent $97.4 billion in stimulus funds to improve schools, test scores and teacher accountability.
However, the annual report card by Education Week gives America’s schools a “C” grade, with nearly half of states at a “C” or even lower. In 2008, Obama promised America would be first in high school graduation rates worldwide. Yet four years later, America ranks 19th, with 1.1 million students failing to graduate. America also ranks fourth-worst among 29 developed countries for children achieving a higher educational level than their parents.
And Rodriguez? She’s bringing her children along to the laundromat where she works, while the teacher strike goes on.