According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein the Chicago teachers are not striking over pay. Rahm Emanuel has offered a 16% increase over four years that is acceptable to the union. What they are striking over is whether the teachers may be evaluated strictly, and whether lousy teachers who have already been fired can be rehired. Here's Klein:

What do the two sides agree on?

Emanuel has proposed that, instead of the rescinded 4 percent pay increase, teachers see a 16 percent pay increase over the next four years. The unions say they’re close to agreement on pay, though they still think higher raises are necessary to make up for rising health costs ....

What do the two sides still disagree on?

The Chicago Public Schools in March unveiled an evaluation system (pdf) in which standardized testing makes up 40 percent of the rubric, a percent that increases by 5 percent every year thereafter (45 percent in year two, 50 percent in year three, etc.), which was designed by panels that included teachers, principals, and teachers’ union officials (including the president). The system goes above and beyond the state requirement that testing make up 20-40 percent of teacher evaluations. The teachers’ unions are resisting this system, calling it too punitive.

Teachers also want laid off teachers to be able to be automatically “recalled” to positions if they open up. Emanuel would allow these teachers to apply to new openings, but given his desire to focus layoffs on worst-performing teachers, does not want automatic recalls.

Klein notes that the "2010-11 annual teacher salaries ranged from $47,268 for teachers with bachelor’s degree with a year’s experience or less, to $88,680 for those with doctorates who have at least 16 years of experience ... All told, teachers in Chicago make an average of $74,839 a year." And a 16% raise is not bad in a recession economy.

But with 80% of Chicago students unable to meet the Department of Education standards in both literacy and mathematics, it not obvious that taxpayers are getting a lot of value for money. All the same, it's good theater.

Observers are being treated to a glimpse of what might have been called a "rectification campaign," a term used to designate a struggle within a bureaucratic system for power in the guise of seeking reform. A faction will come out on top; the problem in Chicago will be "fixed' in some way.  Why, the miserable education that students receive may even be improved somewhat as a byproduct. But the system will remain unchanged; everything will happen -- the buildup, the crisis, and the resolution -- within the Democratic Party system.

Things need to be tuned up every now and again. Even a basically one-party city like Chicago has occasional need for the law to make sure that things stay within guidelines. This is illustrated elsewhere. Thus, the arrest of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack on charges of corruption and the withdrawal of Democratic Party candidate Wendy Rosen for voting often and early prove that even within the tolerances of the Big Tent excessive liabilities are dumped.

Rectification has its uses.