Wages are not even their main grievance. They are protesting the pressure to teach solely to obtain test scores rather than overall education. Teaching has become a humiliation fest for those educators in the most difficult schools where getting students to memorize answers and inane details of a culturally insensitive exam has become increasingly irrelevant. One of the latest techniques in New York City has been to publish the names of teachers along with their test scores in the paper.
Other issues of concern include unwieldy class size, lack of job security (teachers have been turned into temp workers), the rising cost of health care and the attempted privatization of the US education system by the spread of charter schools that employ young, non-certified idealists for a couple of years until they are burned out and move on to their "real" careers.
Obama, contrary to Romney's statements, has not expressed support for the strike and, in past speeches, has echoed the prevailing opinion that teachers' concern for these issues along with fair pay, job security, healthcare and pension benefits is nothing but selfish blather. Perpetuating this attitude of bullying and mistreating teachers is his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Now, as the mayor of Chicago, Emanuel has been a driving force behind the vilification of unions and the teachers they represent.
A system that treats its teachers as no more than machine parts, a collection of implements of instruction that can be used and discarded, will not encourage a generation to engage in critical thinking and analysis. It will only serve to create a minimally literate underclass and deepen the ever-widening abyss of economic inequality.
So onward Chicago teachers! We wish you the best and are inspired by your determination.