Monday, September 24, 2012

A Gold Star for the Chicago Teachers Union

A Gold Star for the Chicago Teachers Strike

After 10 years of top-down disruptions, teachers showed
the power of collective action by those who work in

By Karen Lewis and Randi Weingarten Opinion

Wall Street Journal September 23, 2012

After more than a decade of top-down dictates,
disruptive school closures, disregard of teachers' and
parents' input, testing that squeezes out teaching, and
cuts to the arts, physical education and libraries,
educators in Chicago said "enough is enough." With
strong support from parents and many in the community,
teachers challenged a flawed vision of education reform
that has not helped schoolchildren in Chicago or around
the country. It took a seven-day strike - something no
one does without cause - but with it educators in
Chicago have changed the conversation about education

These years of dictates imposed upon teachers left
children in Chicago without the rich curriculum,
facilities and social services they need. On picket
lines, with their handmade signs, teachers provided
first-person accounts of the challenges confronting
students and educators. They made it impossible to turn
a blind eye to the unacceptable conditions in many of
the city's public schools.

Teachers and parents were united in the frustration
that led to the strike. Nearly nine out of 10 students
in Chicago Public Schools live in poverty, a shameful
fact that so-called reformers too often ignore, yet
most schools lack even one full-time nurse or social
worker. The district has made cuts where it shouldn't
(in art, music, physical education and libraries) but
hasn't cut where it should (class sizes and excessive
standardized testing and test prep). The tentative
agreement reached in Chicago aims to address all these

Chicago's teachers see this as an opportunity to move
past the random acts of "reform" that have failed to
move the needle and toward actual systemic school
improvement. The tentative agreement focuses on
improving quality so that every public school in
Chicago is a place where parents want to send their
children and educators want to teach.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicago Teachers Give Us All a Lesson

Two-thirds of parents supported the Chicago school teachers' protest in spite of the inconvenience caused by the strike.

by Dean Baker

We don't know the final terms of the settlement yet,
but it appears that the Chicago public school teachers
managed to score a major victory over Rahm Emanuel,
Chicago's business- oriented mayor. Testing will not
comprise as large a share in teachers' evaluations as
Emanuel had wanted; there will be a serious appeals
process for teachers whom the school district wants to
fire, and laid off teachers will have priority in
applying for new positions.

If these seem like narrow self-interested gains for the
teachers and their union, think again. Teaching in
inner city schools is a difficult and demanding job.

Most of the children in Chicago's public schools are
poor. Their families are struggling with all the issues
presented by poverty. Many of the schools are in high
crime areas and serious crimes often take place on
school premises. It can be a lot harder job than
working for a hedge fund.

It will not be possible to get committed and competent
people to teach in the public school system if they
cannot be guaranteed at least a limited amount of job
security and respect. The $70,000 annual pay that was
ridiculed as excessive by so many pundits would not
even be a week's salary for many of the Wall Street
types who do nothing more productive than shuffle

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chicago Strike Suspended

More to follow.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel threat not helpful.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicago Teachers _ Not Yet.

The Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates met Sunday afternoon, and decided to stay out on strike while delegates talked to rank and file teachers about the tentative deal reached Friday:
Delegates were not receiving written contract language about the deal so some wanted to keep the strike in place until they could see written language and bounce it off their constituents in schools.
Lewis said the delegates don’t trust the school board at this point.
“Why would you make a decision on something you haven’t had a chance to look at?” she said. “They have language. They see the language. But it’s not finished. We’ve been almost guaranteed that it might be finished by Tuesday.”
The distrust leading union delegates to ask for more time and details makes sense, given how Chicago Public Schools management has treated teachers in recent years. Once teachers leave the picket lines, they face a real possibility that management will pull back on any details not yet hammered out in the proposed contract.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thousands Rally in Chicago Teacher's Strike Against Corporate-Backed Edu...

Why Did the Chicago Teachers' Strike Happen ?

Chicago Teachers Go on Strike <>
Bill Barclay <> - September
10, 2012 2:50 pm

Today the Chicago teachers went on strike—their first in almost twenty-five
years. The road to the strike has been a long one that includes 1) efforts
by the hedge-fund elite behind Stand for [on] Children (SFC) to make such
an occurrence impossible; 2) the desire of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to
impose on Chicago public schools a model of corporate privatization; and 3)
important changes in the functioning of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

*Stand on Children

Monday, September 10, 2012

Broad Foundation Wants to Step on the Gas

Choosing Democracy: Broad Foundation Wants to Step on the Gas: Broad Foundation Wants to Step on the Gas : The Broad Foundation wants to step on the gas….A recent  memo  from The Broad Center (TBC) pr...

Chicago Teachers' Strike _ update

Where we are in Chicago today: 

This morning (Monday, September 10, 2012) the Chicago teachers went on strike – for the first time since 1987.  The road to the strike has been a long one that includes (i) efforts by the hedge fund elite behind Stand for (on) Children (SFC) to make such an occurrence impossible; (ii) the desire of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to impose on Chicago public schools a model of corporate privatization; and (iii) important changes in the functioning of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). 

Stand on Children

The efforts of SFC are by now well known.  A brief review: after spending almost $4 million on Illinois legislative races, SFC got as payoff SB7.  The bill made it impossible for the CTU to pass a strike vote – or so SFC CEO Jonah Edelman bragged in June 2011to the Aspen Ideas Festival that “The unions cannot strike in Chicago.”  Edelman and his allies figured that the requirement for 75% approval for a strike with the further provision that abstentions counted as no votes could not be met. 

Turns out they were wrong.

In early July, CTU membership voted by over 90% (and excluding abstentions, by 98%) to authorize their house of delegates to call a strike if contract negotiations fail.

“Reforming” Chicago Public Schools

When Emanuel ran for mayor of Chicago, one of his announced political goals was to “reform” Chicago public schools.  The system is the third largest in the country and has a high percentage of children from low income families (80% of Chicago’s public school attendees qualify for free lunches).  To understand what “reform” means to Emanuel, we should take the advice of Deep Throat regarding Nixon’s Watergate, “Follow the money.”  It is a good guide to what Chicago is and is not doing for its school children.

TIF monies nicely illuminate the real priorities of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education.  Earlier this year, Roosevelt University Professor Stephanie Farmer’s analysis demonstrated that TIF spending for education over the past two decades has been biased against open enrollment schools (what we use to call “public schools”).  These schools constitute 69% of total Chicago schools, but they have received less than 48% of TIF money for building maintenance, repair, and upgrading.  In revealing contrast, nine selective-enrollment high schools (charter and magnet) that make up 1 percent of the total number of schools got 24 percent of the money spent on school construction projects.  Overall, CTU estimates that TIFs remove $250 million/year from the CPS.  This is almost half of the budget shortfall forecast by the Board.  (See:

The charter school mantra reigns supreme in the thinking of both Emanuel and his appointed Board of Education.  In analyzing the Board’s proposed budget, the CTU pointed out that it:
increases charter school spending by 17 percent, but does not address the rampant inequality in education programs across the district. In 2002, charter school spending was about $30 million; now, CPS proposes a whopping half-a-billion dollars to a failed reform program that has been shown to provide its students with no better education outcomes.
The last decade has seen a huge growth in (nonunionized) charter schools despite lack of any evidence of their alleged effectiveness.  Chicago’s 600 plus schools include 110 charters and another 27 schools run by private firms.  Meanwhile what is the situation for the bulk of Chicago school children?  A quarter of the open enrollment elementary schools have no libraries, 40% have neither either art nor music instruction while many others must choose one or the other but can’t get both.   
Mayor Emanuel sends his children to the private Chicago Lab School – where all of these “extras” are available.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Chicago Teachers Prepare for a Strike

Tomorrow is Decision Day in Chicago. by Diane Ravitch.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tried to bully the Chicago Teachers
Union and its leader Karen Lewis.

Lewis was elected by the members because they knew she would
stand up for them.

Emanuel has the support of the Wall Street hedge fund managers
organization, somewhat absurdly called Democrats for Education
Reform. He also has the other big-monied people in Chicago, as
mentioned in this article in the Chicago Tribune, including
billionaire Penny Pritzker.,0,6860745.story

The article mentions that DFER staged a protest at union
headquarters to oppose a strike. I wonder how many hedge fund
managers send their children to Chicago public schools. I am
trying to imagine hedge fund managers marching in front of
union headquarters and carrying signs. I am guessing that what
happened was that they "staged" a protest, meaning that they
hired out-of-work actors to carry protest signs. Maybe the
unemployed actors have children in the Chicago public schools.

read more here.

The great thing about having Karen Lewis there is that every
teacher in America knows she will stand strong for them. She
will not sell them out. And she will not sell out the

She knows that teachers' working conditions are children's
learning conditions.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

26 States Cut Their Education Budgets For This School Year

26 States Cut Their Education Budgets For This School Year: pStates have made deep cuts to their education budgets in the years since the Great Recession, and as their budgets remained crunched by lower levels of tax revenues, more than half are spending less on education this school year than they did last year, a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities [...]/p