Friday, September 9, 2011

At the end of the day...

"Ah, yes. Mayors come and mayors go, but the royal ass-kissing remains." - Ben Joravsky, The Reader
In the 30-something years I've been around Chicago's public schools, as an educator, a parent, an education writer, and school reform activist, I've never seen anything like this. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's cynical, politically-motivated move against teachers and their unions dwarfs by comparison, anything his predecessors have done under the name of school reform.

After only being able to pressure and bribe four schools into accepting his longer hours for less pay scheme, Rahm has mobilized  his toadies in the city council to put the muscle on principals in their ward, who are being told in no uncertain terms to deliver their schools, or else.

The idea that adopting a longer day means waiving their contract — and scabbing on their own union — is perhaps the biggest hurdle facing Disney Magnet Principal Kathleen Hagstrom.  At a local school council meeting Thursday, Disney teachers responded by asking questions about what a longer day would look like, and worried aloud that taking the vote was akin to crossing a picket line.

They are right to worry on both counts. No one knows what a longer day would look like. Rahm has made clear that he favors using the time for more test-prep in reading and math. And it's becoming obvious that this all has little to do with actual school improvement but is rather a thinly disguised plan, most likely hatched over at the Civic Committee, to neuter the union and eliminate teachers collective bargaining rights. After all, nobody is against a longer school day, including the CTU. In fact, one reason why some teachers may vote for the contract waiver is that they often stay long after teaching hours with no compensation. The question is, what will happen in that extra time? How will it be paid for? Where is the research behind it? And most importantly, how will these decisions get made?

Yesterday, Rahm brought his pal Arne Duncan back into town to stump for the more-seat-time plan. I gagged when I heard Duncan call Chicago's school day, a "disgrace" and a badge of shame." Duncan autocratically ran the schools here for seven years under the last mayor and with a compliant union leadership.

The highest performing districts in the state as well as the elite private schools attended by Emanuel (New Trier) and  Duncan (Univ. of Chicago Lab) all have approximately the same disgraceful school day. Duncan's flack army had already prepped him in anticipation of the obvious question. After all, Duncan rode the myth of his Chicago school-turnaround "miracle" all the way to Washington.
 "We were unsuccessful (in pushing for a longer school day, and it was one of my big regrets. There's no question about it," Duncan told the Tribune.
Have you noticed how Duncan likes to preface his remarks with, "absolutely" or "there's no question about it" when there are always questions about it?
More Duncan:
"I think it's important to have a good process, to have input from teachers, from the union. But at the end of the day... 
Have you noticed how duplicitous Duncan always feeds us the b.s. first and then drops the hammer after the words, "but at the end of the day...? Like, "I'm against all this test prep, but at the end of the day...,  
" the end of the day, Chicago has been at the bottom of the barrel nationally in this area for far too long. Chicago now has a chance to break through, and that's tremendously exciting."
I don't expect a soft-balling media to ask Duncan to document this alleged hard-fought, but unsuccessful push for a longer day during his seven-year rein. I guess that's why we need more of us un-embedded bloggers and tweeters.

At the beginning of the day...

For the real deal on how Rahm plans to come up with $89 million in longer-school-day bribe money, be sure and read Matt Farmer's excellent piece at Gapers Block. Also check out Ben Joravsky's latest at The Reader, "Mayor Emanuel's budget show."

Finally, be sure and come to the next meeting of Chicago/SOS is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17th at Jane Addams Hull House, 800 S. Halsted. Bring a friend. 


  1. Rahm should remember that having Duncan stump for you is not necessarily such a good idea. Remember, he came to D.C. and stumped for Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee. Result? A few weeks later they were both run out of town by the voters.

  2. JerseyJazzman has an answer to share with Rahm and his corporate cronies:

    "Does anyone really give a crap anymore about how "passionately" anyone in power "speaks up" for the children? Haven't we all figured out by now that "speaking up" for the children is what cynical, self-serving political and business figures do when they don't want to be called to account for the absolute failure of America politics and business?"


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.