Thursday, June 14, 2012

More on Rahm turning Chicago into Wisconsin

All eyes it seems, are on Chicago, where the CTU refuses to roll over in the face of Rahm Emanuel's assault on teachers' collective bargaining rights and on the teaching profession itself.

The other day, Sun-Times reporter, Fran Spielman asked Rahm a great question. She wanted to know if the mayor was concerned, "whether the showdown with teachers threatens to turn Chicago into 'another Wisconsin?'”

The Reader's Ben Joravsky takes off in a similar vein:
Cut pay, hike hours, keep class size large, offer no music, drama, or art, and dole out millions and millions of dollars to the mayor’s nonunion charter school cronies—all in the name of the kids. Of course. 'Cause the kids is what this is all about. I have a feeling that the script might have to change, if only cause we're on the eve of a presidential election. We can't have President Obama ripping Mitt Romney for ripping teachers while, back in sweet home Chicago, the president's former chief of staff's hell-bent on crushing the teachers union.
While I haven't exactly seen or heard Obama ripping Romney for teacher bashing (or union bashing), Ben still makes a good point. However his post drew sharp criticism from someone calling themselves, Original IAC. Original (I'll use his first name) comes out in defense of the mayor, claiming that Rahm IS offering "a 2% raise over two years" and then "merit pay increases after that. You may think that isn't large enough. But it is a raise."

As I point out to Original:
Uh uh, IAC. Remember, Rahm arbitrarily took back the 4% raise which was agreed on during the last contract negotiations. Do the math. -4+2=-2%. Not a raise. Especially when you consider no cost of living increases over the next five years, cuts in benefits, a top-down imposed increase in working hours, and a Rahm-led hit on the teachers pension fund and health coverage.
While Sun-Times writers, Marin and Spielman have done a good job of reporting on the negotiations, their bosses on the editorial board (remember, Rahm's patrons own the paper) are siding with the mayor and  editorializing against the union.  A June 11 editorial, "Time for teachers union to bargain," makes it appear as if the CTU is somehow impeding the negotiations by raising issues of concern by teachers, parents and students other than salary demands.

Karen Lewis
In this morning's S-T, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis responds:
The truth is that the Board of Education has refused to bargain on issues of vital importance to students, parents and teachers. They have outright refused to negotiate about class size, even though Chicago has some of the highest class sizes in the county and the state. The district has refused to bargain about art, music, world language and physical education classes, even though 40 percent of our schools are without a full-time art or music programs. The city has refused to discuss playground facilities or libraries, even though 98 schools have no playgrounds and 160 schools are without libraries. The board has also refused to negotiate staffing levels for nurses, counselors, school psychologists and social workers even though the ratio is at levels set in , one-third of the number of school specialists currently needed in our schools. 

The CTU would be in dereliction of our duty if we did not demand high-quality public education and dignified learning conditions in our contract negotiations. Instead of allowing CPS to hide behind its right not to bargain important matters to our schools, the Sun-Times, and others, should demand that they do.
Other observers, outside of Chicago, are raising pretty good what if questions. One of Diane Ravitch's blog readers asks her, "What if they strike and they lose?" Diane's response is right on time:   
" is true that they might lose. But there comes a time when a person must assert his or her dignity. There comes a time when people take risks for what they believe in their heart is right. This is that time."
Another good what if comes from Harold Myerson in today, Washington Post: "What if America loses its unions?" Myerson answers:
Understandably, some liberals are searching for ways to arrest the economic decline of the majority of their fellow Americans in a post-union environment. I fear they’re bound to be frustrated. If workers can’t bargain with their employers, it can’t be done. If and when Big Labor dies — it’s on life support now — America’s big middle class dies with it.


  1. The Obama administration has continued to support charter schools even though data indicate that their outcomes are generally not better and are often worse. I don't find Emanual's stand surprising at all, sadly.
    I am not anonymous but I'm not up on the technology (yikes!) I am Laura Duncan, a teacher (and union member) in Colorado.l

  2. Thanks Laura. Nice hearing from you.


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