HITTING LEFT #145

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Rahm hard at work trying to clean up his legacy on education

Rahm and his predecessor, Richard M. Daley. 
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Mayor Rahm Emanuel tries to do a clean-up job on his years of crisis-ridden, chaotic one-man rule over the Chicago public schools. "I used to preach the gospel of reform," writes Rahm. "Then I became the mayor."

I'm not sure what gospel of reform Rahm was preaching in the first place. With no background in education and a long string of inept and corrupt managers surrounding him, His policies were neither research-based nor educationally sound. Rather they represented a googob of top-down, politically-driven policies and strategies that had more to do with breaking the union, real estate speculation, patronage and disinvestment in black and Latino neighborhoods than in anything curricular or pedagogical.

His mantra during his first campaign was, more classroom seat time equals better learning outcomes, holding up Houston, of all places, as his model. "The data shows that the longer you stay in the classroom learning,  you'll learn more...", claimed Rahm.

But we never were shown any such data. Maybe because, none existed. Everything depended on what was happening in those classrooms, how crowded they were, and who was teaching in them and what else was going on, inside and outside of school.

That led to the first of many clashes Rahm would have with the CTU and it's president, Karen Lewis. ultimately leading up to the great teachers strike of 2012. That strike would end in victory for the union which was able to gather wide parent and community support.

Rahm's revision of history has him winning the strike and Karen Lewis conceding on the longer school day.
My initial doubts emerged four days into what turned out to be the first Chicago teachers’ strike in three decades. After a series of arduous negotiations with Karen Lewis, the union president, we’d arrived at the basic contours of an agreement. In return for higher salaries, Lewis accepted my demands to extend the school day by an hour and 15 minutes, tack two weeks onto the school year, establish universal full-day kindergarten, and rewrite the outdated evaluations used to keep the city’s educators accountable.
In fact, it was the teachers who won that strike, fighting for much more that high wages, but smaller class size and an end to layoffs and much more.

Now Rahm claims to be a school-reform apostate who has abandoned "the gospel of teacher-focused reform for a more top-down approach centered on empowering principals." As any educator could have told him, real reform is not just about power struggles between principals and teachers. It’s more about school/community relationships and adequate resources.

Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he wasn't going to run for a third term, it seems all he's interested in is cleaning up (whitewashing) his brand. That's perfectly understandable if his goal is making a credible transition from the public, back to the private or non-profit (foundation or university) sector at the end of his term, the way his predecessor Rich Daley did after his notorious parking meter deal.

That won't be as easy as it's been for him in the past when he managed investments and other enterprises for the likes of Bill Clinton and Bruce Rauner. For one thing, he's got a poor track record when it comes to enticing giant companies like Amazon into Chicago by hook or by crook. Chicago still owns the reputation as the most corrupt city in the most corrupt state in the union. We still don't know how high up the current Burke/Solis scandal will go or if Rahm can steer clear of it. And despite finally getting a school budget passed in Springfield, Rahm still has to own the fact that he drove CPS finances in the debt hell.

Then there's his role in the cover up following the police murder of Laquan McDonald.

Finally and probably most important is the destruction he's left in the wake of his policy of mass school closings in the city's black communities, replacing them with school vouchers and privately-run charter schools. It was his misleadership on the schools, more than anything, that bottomed out his poll numbers and caused him to finally drop out of race for mayor.

He can now spend his time remaking his brand and rewriting history.

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