JESSE SHARKEY

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sun-Times blows it again on teacher planning time

Sun-Times editorial asks: "But since when do salaried professionals watch the clock like hourly workers on an assembly line?" Answer: In Chicago, schools are still organized like factories (remember them?) Teachers still punch in and out.
Today's Sun-Times editorial: When teachers strike so they can teach kids less, something is wrong, blows it again.

It's the second time in a row for S-T, although the last one wasn't an editorial. They just turned over a full page to an anti-public-school harangue by a right-wing think-tanker. But now they're running neck-in-neck with the Tribune's McQueary and Kass for most ill-informed anti-teacher, anti-union pundit awards.

Kass and McQueary I understand. They are committed right-wing, racist, anti-union ideologues who never bother with seeking truth from facts. Remember when McQueary wished a natural disaster would strike Chicago to pave the way for a "rebirth" of the city?

But the S-T (partially owned by the CFL) just seems to be missing the mark out of ignorance, rather than ideology. Today's editorial calls on the CTU to drop their demand for more teacher planning time and get back to work.

While I have been at odds with CTU leaders over their tactics, especially their abusive, personal attacks aimed at Mayor Lightfoot and her supporters (me included), I have been walking the picket line and supportive of the teachers' demands for better pay and working conditions, including full support staffing for every school.

I am hopeful that they can settle this thing, hopefully by today, by agreeing on a fair contract which includes provisions for adequate, teacher-directed planning time.

But for some reason, this demand for more and better teacher planning time has become a minefield and one of the last barriers in the way of a tentative agreement between the board and the union. The S-T editorial, by mischaracterizing the demand, just adds fuel to the fire.

According to S-T editorial,
The CTU has repeatedly insisted on a terrible idea: Giving elementary school teachers an extra 30 minutes of prep time every day, though this would meaning cutting 30 minutes of teaching time every day. Forget it. 
No, it not a terrible idea. It's a great one and one that doesn't have to cut into classroom teaching time. But even if it did, research shows, that's not so bad.

S-T claims,
Chicago once had the shortest school day in the country, which was a national embarrassment. When kids are not in class, they cannot learn. But since 2012, thanks to the effort of many parents, educators and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago has had a longer school day — something closer to the national average — and we cannot go back.
This is all bullcrap. Chicago didn't have the shortest day in the country and wasn't a "national embarrassment." That was all a fabrication of Rahm Emanuel's who made a longer school day his election campaign mantra so there would be more time for test-prep rather the prep time for teachers and staff.

Rahm even dragged Arne Duncan back to town from Washington to campaign for his longer school day plan. I gagged when I heard Duncan call Chicago's school day, a "disgrace" and a "badge of shame." Duncan had autocratically run the schools here for the seven years previous and with a compliant union leadership behind him, had never implemented a longer school day.

As one observer wrote in a letter to the Sun-Times in 2011,
 A longer school day without structure is like a restaurant serving “lots” of food — if the food is not tasty — who cares if you get a lot of it!
If less seat time for students was a "national embarrassment", why wasn't the Lab School, where Rahm sent his kids, embarrassed? They had a shorter school day and year than did CPS and still do. So do the wealthy suburban districts to the north of us. None of them equate more seat time with more learning.

S-T claims:
Yes, teachers need time to plan. But since when do salaried professionals watch the clock like hourly workers on an assembly line? True professionals — teachers, doctors, college professors, and even journalists — agree on an annual salary and get on with the job.
Have the S-T editors ever been inside a Chicago Public School? If they had, they would know that unlike other professionals, our teachers punch a time clock every day, just like factory workers (remember them?). No, teachers are still not treated as professionals. Real professionals have time to plan, much greater autonomy over their work and the time and wherewithal to collaborate with their colleagues.

Can you imagine a lawyer defending a client with inadequate prep time? Or doctors being told to spend more time in the operating room with less time to prepare? Or either of them punching a clock?

As I said up top, I hope the strike gets settled today and I hope teacher prep time is part of the deal. It shouldn't be that hard to reach an agreement on this.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Day 9 of Chicago teachers strike. Sun-Times gives a full page to the charter hustlers

In the wake of horrific Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Univ. of Chicago economist Milton Friedman called the event "an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.”

For all my radical friends out there, by "radically reform," Friedman didn't mean fully democratizing public ed. Rather he meant nothing less than replacing all public schools with privately-run charters. With the help of fellow free-marketeers like Paul Vallas, who became the head of post-Katrina New Orleans schools, that's exactly what happened.

It was Vallas's successor at CPS, Arne Duncan who, as U.S. Secretary of Education, dotted Friedman's i's and crossed his t's by calling Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”

It was then up to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to sum things up with his 2012 catchphrase, "Never let a serious crisis go to waste."

Naomi Klein would later expose this shock-and-awe strategy of "disaster capitalism" in her best-selling book, The Shock Doctrine.

I'm recalling the shock-doctrine mentality while reading a full-page pitch in this morning's Sun-Times by the far-right Heritage Foundation, proposing to replace Chicago's public schools with privately-run charters in order to avoid the inconvenience of teacher strikes. Ironically, S-T is partially owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The city is currently in the ninth day of a teacher's strike, with little prospect of a settlement in sight, and today's prophets (profiteers) of unregulated free markets are once again trying to capitalize on a city's crisis.

The logic behind their sales pitch is that since Chicago charter teachers are forbidden by law from being in the same bargaining unit with CTU Local 1, the city's charter schools have remained generally union-free. Thus, if you have no unions, you will have no strikes. No strikes, no inconvenience for parents. Voila!
Charter schools, public schools where families can choose to send their children instead of to an assigned district school, have remained open during the strike. Though some Chicago charters are unionized, differences in their contracts have allowed charters to keep students in school, saving families from having to make other arrangements to meet work and family commitments.
Passages Charter School
How convenient! Except for one thing. Charter schools, funded by the state, are facing the same funding crisis as public schools. Illinois is 50th of the 50 states when it comes to equitable funding of school districts.

Charter teachers, who are generally working for less pay, with less autonomy and with far worse working conditions than the teachers in regular Chicago public schools, are slowly-but-surely getting organized and speaking out against their exploitation by charter operators. And unlike traditional CPS schools, where the union bargains with a publicly-elected mayor and her appointed school board, charter teachers and their unions must each face-off with their own privately-appointed and unaccountable boards of directors. Often these not-for-profit boards actually sub-contract the operation of the schools to for-profit operating companies.

Not only have the charters failed to produce better results than the public schools they are replacing, but charters are no more immune to strikes than are the schools in so-called right-to-work states like Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia, where strike waves have recently rocked the system.

The last paragraph in the Sun-Times piece (which reads like a last-minute add-on), makes my point:
Unfortunately, teachers in Chicago’s Passages Charter School chose to strike and called for higher pay. These striking teachers, who have since settled on a new contract, undermined the value that charter schools bring to students and families, especially during union demonstrations in district schools. And remember that CTU demand to stop charter-school growth in Chicago?
Yes, and a good demand it is.  The Chicago teachers’ union secured a cap on charter school expansion in their last contract negotiations in 2016. That should also be embedded in the new contract.

Thanks for reminding us.

Monday, October 28, 2019

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

A blue sign, reading “Veterans for Impeachment,” grabbed national audience views at the World Series last night, when the cameras trained on batters at Nationals Park. The sign also appeared on the Jumbotron in the stadium where Donald Trump watched the game. When the president and first lady appeared on the Jumbotron as well, the crowd booed him and chanted “lock him up.”

SEIU 73 Pres. Dian Palmer, celebrating union's agreement with the city.
“This is a victory for working people in Chicago and shows what is possible when we unite and take action,” the head of SEIU 73 said. -- Sun-Times
CPS Board Pres. Miguel del Valle to Parents and teachers of students with disabilities
Tentative agreement in SEIU 73 strike
 “We can’t deny we’ve been deficient as a system about it. We have to do something about it, and we have to do it now,” del Valle told the group Saturday. -- Block Club Chicago
 Curtis Black
 Lori Lightfoot is not actually Rahm 2.0, and demonizing her risks isolating progressive voices vital to Chicago's future. -- Chicago Reporter
Cassie Cresswell, Illinois Families for Public Schools
“One of the issues with having hard caps is that if your system overall is underfunded, as soon as you set requirements in one area, then other stuff gets cut... If you snapped your fingers and put class caps in place, the overall system is so underfunded still, you’d end up just pushing around the dollars that you have. So you’d end up with people cutting arts or libraries. Some things (would) improve but other things won’t.” -- Tribune
David Orr
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget shows leadership, equity, guts and a lot of smarts...Progressive change doesn’t happen overnight, and the mayor’s doing what she responsibly can with the limitations she has. -- Letter to Sun-Times
Columnist Laura Washington on today's anti-Trump protest
Chicago has not been a go-to stop for Trump. In March 2016, then-candidate Trump was virtually run out of Chi-Town in the wake of a highly-touted campaign event. -- Sun-Times
Jacky Grimshaw, former Harold Washington aide
“We’re inviting everyone to join the effort to help change the narrative and actions coming from President Trump and the White House that are endangering people’s lives, our democracy, and the survival of the planet.” said Jacky Grimshaw, who now chairs Chicago Women Take Action. -- Tribune
Fope Olaleye
Although the term “reverse racism” is waning in popularity, its rhetoric is still rife. Many people are still reluctant to truly understand what racism is, confining themselves to dictionary definitions, which speak abstractly about “prejudice” rather than discussing what that looks like in the real world. -- Guardian

Yes, that Eddie Burke...

Monday, October 21, 2019

Sun-Times' phony support for CPS sports teams

Sun-Times says, Simeon needs the teachers strike to end sooner than the rest of the Public League 
We have to wonder, if the strike continues through the coming week, how many students this school year will score just a little lower on standardized tests, hurting their chances of getting into a top college or winning a scholarship. -- Sun-Times editorial

I expect anti-union, anti-teacher rants from the likes of Greg Hinz at Crain's or Kristen McQueary (and now Eric Zorn) at the Trib. But I must say, I flipped out after reading today's editorial in the Sun-Times, a paper owned in part by the unions, which hit too close to home.

The editorial calls on striking CTU teachers to return to work immediately or risk hurting CPS sports teams.
If the strike does not end on or before Tuesday, all 78 CPS football teams — some 2,300 kids — will not play their Week 9 games.
It's not just football. Girls tennis teams will miss their scheduled tournament and Class 2A and 3A boys soccer teams had to forfeit every game this weekend.

And the topper...
...if the strike continues through the coming week, how many students this school year will score just a little lower on standardized tests, hurting their chances of getting into a top college or winning a scholarship.
The best solution there is, stop giving them.

First, let me say that as a former CPS basketball coach and IHSA referee, I am sympathetic to the coaches and players whose games have been put on hold, just as I am with inconvenienced parents and teachers who long to be in the classroom with their kids.

But I've always thought that educators talking to their students about a teacher strike and about the whole collective-bargaining process, can provide just as authentic a learning experience on democracy than the ordinary goings-on in the school building or out on the football field for those few days.

But I still have to call B.S. at S-T's sudden phony concern for CPS sports programs. This is a newspaper that remained silent when Mayor Rahm Emanuel was slashing sports programs for all but the elite schools.

As a coach, taking my players to suburban schools, only six miles up the lakeshore, was always a lesson in class warfare. My westside kids would walk into carpeted locker rooms in suburban schools that looked like health-club spas, past fancy offices for large athletic departments, training tables where opposing players were having their ankles wrapped by professional trainers. Courtside was often a doctor or at least a skilled nurse so injuries could be treated on the spot.

These wealthy public schools all had expanded counseling services, full-time nurses, psychologists, and well-staffed libraries. Not just because it was written into their union contracts, but because these districts received two-to-three times the per/student allotment as did city schools.

Back at CPS, I was given a tiny stipend for the hours I spent each afternoon and evening after school and at games. I often came out-of-pocket for after-practice bus fare home or for a meal at McDonald's, or for new Nikes so our players wouldn't have to play in their streetwear. We asked players' parents -- often unemployed or minimum-wage workers -- to kick in for new uniforms that fit the kids. I even had to collect the unis after each game and launder them at home.

I had to purchase a $60 book on first aid, told to read it and then given an online, true-false and multiple-choice test to pass. I was then left to my own devices, with no equipment or first-aid materials (maybe ice from the kitchen) or resources to treat ankle sprains, open wounds, asthma attacks, splint broken bones, or things much more serious until the ambulance came. All this while the game was going on.

CPS has a two-tier system of highschool sports, where the gap between the haves and have-nots was noticeably widened by Rahm Emanuel. He made sure that there were always plenty of resources for elite sports schools like Simeon (see S-T's "Why Simeon needs the teachers strike to end sooner than the rest of the Public League"), Whitney Young and Phillips, but not for the rest of us.

See alsoHow did a CPS high school get in line for a $13M gym to lure a star basketball coach? All one of Rahm Emanuel’s campaign donors had to do was ask.

Sun-Times sports writers help widen the gap by covering the high school sports star system as if it were big-time college or the NBA or NFL.

On the strike line this morning.
As my readers know, I have been out on the picket line supporting the just demands of the teachers for better pay and working conditions, including nurses, social workers and librarians in every school.

I don't equate our progressive mayor with Rahm. Nor do I know what the current budget will allow for sports programs. But oh, how I wished for a full-time nurse to treat sports injuries back then.

However, we were lucky enough to have a wonderful librarian who I often sent my struggling student/athletes to for extra academic help in order to keep them eligible. Yes, we need one of those in every school as well.

Today, at a union news conference, CPS sports coaches talked about the need for higher stipends, better staffing, facilities and busing for sports programs. That's something worth fighting for, during the strike and after. I'm out of the game now, but I hope they get them.

I also hope the Sun-Times editorial board members get their heads out of their rear ends. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

On the way to the picket line...

William Estrada, CTU member, Visual Arts teacher, Telpochcalli Elementary School. (Alan Maass)
It's a cold and blustery morning in Chicago. We're heading over to walk the picket line with my teacher/daughter and her colleagues at Telpochcalli Elementary in Little Village. Telpochcalli is one of the few remaining original small schools started by activist teachers, including Jennifer, back in the '90s. Its dual-language curriculum is focused on Mexican culture and the arts. My grandson Oscar, now 19, went there.

As we always do when there's a teacher strike, Susan & I will stop first to pick up a box of coffee and some donuts for the teachers (and me).

The Nation begins its story on the strike by interviewing Telpochcalli art teacher William Estrada.
Estrada teaches visual arts to classes [at several public schools-m.k.] as large as 36 students, and he doesn’t have enough chairs to go around, much less supplies. “The chairs that we have in my classroom, we actually got them out of storage from other schools that closed down because we didn’t have enough money to buy them ourselves,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re given the resources that we need in order for us to do our job and to support the students and the needs that they have.”
Yesterday, CTU Prez Jesse Sharkey told the teachers to prepare for a "short-term strike". I hope so but I'm not so sure. I don't know how he is either. Soon after union leaders had announced that they saw a path to a settlement and agreement on a contract, talks broke down and the strike was called. It seems like the list of unresolved issues is always changing and being argued out with lots of heat and not much light, mainly in the press.

I'm hoping that both sides stay focused on achieving a fair contract and on the important teacher issues, such as teacher pay, smaller class size, and staffing, including librarians, nurses and social workers, and that attempts by some in the media to frame the collective bargaining process simply as a power play between CTU leaders and Mayor Lightfoot fail.

By some, I mean Greg Hinz at Crain's, who writes:
In the end, maybe it had to come to this. A strong-willed rookie mayor who needs to establish her bona fides as the leader of a tough city vs. a labor union with new leadership and a chip on its shoulder, seeking to reclaim some of its lost glory.
It didn't help that AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten flew out for a CTU rally and announced, “We’re about to teach the new mayor a lesson.” I'm not sure what "lesson" she plans on teaching Lori Lightfoot but the idea of Weingarten teaching a lesson to Chicago's first black, gay, woman mayor sounded patronizing at best and...well I'll leave it at that. I hope she apologizes.

Yesterday, the parent group, Raise Your Hand, issued a statement on the strike which made a lot of sense.
Please remember to be good to each other out there. At the end of this contract negotiation, we are all parts of school communities that are part of a larger community, the Chicago Public Schools. Our children need all of us working together.
An ABC/Sun-Times poll appears to show nearly-half of surveyed voters supporting the teachers and also giving high marks to Mayor Lightfoot. That pretty much sums up where I'm at.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Big corps not "fleeing" IL over $15/hr minimum wage after all.

Crain's begs Amazon: "Come to Chicago. We have plenty of low-paid workers here."
Last year we defeated the Rahm/Rahner plan to bring Amazon HQ2 into Chicago. Why? Because they are among the worst low-road, abusive, union-busting companies with the poorest working conditions of any corporation. Plus, we knew that their promise of 50,000 new jobs was BS. Plus, despite raking in superprofits, they would have ended up paying no state or city taxes to help support our schools and city services. Preckwinkle and Daley were the only mayoral candidates who supported Rahm's plan.

Good riddance, right?

Chicago being a strong union town, along with our push for a living wage, then led to a fear campaign in the media by Rahm/Rahner claiming that other companies would now flee the state and the city if we made them pay fair taxes and a living wage to their workers.

Fast forward --  With Rauner and Rahm gone, Gov. Pritzker signed a bill in February, passed in the IL Legislature, that would raise the state's minimum wage to $15/hr. Not a living wage, but good news just the same.

The bad news is that under the new law, minimum-wage workers won't see $15/hr under for six years. Why such a compromise with Republicans in a Democratic-dominated legislature? You'd have to ask the progressive house members who crafted the bill.

But now comes the news that since the passage of the bill, corporations are coming back to IL rather than running away. In fact last week, Amazon announced plans to open a fulfillment center in Channahon, Illinois, supposedly creating more than 500 new, full-time jobs. The project, developed by Venture One Real Estate, will add a new distribution center of over 1 million square feet in size—the sixth in Will County for the online retailer, after properties in Crest Hill, Joliet, Monee and Romeoville.
“Illinois is a great place to do business and we are excited to continue our growth and investment in the state with our new fulfillment center in Channahon,” said Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment. “Since 2010, Amazon has invested more than $4 billion in the state through its local fulfillment center and cloud infrastructure, research facilities and compensation to thousands of employees in the state. We are excited to create more than 500 new full-time jobs, in addition to the 11,000 current employees across the state, who receive industry-leading pay and benefits starting on day one.”
And this from Gov. Pritzker:
“This significant jobs announcement is another sign that Illinois’ future is bright, and I’m excited to see Amazon build on its investment in Illinois with 500 new jobs in the south suburbs,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker. “Illinois is the transportation hub of the Midwest, and our workforce is among the best in the world."
I guess the big corps like Amazon aren't scared off by Pritzker's Fair Tax initiative. I didn't think they would be, even with Indiana and Wisconsin right next door.

And the great irony is that starting salary at the new center will be (you guessed it) $15/hr. Six years before the new law takes full effect and with no union representation for workers.

This should also bring some organizing-the-unorganized jobs for union organizers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

There were three teacher strikes when Harold Washington was mayor

The 19-day CTU strike in 1987 was longest in city history
In 1983, Harold Washington made history in two ways. He became Chicago's first African-American mayor and the first whose election grew directly from a high tide of black resistance to racist machine rule. That movement was joined by a grassroots coalition of progressive forces citywide. During his first term, a racist cabal of 29 white aldermen, led by the two Eddies, Vrdolyak and Burke, blocked his every move in the City Council. However, by 1987, when Washington won re-election, court-ordered reapportionment of wards led to the election of some allied Latino aldermen and the mayor gained some breathing room.

At that time, the public schools, the most racially segregated in the nation, were in a state of deep crisis. Badly underfunded by Republicans in Springfield, who referred to CPS as "a black hole," and ruled by a self-perpetuating top-heavy bureaucracy, Chicago's school system was the picture of abject failure. Chicago-hating Pres. Reagan went so far as to send his racist Sec. of Education William Bennett to the city to denounce CPS as the "nation's worst" school system.

In the wake of the record 19-day teachers' strike (Sept. 8 to Oct. 2), angry and frustrated parents raised their demand for sweeping change. While the mayor met separately with the two sides in the strike, urging reconciliation, he refused to get involved directly in the talks or to dictate terms of a settlement.
''Everyone says I was not involved, but you solve problems through discussions,'' he said. ''I had some of our best people working on the problem. There was a constant quest on my part to resolve the strike.'' -- NY Times
The five-week shutdown, which became the longest teacher strike in city history, and the third during Washington's tenure, concluded with a tentative agreement of a two-year contract that the CTU membership ratified the following day. The new contract mandated a 4% pay increase the first year, followed by another 4% the second year, "if adequate funds could be found," and a reduction in class sizes by two students in grades K-3. But since neither side had a plan for generating new revenue, the raises came at the expense of the firing of 1,700 teachers, low-level administrators, and staff.

However, change was in the air, thanks to a resurgence of a powerful reform movement of CPS parents and community activists. Washington had been working behind closed doors on a plan to overhaul the school district. When the teachers’ strike hit, he seized on the political unrest and anger in the black community to make a public commitment to school reform.

He announced plans for an education summit that would search for a path forward that included all stakeholders. The Summit, held at UIC (Circle Campus) was attended by more than a thousand participants. Washington died of a heart attack before the summit could carry out its work, but the momentum for change remained alive.

It's important to note that at the time, black leadership of the school system was apparent. The city's mayor, school board chief, superintendent, and teachers' union president were all African-Americans.

The sweeping changes that followed were marked by a shift in power from the top of the bureaucratic machinery down to the local school level, including the creation of parent/community-dominated Local School Councils (LSCs). While the victories were short-lived and later reversed completely during the next Mayor Daley's regime, they still showed what is possible through grass-roots community organizing.

Of course, conditions today are markedly different. Since 1995, the schools are under mayoral control which the Daley and Emanuel regimes have used to maintain corporate control of the schools through privatization, charter schools and mass school closings.

Harold Washington didn't have that kind of power and didn't want it.  A new progressive tide has put the first African-American, gay, woman in the mayor's seat, along with her appointed school board, composed mainly of progressives and people of color. There's also a new crop of city council members including 6 who identify as "socialists" fresh off of election victories over the machine.

Oh, if only Harold had that going for him back in '87.

The CTU has lost its dynamic leader, Karen Lewis, but remains a strong and vital part of the progressive movement in Chicago.

One thing hasn't changed. CPS remains just as racially segregated as it was 30 years ago and has lost thousands of African-American students, teachers, and parents since then. While the legislature is now dominated by Democrats and a Democratic governor, the school system is still badly in debt,  underfunded and desperately in need of teachers, nurses, librarians, social workers, and wrap-around services.

Unfortunately, another CTU strike now seems inevitable. But strike or no strike, the union and the board will ultimately reach an agreement and hopefully move forward together.

Monday, October 7, 2019

QUOTABLES

"I will destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey" -- Stable Genius

I'm seriously trying to avoid quotes from the Stable Genius, but sometimes I just can't help myself.
...if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). -- Twitter
CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey on contract negotiations
 “I don’t think we can find a boogeyman. It’s a very different dynamic." -- Sun-Times 
 Arnie Rivera, CPS’ chief operating officer.
“The tone behind closed doors is very productive, very respectful for the most part. This contract for both parties isn’t just about compensation, it’s about making the school system better.” -- Sun-Times
China's Foreign Minister, Wang Yi
“China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the US, and we trust that the American people will be able to sort out their own problems." -- Global Times
Diane Ravitch on reports that Sen. Warren had a longterm affair with 24-year old Marine
Damn, she’s good! -- Twitter

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Looking for something better to come from vitriolic contract talks

Striking CTU members gather over two days to study the 2012 contract offer before voting to end the strike. 
The contract talks between CPS and the CTU are going pretty much the way I expected and just the way I feared. In some ways, they are a continuation of the contentious and divisive campaign tactics that marked the mayor's race between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle.
Lightfoot’s victory — winning every single ward — was a blow to CTU’s power and perceptions about its influence. And the union has been struggling to get some of its mojo back ever since. CTU’s dilemma is that it’s trying to wage a war with a mayor who’s not Rahm Emanuel — an enemy CTU knew how to fight. -- Illinois Playbook
The CTU and SEIU Local 73, cornerstones of the progressive movement here in Chicago, both backed Preckwinkle who was soundly defeated by the current mayor. Both candidates ran as "progressives" but in the end, Lightfoot and a group of insurgent city council candidates rode an anti-machine wave to victory.

But as I predicted at the time,
With election day only a few weeks away, and Lightfoot apparently pulling far ahead, internecine warfare has broken out among the progressives to such a degree it's going to be hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again when the election madness is over.
As we approach the Oct. 17th strike date set by the unions, the past nine months have unfortunately proven me right. The current negotiations are largely being carried out in the media and on Twitter as both sides scramble for public support. These tactics of grandstanding, personal attacks and demagogy increase the level of antagonism which in turn, tends to cloud the real contract issues and the systemic, rather than the personal nature of the struggle.

I have made no secret of my disagreement with some of the mayor's as well as the union's views on education. For example:
I support the demands of the teachers for decent pay and working conditions as well as for adequate and equitable staffing, teacher prep time, and wrap-around services for schools. And as I've said many times, if the negotiations break down leading to a strike, I will be walking the picket line, as I've done in 2012 and '16 with my CTU daughter Jennifer and her colleagues over at Telpochcalli Elementary in Little Village.

But I am also cognizant of the fact that this struggle is taking place within a system that criminally underfunds public education, erodes public space and decision-making while supporting all manifestations of corporate greed. It also encourages antagonistic relations between those that should be united in common cause.

I believe that the mayor and her team are committed to the goal of public education, including racial desegregation, better pay for teachers, adequate and equitable staffing. But how to fully fund all these and how much is contractual and/or budgetary are matters for collective bargaining. It's the very process that Republican governors have liquidated in Wisconsin, Ohio and other red states as well as the main issue behind the wild cat teacher strikes in right-to-work states like Oklahoma and Arizona.

It's these conditions that have led to the contentious relationship between some union leaders and the most progressive school board in Chicago history.  All this, while teachers voice their righteous anger and the board tries to grapple with its own inadequate budget. The only short-term resolution lies in serious collective bargaining by both sides.

The mainstream and corporate media attacks on the teachers and their union have been disgraceful and have made things worse, especially when you consider that the Sun-Times, which ran a greedy-teacher editorial, is partially owned by the CFL.

Then there was Greg Hinz at Crain's who has the hutzpah to equate the union with Trump.

It's also no secret that I've had sharp disagreements with the leadership of the union over their own false equation of Mayor Lightfoot with Rahm Emanuel. I've also been critical of the union's unfocused and personal attacks against, CPS negotiators, and progressive board members like Miguel del Valle and Elizabeth Breland.

CTU mocks Board Pres. del Valle
 The forces at the table at this year's contract negotiation are far different from those in 2012 and '16 and I'm encouraged by the fact that educators now dominate the table on both sides.

According to the Sun-Times:
Former teachers and principals now make up the bulk of CPS’ team, which both sides say is a welcome change from the bureaucrats negotiating for the schools in 2012 when just one teacher attended the talks, and only a second, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, joined in after the CTU walked out. In 2016, three educators were on the CPS team that struck a deal with the union minutes before a strike deadline.
 “The tone behind closed doors is very productive, very respectful for the most part,” said Arnie Rivera, CPS’ chief operating officer. “This contract for both parties isn’t just about compensation, it’s about making the school system better.”
Teachers, parents and community members have no interest in sharpening the hostilities some in leadership seem to relish, or in rehashing last year's election.

I'm hoping against hope that both sides can reach an agreement in the next two weeks and avoid a strike. My greater hope is that the energy and turmoil created around this struggle, strike or no strike, will drive an even greater vision of democratic schooling that transcends the current contract issues as well as the leadership necessary to push that vision forward.