I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, September 10, 2012

We Are All Chicago Teachers Now

The reformyists will try to convince you that the Chicago teachers are greedy, self-interested unionistas who aren't saintly enough for the calling of education.

Don't you dare believe them:
The new vision, championed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who used to run Chicago's schools, calls for a laser focus on standardized tests meant to gauge student skills in reading, writing and math. Teachers who fail to raise student scores may be fired. Schools that fail to boost scores may be shut down.

And the monopoly that the public sector once held on public schools will be broken with a proliferation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run - and typically non-union.

To reformers, both Democrats and Republicans, these changes offer the best hope for improving dismal urban schools. Many teachers, however, see the new policies as a brazen attempt to shift public resources into private hands, to break the power of teachers unions, and to reduce the teaching profession to test preparation.

In Chicago, last-minute contract talks broke down not over pay, but over the reform agenda, both sides said Sunday. The union would not agree to Emanuel's proposal that teacher evaluations be based in large measure on student test scores. [emphasis mine]
Because all the research shows it's an evaluation system so riddled with error that it's the same as rolling dice. And even if it's only some of the evaluation, test scores become all of the decision.

As to charters: even the reformyists admit that they will never serve more than a small portion of the student population, and the evidence keep spilling in that charters do skim the cream, taking only the easiest students to educate. Hey, here's an example from the article above!
"Parents have voted with their feet," said Michael Milkie, the CEO of the Noble network of charter high schools, which has thousands of families on its waiting list. If city leaders push ahead with plans to expand the charter network, including eight new Noble campuses over the next four years, "Chicago can serve as a model for the nation," Milkie said.

Yet teachers, backed by some civic activists, contend that while some charters stocked with highly motivated students have flourished, Chicago's reform policies have hurt public education overall.
Milkie has a lot of brass making that claim, considering his charters are some of the worst cream-skimmers of all:

Fewer kids with special needs; fewer kids who don't speak English at home. Add to that an insane discipline policy, and I can't think of a better example of why charters are not the "secret sauce" Mayor Rahm Emanuel says they are.

So this isn't about teacher pay, and it's sure not about unions holding up "reform." This is about a group of professionals standing up to corporatized ideologues and saying: "Enough."

Enough pushing through "reforms" that will turn our schools into Halliburton Highs.

Enough blaming teachers for problems we didn't create.

Enough dithering around with reforminess while one in four children in America lives in poverty.

Enough three-tiered schooling: one tier for poor folks, one for the middle class (that's fast disappearing), and one for the wealthy elite, who send their own children to exclusive private schools free of reformy nonsense (and who write each others kids letters of recommendation for the best private universities while the middle class drowns in college debt).

The only chance that Emanuel and the wealthy leash-holders of Jonah Edelman have to break Chicago's teachers is to convince enough patsies that the interests of teachers are wildly different from the interests of children. They'll make a bunch of bad movies and publish think-tanky nonsense and sell their snake oil through the complicit media in a desperate attempt to split teachers and parents.

But they will never have moral authority over the people who actually do the job every day for less money each year than these plutocrats spend on their wardrobes.

Chicago, Carl Sandberg knew your heart:
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
     faces of women and children I have seen the marks
     of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
     sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
     and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
     so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
     job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
     little soft cities;
Sandberg was the poet of the working class; Chicago was his city. Its teachers are both the head and the heart of the American Heartland; they will gladly "give back the sneer" of any who try to stop them from doing what is right - for both themselves and their students. They know the "marks of wanton hunger" that live on the small faces of the deserving children they serve every day. And they will not be intimidated by soft cowards who have neither the talent nor the will to take on the toil of teaching they alone bear.

Stay strong, Chicago. As always, you fight - with lifted head singing - for us all.

ADDING: More from Sally Kohn.

ADDING MORE: More like this!!!


KatieO said...

Having worked with a number of kids from the Noble St charters, I can attest that they absolutely, 100% do teach a different population than the community schools. Even among that small Sped population, they do not keep kids with behavioral disabilties, cognitive disabilities, or other severe learning problems.

For all the support and solidarity being shown within and from without Chicago right now, I am a little shocked by some of the nasty comments being flung at the picket lines and tweets with just blantant, ridiculous teacher-bashing. This is the media and Rahm's narrative playing out in reality, and it is frightening.

I am hopeful this strike will end well, leaving better conditions for teaching and learning in its wake. And I thank the CTU for their hard work and sacrifice to stand a strong stand against corporate ed reform.

Duke said...

And I thank you, Katie, for the eloquence and brutal honesty of your writing. Folks, check out my girl Katie's blog - link in the blogroll at the left.

giuseppe said...

Even when there is not a strike, on any average day, the comments against teachers and their unions are sickening, ignorant and disgusting. The largely anti-union corporate media and people like Chris Christie certainly fertilize and encourage this animus towards teachers and especially the NJEA. NJ 101.5 is a huge and loud enemy of teacher unions and teacher rights, it encourages loud-mouthed ill-informed yahooism.