News Release

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Speak at Convention as Teachers Strike Looms

The Chicago Sun-Times reports today: “Days away from a possible teachers’ strike in Chicago, the head of a national teachers union told a group of Illinois delegates meeting at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday that ‘the teachers of Chicago feel deeply disrespected and deeply disenfranchised.’”

The following analysts are available for a limited number of interviews:
LISA GUISBOND [email]
Policy analyst at FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, Guisbond said today: “The looming Chicago teachers strike may well have a lasting impact on the course of school so-called ‘reform’ efforts.”

Guisbond recently wrote the piece “New School Year: Doubling Down on Failed Ed Policy,” for the Washington Post, which states: “As children head back to school after a decade of No Child Left Behind, will they benefit from lessons learned from this sweeping and expensive failure? Will schools do anything differently to avoid NCLB’s narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test and stagnant achievement? Sadly, instead of learning from the beastly NCLB, the Obama administration is doubling down on a failed policy. Here are two examples of NCLB’s mistakes and how coming ‘reforms’ will continue or intensify the damage, not correct it.

“First, pressure to meet NCLB’s test score targets led schools to focus attention on the limited skills standardized tests measure and to narrow their curriculum. These negative effects fell most severely on classrooms serving low-income and minority children. …

Second, “the NCLB era has produced waves of cheating. In the past four years alone, there have been confirmed reports of cheating in 36 states and the District of Columbia.”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO [email]
Kumashiro is professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, past chair of the Department of Educational Policy Studies, and president-elect of the National Association for Multicultural Education. The author of the new book “Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture,” he said today, “As the American public tunes in tonight to hear Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speak to the DNC, we should remember that Chicago is on the verge of a historical strike of its teachers union.

“Chicago reforms drive national reforms, particularly in education, where corporate-driven reforms that found footing during U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s tenure as CEO of Chicago Public Schools have now spread nationally, including ‘turning around’ schools from neighborhood public schools into for-profit charter schools. Such initiatives continue to define school reform under Mayor Emanuel, and while the rhetoric of improvement is seductive, the reality is that many of these reforms have made the problem worse. Research on CPS over the past decade reveals that such initiatives to privatize and marketize schools are leading to greater, not lesser inequity.

“Such initiatives to marketize education go hand-in-hand with initiatives that blame and scapegoat teachers for all that is wrong with public schooling, and as in school districts across the nation, have solidified into a slate of reform initiatives (including ‘merit pay’ for teachers, evaluating teachers based on student test scores, creating and incentivizing fast-track alternative paths to teacher certification, publishing student test scores for individual teachers, to name just a few) that lack a sound research basis. Policies based on blaming teachers and/or on marketizing education detract attention from the more fundamental, more structural problems, including inequitable funding levels and funding formulas, segregated schooling, censored curriculum, the increasing influence of corporations and philanthropies and the decreasing ability of community to participate in shared governance, and so on.

“Ironically, it is here in Chicago, center stage for many of these reforms, that labor is leading the way to intervene. With over 90 percent of its membership voting to support a strike, the third largest teachers union in the nation defied critics, who thought that the recent change in state law that makes it harder for a union to strike would weaken the Chicago Teachers Union. Yesterday, on Labor Day, the CTU held a rally of thousands of its members along with supporters from other unions who stood in solidarity. In contrast to the scapegoating of unions that has captured media attention for the past year and a half, CTU is speaking loudly about how good learning conditions require good teaching conditions, and that many reforms in Chicago Public Schools provide neither.”