News Release

Chicago Strike and the Corporate Attack on Education

HENRY GIROUX [email]
Giroux holds a chair professorship at McMaster University in Canada at the English and Cultural Studies Department. His books include Critical Pedagogy and Education and the Crisis of Public Values. He just wrote the piece: “On the Significance of the Chicago Teachers Strike: Challenging Democracy’s Demise.”

SUSAN OHANIAN
Author of Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? Ohanian said today: “The current corporate-driven assault on public education rises from the late 1980s when Arkansas governor Bill Clinton held hands with IBM CEO Lou Gerstner to forge America 2000 for President Bush the Elder. That policy, which came directly from a Business Roundtable template, has morphed into Goals 2000, NCLB [No Child Left Behind] and now Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards, the latter whose initial development and promotion was paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and which brings us the national test which President Bill Clinton wanted so badly but never got. …

“Officially, the only thing teachers can strike against is money. But teachers care a lot more about policies — about things that harm kids — than they do about pay raises. Until Chicago, they’ve never been allowed to protest class size, inadequate curriculum, lack of libraries, racist closure of neighborhood schools, and so on. The Chicago union has ignored these rules.

“I bet Randi Weingarten [president of the American Federation of Teachers] is just as nervous as Rahm Emanuel — and just as anxious for this strike to be settled. If it continues, she’s in trouble. And so is NEA. I think teachers across the country will feel, if Chicago can do it, so can we.

“What Chicago needs, and teachers across the country need, is for this strike to continue. The union has been so smart about getting community backing. I’d hate to see them cave. I worry they are under pressure to ‘protect Obama.’ This strike puts him in a terrible position, and if they can claim victory now and go back to work, it seems to let him off the hook — at least temporarily. But it will be a terrible loss.” Ohanian wrote the piece “”‘Race to the Top’ and the Bill Gates Connection” for FAIR’s magazine, Extra!

PAULINE LIPMAN [email]
Professor of educational policy studies at the College of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Lipman is author of The New Political Economy of Urban Education Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. She said today: “The Chicago Teachers union is in a pivotal battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed Board of Education, comprised of bankers, CEOs, and real estate magnates. As the strike enters its second week, it is clear that this strike is a pivotal battle for the future of public education, not only in Chicago, but in the U.S.

“After more than a decade of the punishing effects of top-down accountability, disinvestment in and closing of neighborhood schools, degradation of teaching and learning, and the expansion of charter schools, teachers have had enough. The CTU is pushing for smaller class sizes, more social workers and counselors, a rich curriculum for all students, fair teacher evaluation, recall of fired teachers due to school closings, and fair compensation. But at the heart of their demands is resistance to the whole corporate education agenda of testing, privatization, and union busting that is undermining public education in the U.S.

“This is why the stand by Chicago teachers and their union leadership has electrified teachers and parents nationally. It is not clear who will win the stand-off in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel and the powerful corporate education ‘reformers’ or the teachers. But, as the Chicago Sun Times pointed out, the CTU has already won a lot. They have forged a unified, mobilized, and courageous union of rank and file teachers and paraprofessionals. Through the strike, teachers have emerged as organizers and activists. There is a new solidarity between teachers and the parents and students. They have put the degradation of public education on the front page and defined an authentic education reform agenda. The strike has crystallized an education movement in Chicago that is lighting a fire nationally.”