“I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city’s public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education. Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet. President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his Vice President last year to assure the nation’s largest teachers union that ‘you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the President’s commitment to you.’ I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that.” – Mitt Romney
ATTEMPTING TO glue the Chicago teachers strike to President Obama is at least a decent gambit by Team Romney. The Obama campaign through Obama campaign spokesperson Ben Labolt, as well as in the gaggle with Jay Carney, is not touching it. However, a video has surfaced to help Mitt Romney out.
What’s not widely known is that a major Hollywood film taking on the teachers unions, “Won’t Back Down,” which opens September 28, was screened at the Democratic National Convention last week (see video above). In case you didn’t already guess, the teachers union is the villain, which is driven home by Maggie Gyllenhaal’s single mother fighting for her kid.
Conventional wisdom comes from Chris Cilizza, who writes the Chicago union fight playing out could negatively effect Pres. Obama. Cilizza’s analysis revolves around the small degrees of separation between Rahm and Barack.
Staying out of state union battles is something Obama has proved he can do without consequence, including when his own team is in the middle of it. Progressives long ago decided to give Pres. Obama a pass on issues that were once dear to the Democratic Party. But could this turn into a Sister Souljah moment on unions for charter school Democrats, of which President Obama is king? Now that would be something to see and not that outlandish to posit considering his education secretary is Arne Duncan.
Have Duncan’s policies strengthened public education?
No. Duncan has required states to create more privately-managed charter schools to be eligible for Race to the Top funding, putting pressure on state governments to privatize public education. In response, state legislatures are authorizing many more such schools, whose budgets are drawn from the funds of local public schools. A small proportion of these new charter schools will get high scores, and some will get those scores by skimming the top students in poor communities and by excluding children with disabilities and children who are English language learners. Such practices are harmful to public schools, which will continue to educate the overwhelming majority of students—with fewer resources than before. In some states, such as Michigan and Ohio, large numbers of charters are run for profit, which creates additional incentives for them to avoid low-performing and thus expensive to educate students. Although charters vary widely in quality, they do not produce better results on average than regular public schools. Conservative governors such as Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana have taken Duncan’s advocacy of choice to the next level and endorsed vouchers, which further undermine public education. Despite these well-documented issues, Duncan continues to urge the expansion of the charter sector and has ignored the depredations of the for-profit charter sector. Grade: F.
How do the teachers unions and Democrats stop charter schools? I just don’t know how anyone can stop them from continuing to grow in importance. Somewhere a tipping point was reached and massive failure shown widely is the only thing that can stop them, unless a Democrat comes along who is willing to fight against charter schools and has an alternative to offer to replace them.
Emanuel’s aggressive posture in pushing for a longer school day and year, while also cutting the pay raise teachers were supposed to get last year, galvanized the union. With negotiations being watched carefully on a national basis, the soured relationship may have led union leadership to strike as a way to take a stand against Emanuel’s tactics. – Mayor: ‘This is avoidable because this is a strike of choice’
Rahm Emanuel has also stated that the strike isn’t about money. The first raise of 4% was rescinded due to an alleged budget shortfall, but was actually diverted to the police, according to reports. Health care benefits is also very much at issue, so I don’t see how Mayor Emanuel can say it’s not about money with a straight face.
Also at issue is the debate on the importance of arts and music in the curriculum. Another is 90 of schools not having playgrounds, while 160 don’t have public libraries. Then there is Mayor Emanuel aggressively supporting charter schools.
Larger class sizes, extended hours, with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis just saying enough, with reports stating that fighting the Democratic mayor has now led to “bad blood.”
Overhauling Chicago’s public education system is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top priority. Will it come at the President’s expense? I just don’t see it.
President Obama has called charter schools “incubators of innovation”, which first came in his Presidential Proclamation — National Charter Schools Week, 2012.
However, for Romney to capitalize on the teachers strike in Chicago, the Democratic base would have to rear its head over Obama’s education reform ideas. Progressives haven’t balked at the grand bargain in any measurable way that threatens Obama, nor did they do much after Obama ignored the Wisconsin battle. There’s nothing to prove that anything Obama could do would move his base to help Mitt Romney get elected.
What’s in it for them if they do?
CTU strike photo via Twitter/yfrog