September 2012, Week 2


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Sun, 9 Sep 2012 20:41:29 -0400
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Union Calls Press Conference To Update Strike Status
Chicago Sun Times
Updated: September 9, 2012 7:36PM

As the minutes ticked towards the deadline for a
teacher's strike today, union officials and Chicago
Public Schools administrators were still trying to
hammer out a deal late Sunday.

Chicago Teachers Union delegates, who must approve any
agreement, were told to stay up late in case the two
sides reach an accord.

"If I get the call, I'm going," said Adam Heenan, a CTU
delegate and social studies teacher at Curie High
School. "It could be two or three am. I'll get up and

"My alarm is very very loud," he added.

Meanwhile, he's planning to go to Curie, 4959 S. Archer
Avenue, in the morning.

"Our instructions are to show up at our school to either
teach or picket. I'll be there at 6:30 a.m."

As Chicago Teachers Head Toward Strike, Democrats
Turn on Their Union
Theresa Moran
Labor Notes
September 7, 2012

With Chicago teachers preparing to strike Monday,
unionists say it's a "which side are you on?" moment for
Democrats. But from the looks of this week's convention,
it would seem Democrats have already made their choice.

Have Democrats abandoned teacher unions in their pursuit
of a corporate-backed education overhaul? From the looks
of the Democratic National Convention, it would seem so.

At the podium, speakers like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
and former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt praised the
Obama administration's willingness to embrace such
change, singling out the controversial Race to the Top
program for special attention. The program requires
states to link teacher evaluations to student
standardized test scores and pushes charter schools and
`turnarounds'-in which at least 50 percent of teachers
are fired-to replace struggling public schools.

The program fits perfectly with the corporate reform
agenda of destroying job security for teachers,
privatizing public schools, testing everything, and
turning whatever can be quantified into a statistic, no
matter how disconnected from the realities of teaching

As he praises corporate reform on the federal level,
Emanuel has fomented a confrontation over education
reform in his hometown. The 26,000-member Chicago
Teachers Union looks to be heading for a strike Monday
over class size, better funding for school programs and
services, fair pay, and job security.

Observers see the strike as a "which side are you on?"
moment for Democrats. On one side is the teacher union,
which says too big class sizes, too few school services,
and too little support for teachers are the problems. On
the other are the corporate-education pushers, who heap
blame on bad teachers.

"There are two distinct constituencies with conflicting
goals and we're going to highlight that with a strike.
You can't gloss over it very easily," says Bill Lamme, a
Chicago public high school teacher.

Some Chicago teachers think Obama could not stomach a
strike in his hometown on the eve of the November
election and will lean on Emanuel, his former chief of
staff, to settle. Others fear national Democrats could
welcome the chance to look tough by fighting the union.
If the Democratic convention is any indication, their
fears may be warranted.

Parent Tricker

The teacher-bashing at the Democratic convention started
Monday with a pre-release screening of the anti-union
drama "Won't Back Down," sponsored by Democrats for
Education Reform.

DFER is a political action committee made up of hedge
fund managers seeking investment opportunities in
education. The group supports privatization, vouchers,
merit pay, teacher evaluations based on student test
scores, and doing away with teacher tenure. It flaunts
its hostility toward teacher unions.

The film, starring Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis,
shows a mother and a teacher battling an evil teachers
union to convert their struggling public school into a
charter through a "parent trigger" law.

While at first blush it sounds like a feel-good tale of
community empowerment, the film has drawn sharp
criticism from teacher advocates for its unfavorable
portrayal of urban teachers and their unions.

The film shows "bad teachers" locking students in
closets, making personal phone calls during class,
forbidding bathroom breaks, and refusing to help
students after school, citing fictitious "union rules"
that prohibit them from doing so. The union, in turn, is
cast as these teachers' self-interested protector, with
one union official attributing a made-up quote to
teachers union leader Albert Shanker, saying she'll
start caring about children when they start paying dues.

"I don't recognize the teachers portrayed in the movie,
and I don't recognize that union," said Randi
Weingarten, president of the American Federation of
Teachers in a press release last week.

The average viewer would never guess that teachers
across the country work an average of 53 hours per week,
planning lessons, talking to parents, grading papers,
and giving struggling students on-on-one help in
addition to their daily classroom duties. In Chicago,
the average number of hours worked is 58, according to a
University of Illinois study.

They'd never guess that teacher unions like the CTU
would be willing to walk out not only for better working
conditions, but also in pursuit of a well-rounded, well-
resourced education for their students.

Instead, viewers see lazy teachers who need to be
removed and an obstructionist union standing in the way
of making improvements for the kids.

Despite the mismatch with reality, the Democratic
National Committee showed the film, which also played to
a standing ovation at the Republican National Convention
last week. The White House declined to weigh in on the
decision to screen it. Reports say DNC Executive
Director Patrick Gaspard, who spent nine years at SEIU
1199, made the call to show the film.

The DNC not only signed off on the screening, but some
of the party's best and brightest joined in on a panel
to promote the "parent trigger" afterward. Sacramento
Mayor Kevin Johnson, wunderkind Newark Mayor Cory
Booker, and Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles mayor and
convention chair, joined corporate-education champion
Michelle Rhee and Ben Austin of the California-based
astroturf group Parent Revolution for the discussion.

In fact, Democrats aligned with the corporate education
agenda were instrumental in the US Conference of Mayors'
endorsement of parent trigger as part of their education
platform. Villaraigosa voiced his support for the
measure at a June press conference after the resolution
was passed, saying, "parent trigger is one of a number
of tools we need to achieve the highest standards in our
urban schools."

The real story of parent trigger, however, is not
exactly Hollywood material.

Parent trigger laws, in place in seven states, allow for
schools to be gutted of their staff, turned over to
private charter operators, or shut down completely, by a
simple majority vote of parents.

Parent Revolution, which gets funding from foundations
backed by Walmart billionaires, is behind the only two
attempts thus far to pull the trigger.

At McKinley Elementary in Compton, outside Los Angeles,
the group had already chosen a company to operate the
hypothetical new charter school when Parent Revolution
staffers began canvassing parents with petitions for
"school improvements."

Parents alleged intimidation and the Compton school
board ultimately rejected the petition due to the lack
of a legally required review process in choosing the
charter operator.

When parents at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto,
California, began questioning Parent Revolution's
proposed restructuring plans, a judge ruled that they
couldn't take back their signatures from the trigger
petition. So much for democracy.

In March, a parent trigger bill was introduced in
Florida, backed by Parent Revolution and Jeb Bush's
Foundation for Florida's Future.

Heavy lobbying by the very parents the legislation's
supporters said it would empower defeated the bill.

The 330,000-member Florida Parent Teacher Association
led a coalition of parent groups against the bill,
including Parents Across America and Fund Education Now.
They alleged that the legislation, called "parent
tricker" by opponents, had nothing to do with empowering
parents and everything to do with privatizing public

Bashing Unions at Home

Watching these Democrats whip the anti-teacher wagon is
no surprise to those who've dealt with them back home.

Villaraigosa, a former union organizer with the United
Teachers of Los Angeles, has pulled away from his labor
roots to become one of the corporate education agenda's
most vocal proponents. In a 2010 Huffington Post
editorial, he called teacher unions an "unwavering
roadblock to reform." The L.A. mayor has also been a
huge backer of school privatization, particularly
through the city's School Choice program that has closed
scores of schools and handed them to private entities.
(Teachers, meanwhile, fought alongside parent and
student groups to keep schools in public hands and
launch reform initiatives that met student needs.)

Villaraigosa was an active supporter of the corporate
reform groups' successful lawsuit that tied L.A. teacher
evaluations to student test scores, going so far as to
personally file an amicus brief advocating the change.
Teachers say basing everything on test scores kills
student inquiry and reduces learning to rote
memorization and test practice.

Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party and 2016
presidential hopeful, sits on Democrats for Education
Reform's advisory board. He has called teacher tenure
"poisonous" and not only supported Republican New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie's sweeping attack on tenure, but
also said it didn't go far enough. The new law ties the
granting of tenure to student standardized test scores,
but still allows for seniority to be used in the case of

Booker, who's been a strong proponent of charters in
Newark, has gotten some flak for his ties to hedge fund
managers and venture capitalists. In his first mayoral
race, Mitt Romney's Bain Capital was among his biggest

Even Democratic Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick,
who's been openly skeptical about charter schools,
supported an initiative that gutted seniority rights for
teachers in the state. He even went so far as to say
that he'd intended to tackle the issue himself.

Taking a Stand

And of course there's Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, who has
continued a decades-long push by Democrats in the city
to starve schools in Black and brown neighborhoods of
resources, implement test-score evaluations, close
schools and fire staff, and open charters. Lately, he's
been pushing a longer school day and year, ignoring the
many hours teachers put in after school and at home, and
acting like more time-not resources-will fix what ails
public schools.

Chicago teachers have pushed back against Emanuel and
have gained ground even without a settlement, getting
the city to create 500 new teaching positions for
understaffed schools, securing recall rights for
recently displaced teachers, and forcing merit pay off
the table.

In a report last year, CTU noted that research on merit
pay has showed no benefit to student achievement or in
retaining better teachers, and has harmed trust and
collaboration among peers. Merit pay schemes, however,
have further skewed instruction toward test prep.

Lamme says Democrats know that a defeat of the corporate
education agenda in Chicago could reverberate on the
national stage.

"They can't give in too much and allow for a turning
point," he said. "They see the stakes like we do. That's
why we're trying to turn the tide on these horrible

Will Chicago Teachers Strike? Tomorrow is Decision Day in
Chicago - by Diane Ravitch
Will Chicago Teachers Strike?
by Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch's blog
September 9, 2012

Tomorrow is Decision Day in Chicago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tried to bully the Chicago Teachers
Union and its leader Karen Lewis.

Lewis was elected by the members because they knew she would
stand up for them.

Emanuel has the support of the Wall Street hedge fund managers
organization, somewhat absurdly called Democrats for Education
Reform. He also has the other big-monied people in Chicago, as
mentioned in this article in the Chicago Tribune, including
billionaire Penny Pritzker.

The article mentions that DFER staged a protest at union
headquarters to oppose a strike. I wonder how many hedge fund
managers send their children to Chicago public schools. I am
trying to imagine hedge fund managers marching in front of
union headquarters and carrying signs. I am guessing that what
happened was that they "staged" a protest, meaning that they
hired out-of-work actors to carry protest signs. Maybe the
unemployed actors have children in the Chicago public schools.

The great thing about having Karen Lewis there is that every
teacher in America knows she will stand strong for them. She
will not sell them out. And she will not sell out the

She knows that teachers' working conditions are children's
learning conditions.

Both Rahm and Penny know that too. That's why they don't send
their children to the schools for which they are responsible.
They send their children to a school with small classes, lots
of arts and physical education, a great library, experienced
teachers, and a full curriculum. The school where they send
their children doesn't give standardized tests and does not
evaluate teachers by their students' test scores.

[Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and Research
Professor of Education at New York University. I was born in
Houston, Texas, attended the Houston public schools from
kindergarten through high school, and graduated from Wellesley
College in 1960. I received my Ph.D. in the history of
American education in 1975. I am the mother of two sons. They
went to private schools in New York City. I have three
grandsons: two went to religious schools and the third goes to
public school in New York City. I live in Brooklyn, New York.
Her website is dianeravitch.com]


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