More than 29,000 teachers and support staff are on their third day of striking against educational reforms supported by Chicago Mayor and former chief of staff to President Obama, Rahm Emmanuel. At issue are the cost of health benefits, job security, the implementation of draconian teacher evaluation measures, charter school expansion and class size to name a few. Today NPR ran a segment discussing why this local school strike could have national consequences.
Professor Pauline Lipman explains that Chicago Public Schools (CPS), under the direction of former CPS CEO and current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, was the birthplace of the kinds of harsh reforms – high stakes testing, closing of failing neighborhood schools, expansion of charter schools – that we now see all over the United States and that are hurting public education. While there was never any research supporting these types of reforms, there is now plenty showing that they are not effective for improving student achievement. Lipman says that Chicago is at the center of the pushback on these reforms. The teachers’ union is “really challenging this whole agenda with a different vision of education, a vision of education that involves a rich curriculum for all students, that puts equity at the center” Lipman says.
It’s critical for all of us interested in public education to understand the reasons for and the possible outcomes of this strike. If teachers are able to rollback damaging reforms in Chicago, will other school districts attempt it? There are lots of places to learn more. Check the Chicago Teachers Union website, Democracy Now!, Common Dreams, Rethinking Schools and the New York Times – all excellent places to get information and hear from real teachers in the Chicago Public School system.
If you do nothing else, please read the blog of one impassioned Chicago teacher about why he is striking. The outcome of the strike has the potential to impact education reform across the United States. I urge you to educate yourself on what is at stake and stand with our brothers and sisters in Chicago because they are standing for all of us in public education.