Facing South
Facing South

Preaching Koch Brothers gospel on public education

By Joe Atkins, Labor South

Barack Obama, then still a U.S. senator from Illinois, said this back in 2006 about teachers, unions and education:

"If we're serious about building a twenty-first century school system, we're going to have to take the teaching profession seriously. … It also means paying teachers what they're worth."

These words, from his book The Audacity of Hope, would seem to put now-President Obama decidedly on the side of the 29,000 striking public school teachers in Chicago. So would these:

"Teachers unions have resisted the idea of pay for performance, in part because it could be disbursed at the whim of a principal. The unions also argue -- rightly, I think -- that most school districts rely solely on test scores to measure teacher performance, and that test scores may be highly dependent on factors beyond any teacher's control, like the number of low-income or special-needs students in their classroom."

Furthermore, "working with teachers' unions, states and school districts can develop better measures of performance, ones that combine test data with a system of peer review."

I remember Obama's speech at the 2005 AFL-CIO convention in Chicago and his resounding endorsement of organized labor and praise for its contributions to American life and well-being. So why are some of his closest political allies -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan -- acting like Republicans, pushing privatized education in the form of publicly funded-but privately run charter schools, a new and intense focus on standardized test scores to assess teachers, and a general anti-union attitude when it comes to public school teachers?

At times Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff at the White House and a featured speaker at the recent Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and school leaders in his administration have come perilously close to sounding like one of those Mississippi legislators back in 1985 who dealt with an 11-week statewide strike by public school teachers by granting them a $4,400 pay raise over three years but at the cost of no-strike provision in state law that prevented them from ever striking again.

Chicago is not Mississippi, however, even if a whole lot of people live there who have Mississippi roots. Despite what Emanuel and his ilk may prefer, Chicago is still union country with 25 percent of its workforce -- some 500,000 workers -- proudly carrying their union cards. Polls have shown the public in Chicago sides with the teachers, not Rahm Emanuel in this dispute.

The week-long strike in Chicago may be nearing its end as leaders from both sides prepare for a key bargaining session on Sunday.

What will continue beyond that bargaining table, however, is the debate over the future of public education in this country.

Across the South and indeed the nation, politicians have pointed an accusing finger at teachers in decrying poor performances by students in public schools. The billionaire Koch Brothers, virulently anti-union, have poured many millions into efforts to push charter schools to replace public schools, to impose a test-based teacher assessment, and bust teacher unions.

Koch Brothers money generally goes to Republican politicians, but you have to wonder if they and their ideological brothers also don't have the ear of major Democrats like Emanuel.

Like the privatization of prisons, public school privatization offers yet another opportunity for big corporations to get their hands into public coffers and earn a hefty profit. To borrow a point from the late George Wallace of Alabama, is there indeed "a dime's worth of difference" between Republicans and Democrats on some of the most important issues facing Americans?

In Chicago, Emanuel, like former Mayor Richard Daley and former city schools chief (and now the nation's schools chief) Duncan have pushed hard for standardized tests in the classrooms, charter schools, and closures for under-performing schools.

Public education in Chicago is a study in poverty. Nearly 90 percent of the students are from low-income families, and 42 percent of them are African American. Some 160 schools in the city have no libraries.

Yes, teachers have asked for pay raises -- raises to match their increased workloads and workweeks -- but also on the table is a call to the city leadership to invest in public education. Put social workers into the schools, try to save rather than eliminate struggling schools, at least fix the broken air-conditioning units.

The heart of the problem is poverty, and politicians of both parties often have a real hard time dealing with that problem. It's much easier to schmooze with the big bucks types on Chicago's Gold Coast and talk about running schools like a business and how that’s going to solve everything.

Meanwhile, students sweat it out, and their teachers sweat it out with them.

(Photo via Chicago Teachers Union website.)

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Big business in charter schools

Hedge funds and corporations are behind the movement to close public schools and open charters. They stand to make a lot of money from the charter schools. Charter schools do not perform better than public schools. Big business has one priority-----profit. Charter schools have large classes, less experienced teachers, and are held to different standards than public schools. Do I hear Let's evaluate charter school teachers. ?

For me what barack obama said

For me what barack obama said ""If we're serious about building a twenty-first century school system, we're going to have to take the teaching profession seriously. … It also means paying teachers what they're worth.""

- is just right. this is just only on my part but I don't know with the others.

You have put my thoughts into

You have put my thoughts into words. Thank you. Please protect public education. History shows why public education was started and funded. Charter schools are just another business for the self-employed and the capitalists of this country. I believe in everyone being able to work hard and achieve anything, as you can in America. However, making private public institutions and infrastructures is not working hard. It is robbing the people of America a voice in how this country is ruled. People fought hard for what a few "rich" people are trying to destroy or control. This gets "dangerous". There is a wave of privatizing public institutions in this country. You have private prisons which I feel promotes more people being sent to prisons. Then you have "charter schools", which is private education using public dollars. These are moochers also, fronting as public institutions, appointing themselves as Directors, CEO to use public funds for these well paid positions. There is talk of destroying the US postal service by trying to give it to these private corporations. We are quickly moving towards a society on which America was not founded. I hope "greed" does not destroy this society. Then where will the "tried, your poor, your masses, yearning to breath free" go?


“All these tough guy Conservatives and NOT ONE of these lugheads figured out that the propaganda that brainwashed them is paid for by foreign agents who want to divide and conquer the USA. Look at the evidence - Mark Steyn, Dinesh D’Souza, John Sununu, Rupert Murdoch… ALL FOREIGN AGENTS! The commie Koch family fortune started in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Ohhhh and lets’a not forget how George W. Bush was like smitten school girl every time the Saudi Royals came to the Crawford, TX ranch? Even Joe McCarthy would have been disgusted by you pathetic right-wing pussies ”
© 2012 by cyberbitchslap2.blogspot.com

These rich guy American royalty and their GOP flunkies are going to go down hard like Marie Antoinette, Mussolini and Ceausescu

Defend teachers and students from corporate attack!

Enjoyed the article. There are big money, corporate spenders (often in the form of "foundations") who are playing a huge role in education reform. They are pushing for the standardized tests and the charter schools often because they stand to make a lot of money off of the deal. Public education needs to be revitalized, not privatized!

I think the story of Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) making a stand against corporate reform and gaining support within the community and the CTU is inspiring. There should be a CORE in every district and every teachers union across the nation!

Why you should support the Chicago teachers strike: http://t.co/yhvQCWRZ

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