Freddie is going to have more to say about the Chicago school strike, and I’m looking forward to that because he’s a lot better informed on the general topic. Living in Rochester, we had a preview of coming attractions when Jean-Claude Brizard, the current Superintendent of Chicago Schools, ran our school district. When he left, I wrote about how Brizard was the latest in a long line of grifters passing through our town on their way to bigger and better things, and now it looks like he’s gotten the strike he’s always wanted.

Rochester’s an interesting case because the role poverty plays in school quality is pretty obvious. The city school, located in the poor, minority city center, is the usual urban catastrophe. Schools in the affluent, mostly white suburbs that ring the city are regularly ranked in the top 100 lists of public schools nationwide.

Brizard’s predecessor, Bill Cala, was the former superintendent of one of those suburban schools. Cala served as interim superintendent of the city school district while the school board went through another of its perennial quests for the one true fixer who will magically transform a district that’s been broken for decades. When he left, Cala wrote a tough letter to the school board (which is unfortunately no longer available on the web) that focused on the role of urban poverty in the failure of the city school district, and called for a more holistic solution that acknowledged that schools alone can’t fix the problem.

Cala was just a well-intentioned educator at the end of a successful career, so he could tell the truth about city schools. Brizard, who had his eye on bigger and better things, knew what the school board and the politically ambitious mayor wanted to hear: schools can fix the culture of poverty. In a couple of years, after Brizard hired a gold-plated set of super administrators and preached his religion of longer school days, a longer school year, and endless standardized tests, Rochester was on the verge of having a strike. Brizard left in the nick of time, and now we have another interim superintendent who knows the community and will patch up the mess left by Brizard.

The pattern of hiring superintendents who will ignore the elephant in the room (poverty), blame teachers, saddle kids with longer school days, and generate a whole bunch of noisy conflict will probably continue here once we’ve cleaned up Brizard’s mess. The school board, which is the acme of incompetence as a far as I can tell, likes the media attention the search brings and the way that a new hiring kicks the can of meaningful change down the road. The mayor likes an outsider as superintendent because the grifter careerists we hire are a lot more likely to do what the mayor wants because mayoral control is the new hotness and it looks good on their resume. I’m just glad our latest con artist moved up to Chicago before he could do the kind of damage he’s doing there today.

116 replies
  1. 1
    jwb says:

    I see Murdoch added his endorsement of Rahm’s handling of the strike on Twitter this morning. I really don’t get what Rahm thinks he’s getting out of this particular fight, but it’s convincing me that a lot of the Obama administration’s early missteps and miscalculations should in fact be laid on Rahm.

  2. 2
    Cassidy says:

    @jwb: Rahm is just stubborn as hell. It’s not about getting anything out of it. It’s baout not challenging him and his authority.

  3. 3
    mai naem says:

    I don’t understand why there are not free enrichment classes/programs in poor areas. I am not saying stuff that costs $5-$25, I mean totally free. In Phoenix Parks and Rec have different classes and stuff for kids but most of the stuff costs money and when you’re bringing home $300-$400/week $25 is a lot of money. Also too, since we’re busy turning into a third world country, perhaps we need to offer free meals at after school programs with classes so that poor kids show up and they can gain knowledge at the same time.

  4. 4
    cathyx says:

    @jwb: Right of center politicians want to get rid of unions, or at least weaken them.

  5. 5
    mai naem says:

    @Cassidy: Fcuk Rahm. Poseur. I just remember the prick took all the credit for the 50 state strategy that led to 06 and 08 when it was Dean’s idea and furthermore refused to give any credit to Dean. I was disappointed that Obama picked Rahm for COS and glad that he’s gone.

  6. 6
    Raven says:

    @mai naem: I spent many years running municipal sports programs for kids. We found that if programs were free it devalued them in the eye’s of the participants. We ended up charging very nominal fees, maybe enough to cover a t-shirt and it seemed to help.

  7. 7
    Brian says:

    We don’t want to pay our teachers more, but we want them to teach longer days, longer years, and then be at the sole whim of administrators based on standardized test scores because administrators are too lazy to do real evaluations? Did I miss something?

  8. 8
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    very good summary of the Rochester situation.

  9. 9
    Elizabelle says:

    mistermix: link to Bill Calas speech in your 2011 no longer active. (Rochester site lost a lot of archives.)

    Think this might be the speech you had mentioned?

  10. 10
    Zifnab25 says:

    Maybe I missed something, but I’ve actually heard nothing but good things about after-school programs that keep kids occupied, when it comes to addressing urban gangs and youth crime.

    Maybe “longer school days” translates into something other than what I’m thinking of – and I’ll freely admit that I grew up a pampered suburbanite so I definitely had a different experience than an inner city Chicago kid – but by and large the best students in school were always showing up an hour before classes started and/or staying an hour or two late engaged in some kind of school sponsored extra-curriculars.

  11. 11
    Pavonis says:

    Look at the countries which routinely trounce the U.S. in education: Finland and East Asian nations like Singapore and Japan. They have very different educational philosophies but do share one thing in common: teaching is considered a prestigious profession. In the U.S. pre-college teachers (okay, anyone below tenure-track professors) are treated with scorn and low pay. And nobody really seems to care whether science teachers lack science degrees or whether history teachers really know the material. It has become all about acing the test, learning be damned.

  12. 12
    mai naem says:

    @Brian: Well, they’re not financial engineers pushing piles of money around. If these teachers were doing something productive like making bets on subprime mortgages, then, well, they would be paid a bonus for each 5 minutes extra then put into it, and furthermore if the bets failed the US taxpayer would bail them out including the bonus. Then, the same financial engineer would get to write an editorial in the WSJ about how his taxes paid for the lazy teachers, firefighters and parks’ groundskeeper and how he could do those jobs way better than they could.

  13. 13
    jwb says:

    @Pavonis: They’ve come for the college professors too, in case you haven’t been paying attention over the past two decades. Professors have taken a huge cultural beating, and the majority of people teaching in higher education (adjuncts and other contingent employees) make far less (about $3000/course) than the average school teacher.

  14. 14
    k488 says:

    Thanks, Mistermix, for this precis. It seems once more we are seeing careerist administrators stepping on the folks who actually do the work of an organization, and in the process enlarging the management tier, increasing their own pay, and demanding that all give-backs come from those people on the front lines. The Atlanta Symphony has recently gone through a mess that is very similar, and my own institution suffers from a top-heavy administration led by an overpaid charlatan who has scuttled from school to school leaving chaos in his wake. I’m lucky to have a ticket out, but looking around at the self-imagined Masters of the Universe, all I see is fraud.

  15. 15
    Brian says:

    @mai naem: Right which is usually my problem I get into when discussing this with people. I feel the overpaid investment bankers and business guys don’t contribute nearly as much to society as say teachers or policemen, or me as a scientist who invents the stuff they sell…. but funny how they feel entitled to their 250K+ jobs because they took a one year masters course.

  16. 16
    Pen says:

    I’m all in favor of longer school days (max 4 classes per term with block scheduling) and a longer school year (year-round with holiday & shorter end of term breaks) but teacher pay and training would have to be scaled to match. And my real pipe dream: eliminate local school tax variance by tying federal education subsidies to a pooled common per-student fund. If federal highway funds can be used to force a 21-yr alcohol limit they sure as use the same tactic for education.

    Of course, since we live in a country who values teaching our young about the same as we do the neighborhood trash collector, that’ll never happen. No, well get crap like this combined with BS high stakes testing.

  17. 17
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:


    We found that if programs were free it devalued them in the eye’s of the participants. We ended up charging very nominal fees, maybe enough to cover a t-shirt and it seemed to help.

    This. There are a number of marketing studies (I can’t find links) that support the psychological aspect of charging vs not charging for something. Charging a fee, even a nominal one, assigns *value* to the object or activity that has a greater emotional register with the person paying for it.

    Again, doesn’t have to be much. In fact, you can have a regular fee and a discounted fee. It works either way.

  18. 18
    Cassidy says:

    @mai naem: Meh. He has some good qualities and some bad. He finds himself on the wrong side of the argument way too often, only because of his abrasive personality.

    Unfortunately, this is a hugely complex issue. A lot of teachers are good and a lot of them suck. Same with Administrators. Fuck it, make it a nationalized education system and pay teachers as Federal Employees.

  19. 19
    deep says:

    So can someone explain to me what Rahm Emmanuel’s role in this is? Is this clusterfuck completely the fault of Brizard or does Emmanuel deserve some of the blame?

    Already it looks likes this whole this is actually hurting Obama, even though Rahm is taking the traditional conservative side.

  20. 20
    Ohio Mom says:

    I’d bet anything there is not a single teacher on the picket line in Chicago who is against extra-curricular enrichment programs.

    But they’re fighting for things that are much more basic, like repairs to the roofs so students don’t get dripped on during rainy days and more reasonable class sizes (some classes have 50 kids in them)(see: ). They are fighting to get music and art teachers, and school librarians back, and to get more social workers and nurses.

    On the meta level, they are fighting against the entire movement to dismantle and privatize the public school system, and the tools that are being used in that effort: constant, high-stakes testing; rigged teacher evaluations; union-busting; and charters.

    This is a Rubicon. This strike is as important as Wisconsin and Occupy. We hope three times is a charm and it’s successful.

    Rick Perstein has a great post in Salon explaining all of this.

  21. 21
    Raven says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage: Of course there are differences in communities. I also ran and “adventure playground” program one summer. We gave kids tools, lumber and other supplies and let them go at it for 6 weeks. The only time I got involved was when someone would come and ask. It was a big success so we tried to establish one in a “underprivileged” neighborhood. In our meeting with thew residents we were told that “we don’t need anymore junk here”. That settled that.

  22. 22
    Cassidy says:

    @Pen: Shit, trash collectors get more respect.

  23. 23
    Elizabelle says:

    Rahm Emmanuel’s timing sucks, second only to his trying to hose the teachers.

    Good job.

    PS: MSNBC rebroadcasting its live 911 footage from 2001. Katie Couric is extremely professional. (Say that as someone not usually a fan of hers.)

  24. 24
    wonkie says:

    I remember when Rudy Crew breezed into Tacoma, Washington. He was the kind of guy who never went out in public without his entourage of very serious, very busy acolytes trailing along behind him. He was supposed to be the saviour of the district, but we were just another item on his resume’. Tacoma was theu jumpin off point for a major city job (he went to NYC), and from there the plan was to get on the Cabinet.

    I have teh impression that NYC chewed him up and spit him out.

    The only thing he did for Tacoma was inflict us with a thing called “Efficacy”. That mainly entailed the creation of a position called “The Efficacy Officer” who persisted for years, at public expenss, long after Rudy’s departure.

    It’s enough to make you cynical.

  25. 25
    Cassidy says:

    @Ohio Mom: They could always go the way of Andrew jackson HS in Jacksonville, Fl. It is literally the worst school in the state; it has an “F” rating. Now, they’re throwing millions of dollars into it from the state and outside organizations, hiring full mentors to be available fo rthe students, and the University of Florida is teaching on site and offerring Masters Degrees to the teachers who agree to stay there for 5 years.

  26. 26
    scav says:

    @Ohio Mom: “extra-curricular enrichment programs”? I was surveyed about the strike a while back and some of those “extra-curricular enrichment programs” were damn near core curricula when I grew up. I was stunned to the point of forgetting the exact list it took such an effort to get the bluh bluh WTF out to the pollster.

  27. 27
    Ohio Mom says:

    @deep: The Perlstein post, “Stand Against Rahm,” will explain Rahm’s role and then some:

    As I said before, the issues are larger than Chicago or Rahm, but true to character, Rahm provoked a big reaction.

    And you are right, it is hurting Obama. Over at Diane Ravitch’s blog, there are an awful lot of teachers that say they campained hard and donated last time but will not vote for Obama this time. And I don’t think they are bluffing.

  28. 28
    jon says:

    One of the reasons those kids stay in poverty is that it’s hard as fuck for a single parent to afford to leave work early to be home with a child whose school day ends earlier than the work day. Sure it would be ideal for mom to stay home and greet junior with a healthy snack, but more often than not she’s trying to earn rent money and afford food.

    Not all need to stay in school until 530 or 600, but it would be a good option.

  29. 29
    Cassidy says:

    there are an awful lot of teachers that say they campained hard and donated last time but will not vote for Obama this time.

    Because it’s the President’s fault that a city is having an issue? How does that compute at all? But sure, go ahead and vote Romney. I”m sure his education plan will really help out teachers.

  30. 30
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    In the first place God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made School Boards.

    Mark Twain

    Apparently things haven’t changed all that much since his day, at least as far as school boards go.

  31. 31
    HRA says:

    I began my education in another country (Canada)and in a “white suburban background” setting. I finished my years before higher education in an inner city setting. While I agree about the importance of a good teacher, it is my belief that the road to being educated properly begins at home. How do we expect teachers to erase the foundation set and continued by a home life where education is not appreciated no matter the social, racial and economic stature of the parents?

  32. 32
    eric says:

    I could go on a long rant on this topic, but let me provide this shorthand analysis. American schools are the product of a massive multi-party political tug of war on the role and purpose of education that ties into the larger debate on the purpose of society. Education is a teleological activity that moves the student to a particular goal (and perhaps multiple COMPATIBLE goals). Perhaps my favorite expression of this idea is Cardinal Newman’s Idea of a University, but it finds its roots in greek thought where all things were teleological, not the least of which was human beings.

    As a society, we do not agree on the purpose of human existence such that we do not agree on what it means to perfect that existence with education. If you think people are cogs in an economic machine, then that is how you will teach them. If you think that humans are moral beings that need a strongly cultivated rational faculty and wide knowledge base to act morally in a complicated multi-cultural world, then that is how you will educate people. Finally, if you believe that humans are imperfect but necessarily obedient to god, then your education follows a different model. It is very hard to reconcile those three approaches, particularly, when each approach implicitly, and often explicitly, condemns the other two approaches.

    good luck teachers. you will need it.

  33. 33
    BGinCHI says:

    By all accounts, the teachers (the CTU) have been negotiating the longer school day and year and trying to get other things that benefit students (air cond. and general school repairs, smaller class size, student aids, and so on) for many months.

    On the other side of the table were lawyers (paid negotiators), hired to say either no or fuck no. Rahm? Not there. OK, that’s probably understandable. Brizard? Not there. He only got involved last week.

    Contempt for the members of an entire, important profession will get you nowhere. Teachers were backed into the corner and they did what you would expect.

    And one more thought. For those who think teaching in CPS for the salary they make (reportedly 74K on average but you will NOT find a teacher with less than 15 or so years making anywhere near that) is easy money, or that they are overpaid, I’d ask you to think about this: with such high unemployment, why wouldn’t everyone be fighting for those jobs? The answer is that many people are, but not for the salary. All of the teachers I know work crazy hours and have to work miracles at their schools.

    Fuck King Rahm and the grifter Brizard. Rahm won’t win another term if this goes badly.

  34. 34
    RSR says:

    also, too: Philadelphia

    Helen Gym ‏@ParentsUnitedPA
    And just like that, the five-year plan vote is over folks. NO public testimony. No public knowledge. No interference. #phillyeducation

  35. 35
    Ohio Mom says:

    @Cassidy: What’s happening to that school in Florida sounds interesting. I’m going to google that later (have to leave the house in a minute).

    @scav: I was responding to mai naem@3 and Zifnab25@10 because I wanted to underline how desperately underfunded the Chicago schools are — like a lot of other places, the schools are being purposely starved of funds in all different types of ways, in order to make them fail. But back to the poll you took, what was that about?

  36. 36
    Cassidy says:

    @BGinCHI: 74K isn’t that much anymore, especially not in a large city with a high cost of living. Here in the South, a family really needs to be making about 60K just to not be living month to month; that includes mortgage/rent, 2 cars for both people to get to work, etc.

  37. 37
    eric says:

    @BGinCHI: i also find it despicable that they are playing the parents against the teachers. Yes it is hard for many of the parents, but all of the parents I know are on the side of the teachers because they know what the teachers do on a day to day basis. my daughter even went to the pickets (she is 7.)

  38. 38
    BGinCHI says:

    Conspiracy theory of the day, Rahm as Snape Edition:

    The Obama team and Rahm engineered the strike to call attention to much-needed urban education reform. After the strike gets warmed up the Feds swoop in with a national education plan that helps poor urban areas fix schools and support teachers. Rahm shakes his fist and takes one for the team.

    OK, back to your regularly scheduled program.

  39. 39
    eric says:

    @Cassidy: on top of that, that is NOT the starting salary for the young teachers that are carrying more than 100k of under grad debt on top of living in an expensive city and for some, doing god’s work in not so great parts of town that are further neglected by the chicago political machine.

  40. 40
    eric says:

    @BGinCHI: i could by that if it was not rahm. for rahm, there is no team in I.

  41. 41
    Raven says:

    @Elizabelle: It’s not “footage” it’s the entire broadcast as it happened. They do it every year.

  42. 42
    Cassidy says:

    @eric: But hey, they can get roommates right? Or live with their parents. Nothing wrong with a young professional finally getting a job in their field and not being able to afford to live.

  43. 43
    negative 1 says:

    @jon: Which is why there are federal Title funds for afterschool programs such as that available. Most offer tuition/enrollment fees on a sliding scale based on income levels. I’m not picking on you, but no one seems to know that the federal government has generous, excellent grant programs available. I know it only because I used to audit school districts and charter schools for the CPA firm that I used to work for.
    People are woefully uninformed about how schools actually run.
    But for the Michelle Rhee-style ‘reformers’ there is one major question – what are you actually trying to accomplish? They want to end the culture of poverty, but use education statistics as a metric? Why our news can’t pick up that these guys couldn’t pass an intro-level MBA class with their pathetic mismanagement and gross misuse of statistical metrics is beyond me. And isn’t it high past time someone ask them what they’re doing with going on a decade’s worth of standardized test scores? Quality of education hasn’t improved and their own metrics of success are stunning failures – even in the charter schools they created to get around teachers’ attempts to organize. If a manager in a business forced his employees to fill out efficiency sheets for 1/3 of their day, then was unable to do anything about the data while his employees were ready to burn down the building, they would be treated as incompetant and laughed out of their profession. As a superintendent? They’re a genius.

  44. 44
    SquareSquid says:

    Rahm has been a complete nightmare since he took office. He threatens and bullies to get his way, and it’s effective for his short term success but is really harming the city. He has embraced the policies of privatization, shutting down schools (10 scheduled for shut down, 7 scheduled for “turn around”),, closing half of the mental health clinics in the city (which is resulting in record amount of incarceration of the mentally ill), and cutting tons of public sector jobs and giving infrastructure contracts to private companies.

    Now, a lot of people ask, well where is he supposed to ge the money from for the schools? Rahm was sitting on millions of TIF funds that were specifically allocated for education, but during the NATO summit, while the media was focused on that carnival, he quietly signed away 29million of those funds to a real estate mogul to make a development in an area of town where we do not need any more empty business offices. Rahm has also fought to give tax breaks to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (big campaign donor), and after NATO refused to pay the police for their overtime, even tough he is currently sitting on 15 million over which he has complete executive privilege.

    I voted for Obama in 08, and I plan to do so again, but Rahm has caused a LOT of bad blood in Chicago for the dems. A lot of people here, especially those who represent the democratic base are being screwed over by Rahm in their communities, and demonized if they speak up about it (lazy, greedy teachers/nurses/CTA workers). Rahm also passed extreme laws in January nicknamed the “Sitdown, Shutup” ordinances which essentially codify the suppression of free speech. With democrats like these, who needs republicans?.

  45. 45
    weaselone says:

    @Cassidy: No, that would be because of Obama’s choice of Arnie Duncan as Education Secretary and the Administration’s education policies. A lot of the issues that teachers in Chicago are fighting against like linking pay to standardized testing are supported by the administration and were promoted through Race for the Top.

  46. 46
    BGinCHI says:


    We went on strike in 2004 (university professor), and I can tell you that we had great support from students and the community. People get it. Their loyalty is not to the administration and they understand the necessity of unions.

    In fact, this is exactly when folks see why there are unions. What would Rahm/Brizard do if there was no organization?

  47. 47
    giltay says:

    @Cassidy: People will do irrational things if they feel they’ve been wronged.

    In Ontario in 1990, we were in a recession. The incumbent Liberals (centrist) appeared gormless, and the Progressive Conservatives (right) were dragged down by the unpopularity of the federal party. This allowed the New Democratic Party (left) to shift to the centre and become the Ontario government for the first time ever.

    The leader of the party was Bob Rae (currently the interim leader of the federal Liberals), and when in power, he did a damn good job of fixing up the province’s finances. However, he broke faith with the unions, most visibly by instituting unpaid furloughs for teachers (so-called “Rae Days”). The union leadership rebelled and vowed to bring down the Rae government. In the election of ’95, they did so, and the PCs came into power under Mike Harris, governed from a hard-right neoliberal position, and broke the unions’ backs.

  48. 48
    Cassidy says:

    @weaselone: And once again, how is this issue, right now, the President’s fault? That sounds like ancillary, “things I don’t agree with” stuff, but the problems happenning in Chicago, right now, are a direct result of local issues. And, once again, how does not voting for the Dems, or voting for a Republican, help the cause at all? That crosses the line into you deserve what you voted for.

    ETA: And don’t get me wrong. I support unions. I think they’re great. And from what I’m reading here, it doesn’t sound like the teachers in Chicago are asking for anything crazy. If they wanted a World Series, that might be an issue. But, my point is, you don’t get to shoot yourself in the dick and then claim the other guy made you do it.

  49. 49
    BGinCHI says:

    @eric: The teachers we produce aren’t carrying anywhere like that much debt, but it’s a good point.

    We’re the 6th best higher ed investment in the country, according to Newsweek. You could look it up.

  50. 50
    JoyfulA says:

    @jwb: When Rahm was announced as gatekeeper for the 2009 Obama administration, I gave up hope for great changes.

  51. 51
    BGinCHI says:

    @eric: You can’t spell Rahm without HARM.

  52. 52
    pseudonymous in nc says:


    Look at the countries which routinely trounce the U.S. in education: Finland and East Asian nations like Singapore and Japan. They have very different educational philosophies but do share one thing in common: teaching is considered a prestigious profession.

    This. The education system in the US has huge vestigial problems: the district-based funding model, the calendar, the selective opt-out of the upper middle classes. But at the top of that is a broad willingness to treat teachers like shit.

  53. 53
    Marc says:

    1) I think that longer school days are pretty important. This includes things like more time for recess, more down time during the day (lunch and the like), and more time for things like music and art. Our kids go to school a lot less than their international peers, and it’s pretty clear that this is a significant component of learning.

    2) A lot of progressives on the net have an irrational hatred of Obama and Rahm.

    3) Regardless of whether it was justified, I’m seeing more and more signs that this strike is backfiring. I really hope that it ends soon. The national political impact is also very negative for unions and Democrats, and you’d think that union leaders might have a clue about the stakes and might think a bit about their timing.

  54. 54
    shortstop says:

    @BGinCHI: What he said, and I’ll add that Chicago teachers have to pay more for insurance than most of their counterparts in other cities, so $74K becomes $6K or $7K less than that — and again, you have to have been around quite a while to be making that.

    I am so freaking sick of Rahm taking the “What will make me look good on paper?” approach to the exclusion of solid achievement. He’s been doing it his whole career. The last thing we needed was another my-way-or-the-highway mayor, but no one would listen to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

  55. 55
    BGinCHI says:

    @giltay: That government also took away healthcare for students on student visas. That’s one of the reasons I left Canada to finish my PhD in the states. It was really sad that the NDP went after folks who had no say in the process. And I worked for his campaign too, the fucker.

  56. 56
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @negative 1:

    But for the Michelle Rhee-style ‘reformers’ there is one major question – what are you actually trying to accomplish?

    Headlines, and approval from pundits who’ve never stepped in a public school their entire lives.

  57. 57
    BGinCHI says:

    @shortstop: I listen to you.

  58. 58
    shortstop says:

    Since I’m really pissed off this morning, I’ll add that there’s an issue here that goes beyond the specific merits of the CTU’s case (which are many). In this environment, with the GOP doing its best to dismantle any and all unions (first by playing the private ones off against the public ones, with the enthusiastic support of the easily divided), Rahm’s making it easier for the Republicans to achieve that goal is just pure evil. History will not treat this man kindly.

  59. 59
    shortstop says:

    @BGinCHI: I appreciate that deeply. Have a spinach and feta pie.

  60. 60
    BGinCHI says:

    @shortstop: How does he get reelected if he loses all the city public employees? If this strike gets at all ugly, you are going to see walkouts elsewhere. They who is going to vote for him? The fucking Commercial Club? They probably live in Kenilworth anyway.

    I like a few things Rahm has done, but when you shit where you eat (education) you don’t get credit for all the other stuff. The city needs to get outraged about this. They are OUR schools.

  61. 61
    Fleem says:

    I don’t get it. It’s like none of them have ever seen The Wire.

  62. 62
    eric says:

    @shortstop: my hope is that rahm becomes governor because with our track record that places it as a near mortal lock that he does hard time.

  63. 63
    pseudonymous in nc says:


    Our kids go to school a lot less than their international peers, and it’s pretty clear that this is a significant component of learning.

    Only if you define “international” as “Asian”, and that’s not necessarily the model you need to be looking at here, unless you want to embrace cramming.

    British kids start school around 9am and leave before 4pm. Finnish kids have a shorter school day and a lower homework burden. The German school day ends at lunchtime. American kids spend their morning classes in a haze because they’re out of the door before dawn, in part as a vestige of an old agricultural calendar.

  64. 64
    jwb says:

    @shortstop: That and the union claims that the average is more in the mid-50s. One issue here is that the media have simply been taking the numbers coming from administrators in the district at face value. I have no idea what the actual number is, but even in Chicago with its higher cost of living I’d be very surprised if the actual median salary is above $60K unless the salary reflects the cost of benefits (insurance, retirement, etc.) that are not normally included in most people’s salary number.

  65. 65
    shortstop says:

    @eric: I like the way you think. The third baseman occasionally considers running for guv on the campaign slogan, “I promise you only misdemeanors, and none will be related to state business.” I think it’s a winner.

  66. 66
    eric says:

    @BGinCHI: allow to sadly point out that there are two “ours” — the elite our and the other our. many of the elite white our go to private schools at $20k-$30k per year so that they dont give a damn about the quality of the other our’s schools, just so long as there are enough people to deliver food in the evenings.

  67. 67
    Cassidy says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Elementary school start at a fairly reasonable time. Getting them out the door that early is for the before school care necessary so that both parents can make it to work on time.

    ETA: Sorry for the word salad. I’m tired, cranky, and sick.

  68. 68
    eric says:

    @shortstop: which reminds me of the greatest bumper stick of all time “Vote for the Crook, It’s Important.”

  69. 69
    mistermix says:

    My one comment on longer school days is that teaching is not babysitting and if you want babysitting hire babysitters. Teaching is hard work and turning it into a 12 hour day just leads to exhausted teachers.

  70. 70
    Suffern ACE says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Money. We spend a trillion on education each year. Someone needs to provide the straw to suck up that money. Michelle Rhee is paid to provide the straw.

  71. 71
    shortstop says:

    @mistermix: Just want to make sure people are aware that Chicago’s school day has been 8:00-1:30 for grades 1-8 (not sure about high schools). It was pretty much the shortest in the nation. I don’t actually object to adding 90 minutes, but we have to properly compensate teachers for the large increase in teaching time, and it needs to go through the union. Rahm tried to make a unilateral decision on it.

  72. 72
    BGinCHI says:

    @shortstop: I do like those pies.

  73. 73
    BGinCHI says:

    @eric: Sadly, yes.

  74. 74
    Marc says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    Starting later and leaving later, especially in high school, is a great idea that a lot of schools are adopting. The data that I could find was old (1991), but did indicate that the US tended to have fewer days and longer hours, with total times comparable to Europe and less than Asia. That’s interesting actually and a bit different than I had thought.

  75. 75
    Caren says:

    Yeah, a longer day that incorporated music, arts, foreign languages, and a real recess would be great.

    That’s not what Rahm’s offering. I’m so pissed at him. It’s so much more than acting like a CEO and expecting people to work more hours for no pay.

    Where’s the money-or even a plan-to hire the music, arts, technology, etc. teachers? Where’s the money for hiring enough teachers to supervise recess? My kids go to Disney Magnet School, and they’ve hired an outside firm to supervise recess, but that means its all completely structured. It’s like an extra gym class instead of down time.

    Rahm tried to pull a Miegs Field by implementing the longer day by fiat. Such an ass. He wouldn’t listen to the teachers. He wouldn’t listen to the parents. His office crowed about how they weren’t scared of strikes like Daley was.

    Well, now he’s got his strike. He’s got the aldermen backing him because theyre cowards, but the parents are behind the teachers. Both teachers and parents grossly outnumber aldermen, AND WE VOTE.

    You really only need to do 3 things as Mayor of Chicago: keep the streets clear of snow–and Rahm wasn’t so good at that last year, pick up the garbage, and keep the schools open. We don’t care if you plant trees or try for the Olympics as long as you do those 3 things.

    Rahm needs to learn he’s not a king. And we will vote in the primary or refuse to vote in the general if he continues being an ass.

  76. 76
    shortstop says:


    My kids go to Disney Magnet School

    You will be relieved to know the landscaping crew is there right now, keeping the lawn at a proper length.

  77. 77
    BGinCHI says:

    @mistermix: That’s why CTU is fighting for more support staff.

    I’ll bet you a dollar you won’t find the word “investment” used anywhere in major media in the context of this strike or in terms of education in general.

  78. 78
    weaselone says:


    I don’t believe Ohio Mom ever said in her post that teachers weren’t voting for Obama this time around because of Chicago. Teachers who are choosing to not vote for Obama aren’t doing so because of Chicago, but because of the educational policies he supports.

    Getting what you vote for works both ways. Obama supports policies which are harmful teachers. If they vote for him, don’t they deserve to get the policies they voted for good and hard?

  79. 79
    Interrobang says:

    @giltay: Harris appointed a high-school dropout as Education Minister, and pushed through a really radical “reform” of the province’s school systems, from which they’re really only now starting to recover. I personally know three people who were utterly screwed by those changes, one of whom is my sister. Fortunately, by ’95, I was too old for any of the elementary/secondary changes to really affect me. I just got hit with skyrocketing tertiary tuition rates.

    Basically, the tl;dr version is that any time radical “reformers” take over a school district and make sudden sweeping changes, they’re consigning about 10 years’ worth of students to educational chaos, and a significant cohort therein will wind up SOL for one reason or other.

    Now the sitting Liberal government is looking as though they’ll gang up on teachers (who are about to strike) with the help of the Conservatives, and legally repeal their right to strike. The next provincial election here is going to be a nightmare.

  80. 80
    BGinCHI says:

    @Caren: Endorse this. Right on.

    Not sure what you mean about voting….you mean in the city elections? I think he’s fucked if this strike lasts very long. The only people who want to see teachers get the shaft are rich and/or stupid assholes. And luckily this is Chicago and we have less of those than, say, Dallas.

  81. 81
    SatanicPanic says:


    The national political impact is also very negative for unions and Democrats, and you’d think that union leaders might have a clue about the stakes and might think a bit about their timing.

    But all evidence points to Obama and the Democratic leadershp being on the side of the privatizers. Voters may have started to see unions negatively (not sure about that) but I don’t think the school voucher/standardized testing movement has many fans outside of DC either. If this forces Obama to rethink his position, I don’t see the big deal. Running on “privatize our schools” isn’t a policy win for Romney either.

  82. 82
    Someguy says:

    You know why the big city administrators are fucking with the teachers and teacher’s unions? Because they need money, and no way, no how are teachers going to vote Republican. Not not, now ever, not til the end of time. Captive audience.

    Same reason big city mayors can screw over the black commmunity. There’s absolutely no blowback for shitty schools, high crime, police abuse, lousy services and corruption.

    That’s the only real drawback to the destruction of the Republicans. Core constituencies are going to get screwed badly because there’s no way they’d ever leave. It’s like abused wife syndrome.

  83. 83
    matryoshka says:

    @Marc: Later start & end times for high schools is a great idea, and it saves districts money because they can stagger bus services, for starters. This and block scheduling and outcomes-based education were the Big Ideas when I was teaching all through the 1990s, but hardly any of it was ever implemented because it interfered with the athletic schedule and required time and coordination with other teachers. When I check back in on the schools where I taught, I am saddened by the shrinking staff and curriculum. But hey, the football program is still going strong. If our nation had something better than contempt for book learnin’, we’d have more meaningful outcomes. That said, I am 100% behind the teachers and was thrilled to see them in the streets yesterday.

    shortstop, I listen to every word you say. Might I have a spanakopita too?

  84. 84
    gopher2b says:

    I completely agree. Every teacher in Chicago is awesome and none of them ever need to be fired. They’re doing a great job and are underpaid. This strike is clearly about air conditioning, in Chicago, in autumn.

  85. 85
    BGinCHI says:

    @Someguy: Oh how I’d like to see a strong Independent candidate run for mayor here.

    Oprah, we need you!

    /shines O light into the sky

  86. 86
    BGinCHI says:

    @gopher2b: Idiot says what?

  87. 87
    Shinobi says:

    I wish the union were doing a better job with the optics on this. The press seems to be pretty solidly on Rahmy’s side. Even some union supports I know are outraged about the salary demands. (Though, crochetyness is a factor.)

  88. 88
    Cassidy says:

    @weaselone: The reality is that not voting for Obama is a vote for Romney and whatever teabagger loon is running in your district. I understand that protest votes/ not voting feels good, but it exacerbates the problem over the long term. Secondly, the problems in our education system developed over years and will take many years to fix. So while I understand the feeling behind it, the action translates into something entirely different.

  89. 89
    shortstop says:

    @matryoshka: I’ve had one set aside, waiting for you to show up, lady.

  90. 90
    Mnemosyne says:


    Sounds like Rahm has forgotten that, before Richie Daley, there were one-term wonders Michael Bilandic and Jane Byrne. It ain’t inevitable that Mayor of Chicago will be a lifetime sinecure.

  91. 91
    BGinCHI says:

    @Shinobi: I’d start by blaming the press, not the union. Why can’t they report the salary stuff, for example, within the context and with all of the limiting factors people have been pointing out?

    The press is wired for private everything.

  92. 92
    gopher2b says:


    Oh, you got me! Maybe Oprah can solve this.

  93. 93
    Cassidy says:

    @BGinCHI: And this is the other big problem. I’ve had some great teachers in my life and a few poor ones; same with my kids. I was lucky enough to have the oppurtunity to go to a nationally ranked HS (routinely #1) that is a public school. My kids go to decent schools, that may have their issues, but I’m smart enough to recognize that it’s not all the teachers. Most Americans are too damn stupid to see things that way. They get one bad teacher and malign the whole group.

  94. 94
    Shinobi says:

    @BGinCHI: It’s true, the Tribune is abysmal. That Rick Perlstein piece in salon is a good overview though, finally.

  95. 95
    Marc says:


    Fair enough. I was reacting to the very specific implication in the original post that there was no good reason for a longer school day or year.

  96. 96
    Marc says:


    I’ve been reading the way that this strike is being covered, and it’s not going well for the union. Even things like comments in typically liberal newspaper forums (e.g. the NY Times) are hostile to the unions. The things that the school board wants sound good, and it’s easy to make the union look bad for resisting them. Observing that a thing is happening is not the same as wishing it to be so.

  97. 97
    BGinCHI says:

    @Shinobi: The Trib is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Commercial Club of Chicago (spits).

    Fuck that rag.

  98. 98
    BGinCHI says:

    Good article from the Chi Reader on the strike:

  99. 99
    Sly says:


    1) I think that longer school days are pretty important. This includes things like more time for recess, more down time during the day (lunch and the like), and more time for things like music and art. Our kids go to school a lot less than their international peers, and it’s pretty clear that this is a significant component of learning.

    CTU never had any objections to the principle of extending school hours. The sticking point was compensation for the additional labor. The mayor’s office and CPS made the extended hours demand and offered squat in return. CTU wanted the city to rehire teachers who lost their jobs to fill the extra hours.

    2) A lot of progressives on the net have an irrational hatred of Obama and Rahm.

    One can be critical of Rahm Emanuel’s ed policy without resorting to Firebaggerism. Emanuel’s stated goal is improving school performance. CTU’s stated goal is improving school performance. Instead of reaching an agreement on how best to achieve that goal, the mayor’s office, at the behest of ed reform groups like Stand For Children, enacted a law specifically for CTU that made it harder for them to strike by raising the vote threshold to 75%. Not all public workers, just teachers.

    The CEO of the group mostly responsible for pushing for this law, Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children, went on to brag at TED for Overpaid Assholes the Aspen Ideas Festival about how this change would make it impossible for CTU to get any concessions because they would never be able to overcome the 75% threshold. Then CTU held a vote. 92% of their members voted. 98% of those teachers voted in favor of a strike.

    I’ll repeat that. 90% of all public school teachers in Chicago voted to go on strike.

    And though I’m generally one of the last people to jump of Rahm Emanuel’s back, for someone with a reputation for hard-nosed realism when it comes to politics, he’s an absolute idiot for letting it get to this.

    3) Regardless of whether it was justified, I’m seeing more and more signs that this strike is backfiring. I really hope that it ends soon. The national political impact is also very negative for unions and Democrats, and you’d think that union leaders might have a clue about the stakes and might think a bit about their timing.

    If your concern is that a teachers’ strike in Chicago will jeopardize Obama’s electoral prospects, then you sure as shit better hope it backfires. Because we are witnessing our profession being gutted before our very eyes. We are under enormous pressure to sacrifice our job security, our job satisfaction, and our job effectiveness under the pretense of budgetary constraints when most of the proposals being rocketed at us have absolutely nothing to do at all with fiscal matters. And these proposals come from mercenary ed reformers, who are little more than the handmaidens of hedge fund managers and private equity firms that got bored with betting on subprime mortgages, and who have the unmitigated gall to call us social parasites when we raise any objection.

    If CPS and the mayor’s office gets dragged back to the negotiating table because of this strike, then you will see it replicated across the country.

  100. 100
    BGinCHI says:

    @Marc: Resentment is no way to run a strike, or a union, or a country.

    The attitude in this country that some have things other don’t have and therefore the mean should go to the bottom is killing us right now.

    This is the first rule in the GOP playbook: stoke resentment. It keeps the poors down.

  101. 101
    BGinCHI says:

    From the Reader article I linked to:

    The president certainly has no ideological stake in this showdown. The thorniest issue has to do with the mayor’s insistence that he be allowed to link teachers’ jobs and salaries to the standardized test scores of their students. Also, the mayor doesn’t want to have to hire back teachers who get fired—for no fault of their own—when their schools get closed or turned around.

    Politically, there’s no compelling reason for the president to back the mayor on either position—as their strongest proponents are privatization zealots, who wouldn’t vote for Obama in a million years.

    And, of course, there’s no educational value to them. They’re largely linked to the fantasy that somehow we can close the gap in performance between rich and poor kids by firing “bad teachers.” As though poverty, neighborhood crime, family issues, etc had nothing to do with student achievement.

    ETA: Should be one big block quote. FYWP.

  102. 102
    BGinCHI says:

    @Sly: Amen, brother/sister.

  103. 103
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Marc: There’s some more recent data here.

    There are a lot of related discussions how to use those educational hours well: the packed after-school schedule — which extends through to high school for people wanting to have a well-decorated college application; the need to accommodate the working hours of parents; whether extended summer breaks are bad for retention. There’s no silver bullet, but things like good pre-school care and access to libraries make a difference.

  104. 104
    shortstop says:

    @Sly: THANK you.

  105. 105
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Marc: Could be, but the union probably knew there was a chance of that. I just don’t see the downside for them in regards to Obama. At best he’ll change his view, at worst he’ll stay where he’s at. It’s not like this is going to cost him the election.

  106. 106
    Mnemosyne says:


    Yes, you’re right, we should continue to have leaky roofs and 50-student classrooms in Chicago schools until every marginal teacher is fired.

    The beatings will continue until morale improves.

  107. 107
    weaselone says:


    There is an Illinois law that essentially limits the teacher’s union to striking over compensation only, hence the unreasonable salary demands by the union. If the salary increases were more reasonable the city could accept themand ignore all the other demands.

  108. 108
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Cassidy: Obama’s like the anti-Clinton. Clinton started with awesome people who one by one fell away and got replaced by Goldman Sachs hacks. Obama brought in or bought off a number of DINOs and RINOs and even scumbags and one by one they’ve peeled away. The exception is Van Jones, but the agenda remained even though Jones is out there community organizing again. When Clinton replaced Reich with Rubin, well, goodbye Glass-Steagal.

    My labor friends last night were not down with my enthusiasm for Obama. I sense many of them bought into his campaign way too much in 2008, which I did not. It’s a campaign. I remember the excitement over Clinton and subsequent let-down. Obama said he’d walk the picket line but quite frankly labor leaders have told Obama to stay away from their picket lines. Instead, he’s put more friendly people in executive offices. Maybe the activists don’t realize that because they’re not fin-secs, who have to deal with these people intimately. I dunno. But my union’s TRAINER on compliance issues got HIRED by Obama. Fuck yeah!

    Look, guyz, Obama’s not marching to the barricades because some of your brothers and sisters are racist pricks who will decide to be blockheads just because the near is there. It’s the achilles heel of our labor movement. Don’t blame the guy for not doing something he just can’t do.

  109. 109
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @weaselone: Another union-busting law.

  110. 110
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Shinobi: Rahm is a genius at working the press there. Union people need to wake up and start using labor-specific news services because the corporate media is bought.

  111. 111
    gelfling545 says:

    I have yet to see any evidence in actual human students that the longer day/year does them any good. To the contrary, I observed over the years that kids who got sent to the “alternative school” for a period of time(usually for behavior that, in an adult, might be a felony)came back ahead of where they were when they left. This school has an abbreviated school day, small class size, serious mental health counseling and high security. Kids who got sent there tended to rather like it because they didn’t need to watch their backs all day, they got the attention they needed and they weren’t asked to be attentive for longer stretches than they could handle.
    Students are not little machines that can be kept going at tasks indefinitely nor are they little adults who have a choice about the value of giving their attention to a particular task (although they definitely DO choose & many opt out). Many of the charters here opted for longer day/year and had no better results that the public schools with the traditional day/year.

  112. 112
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Someguy: Two things:

    African Americans need to get out of the mentality of having safe/corralled districts. It was necessary when white supremacy was so prevalent that their pols couldn’t get white votes. But a) whites have moved away anyway and b) that’s changing. A skilled politician can build coalitions and that’s what that community needs. Someone who can become mayor, not some lazy grifter in a “safe” district who will do constituent services but never have the power (or the will) to help fix the real problems. Two 40% districts instead of one 80% means the power to primary people you don’t like and whoever is in will owe you.

    Any big voting block often thinks they do have the ear of pols. Teachers are facing a powerful wave and, again, they are going to have to use the primary to remove those that screwed them. Electoral politics aren’t easy, otherwise we’d all be happy.

  113. 113
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Interrobang: It’s the Americanization of Canada. Too bad that isn’t a dirty word.

  114. 114
    Another Halocene Human says:


    The last thing we needed was another my-way-or-the-highway mayor, but no one would listen to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

    My friend, you did us a solid by taking him out of the White House for us. Your nation thanks you.

  115. 115
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Raven: It was a big success so we tried to establish one in a “underprivileged” neighborhood. In our meeting with thew residents we were told that “we don’t need anymore junk here”. That settled that.

    They were testing you. I guess it was for the best.

  116. 116
    Mnemosyne says:


    I think a longer school day is inevitable now that most families have two working parents (assuming, of course, they have two parents at all). To me, that longer school day should be a great opportunity to put back in the “non-academic” stuff that was removed in order to allow more time for test prep, like music and art appreciation and gym class and recess. Extra hours of cramming for standardized tests isn’t going to do anyone any good.

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