Chicago School Strike is Against Obama “Race To The Top” Agenda of School Privatization and Corporate Education Reform

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Polls say that most Chicagoans support the striking teachers. Mitt Romney says he supports Rahm Emanuel. But why do so many who say they oppose charters, educational privatization, the drive to demonize teachers and make them temps fail to connect these policies with the Democratic president who has been their most outspoken champion the past four years?

Chicago School Strike is Against Obama “Race To The Top” Agenda of School Privatization and Corporate Education Reform – Not Against the Republicans

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Despite what CNN, MSNBC and other national news outlets, and the Obama re-election campaign want you to believe, Chicago's public school teachers are not out on strike against Republican education policies. There have been practically no elected Republican officials in Chicago in more than sixty years. Chicago's mayor and the US Secretary of Educatio n are both Democrats, picked by a Democrat president, also from Chicago. When it gets close to election time, Barack Obama is known to say a soothing word about respecting teachers and protecting public education, to keep from driving away traditional Democratic voters. But four years of Obama's corporate-style school reform speak louder than a little timely campaign rhetoric.


From day one, the Obama administration joined and has helped co-ordinate the all-out assault on public education. Obama's campaign pockets are flush with contributions from what Glen Ford called the “charter school sugar daddies,” at whose behest he and Arne Duncan

...spent their first year and a half in office coercing states to expand charters or lose out on more than $4 billion in federal education moneys. Obama's allies on Wall Street invest heavily in charter schools, tapping into the public money stream to build their own vision of corporate education.”

Obama's Race to the Top program awards federal funds to states and school districts based upon how many teachers they fire or replace with Teach For America or similar temp agencies, how many teacher pensions are eliminated, how many teachers are subjected to evaluation on test scores and other spurious criteria, and how many public schools are replaced with charters. The Eli Broad and Walton Family Foundations, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates and Heritage Foundations actually wrote Race To The Top, and under President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan, school districts and states have felt themselves obliged to utilize their consultants to help them qualify under its guidelines for federal education funding.

The first day of the strike, according to the authoritative Substance News, 50,000 Chicagoans surrounded the downtown city block housing the Chicago Board of Education. Teachers union leaders have staked their future on aggressively reaching out for alliances with community and parent groups. They know they've got no strike fund to fall back on, and no radio or TV stations to combat the flood of lies and disinformation about them. Polls taken by the Chicago Sun-Times, a local newspaper vigorously opposed to public school teachers, show 47% of those questioned supporting the teachers at the strike's outset. Across the country, not just in Chicago, President Obama's education policies are deeply and widely unpopular among the constituencies he needs to win the election. But fortunately for the president, corporations have for some time failed to fund much in the way of journalism, so many Democratic voters don't necessarily connect him with those policies.

Hence Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is able to muddy the water for his boss by declaring his neutrality in the strike. Mitt Romney on the other hand is free to paint some imaginary distance between the two parties by embracing Rahm Emanuel and accusing Obama of siding with Chicago teachers. But it's all campaign smoke and mirrors. Chicago Democrat Rahm Emanuel isn't coloring outside the lines of his president's policies on public education. He's been carrying them out to the letter, trying his level best to make Chicago into Providence Rhode Island, where school officials simply fired ALL the teachers, or Detroit, which largely dismantled its public schools, or New Orleans, where Arne Duncan's predecessor as Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas closed more than a hundred public schools after laying waste to public education in Philadelphia.

The truth might be hard to face, but it's not hard to understand. Many of Chicago's twenty thousand plus teachers are beginning to realize this, and so are many more of their supporters among parents, Chicago residents, and large numbers of observers around the country. The Chicago school strike is, Rick Perlstein observers in a article titled “Stand Up To Rahm,” is the biggest US mass actions since Wisconsin and the Occupy Movement, and at least as deeply threatening to the authorities as either of these. But Perlstein too succumbs to a delusional attachment to the president, who along with Arne Duncan, also from Chicago, he manages never to mention. Another author, David Sirota remembers to say Obama's name a few times in his article about the Chicago strike, and blasts the policies of privatization and charters, but fails to attribute any of Obama's dis-education policies to the president. Amazing.

Sure, Rahm is a reprehensible liar and bully. Soon after assuming office, he told teachers union president Karen Lewis that a quarter of the city's public school children would never amount to anything, and that he was determined not to throw money at them. Rahm is only the mayor. His education policies are those of Arne Duncan, and of the Democratic president to whom they both owe their current jobs. Perlstein, Sirota and many others are still too stoned on Obama-laid, or too invested in passing the stuff out, to admit this. Their delusion is useful. With millions of likely Democratic voters kept away from the polls by a wave of voter ID laws, and the known selective reliability of our voting system, the November election may depend on keeping the illusion of difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue intact. But it is just that. An illusion.

The truth is that everything Chicago's mayor is doing today was set in motion under the regimes of Arne Duncan and his predecessor, and continues around the country with the blessings of President Obama. Four years of action, key appointments and programs speak louder than a few coy words. Everything Rahm Emanuel does to destroy public education in Chicago has the absolute bipartisan backing of Republican Mitt Romney as well as Democrat Barack Obama. And whenever corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats agree on something, it's bad news for the rest of us.

In the end, as Depression-era novelist B. Traven once said, all strikes are against the state. In capitalist society, employers hold all the legal cards. The rest of us are obliged to sell our labor or starve and freeze by the roadside. Workplaces are never democracies, even when your working conditions are our childrens' learning conditions, even when your employer is the city or the state, the supposed small-d democratic public itself. The only power ordinary people have, when they have it at all, is to organize and combine and withhold their labor and their cooperation until somebody comes to the table and promises things will change starting right now. That's what a strike is --- the first and last vestige of real democratic peoples power in action.

Whether they know it or not, and many more do than declare it openly, Chicago's teachers and parents are defending their children and their communities against the coordinated assault on public education, coming from both parties, but mainly from the one in power locally and nationally right now ---- the Democrats --- with Barack Obama large, in charge and carrying the spear for his charter school sugar daddies.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)



Thank you, Mr. Dixon. This strike is the best lesson

for children in how government works and how to fight for themselves.  It is Obama's and the Democratic Party's shame that it's doing for privatization in education what, let's all say it one more time, no Republican could have done nor was able to do.

Small point: Bill and Melissa Gates know nothing about education, yet the line "money talks" is true enough.  They gave NYC money for schools and much of it went to no-bid contracts for Mayoral choices. 

   This attempt at destruction of the teachers' right to fight for their working conditions and the many hours a day in the lives of the children, with its implications for the community present and future, as well as the children's futures is a plan to take public education back to pre-unions with total mayoral control - plus privatizing.  Privatization (what a shame I have had to wrestle with learning to spell it in my old age) is a way of turning over to the corporations the public buildings and money.   It is not a new idea: the railroads were privatized, as was water, electricity, etc but erasing  public education while giving the schools' funding and buildings away is "new".  Charter schools are kin to the voucher system, which didn't do as well until the new guys got at it. An historic note: when the public schools were ordered to integrate, charter schools were born in the South.  I was asked to go with a few other teachers from NOLA to Plaquemines Parish, LA accompanied by U.S. federal marshalls to integrate the schools when the infamous Judge Leander Perez, dictator of the parish, closed them rather than integrate.  I was there one day, 1965 or 66.  (How someone knew I'd been a teacher in NYC before I came down is an interesting speculation...)  They re-opened the schools the next day and charter schools were born so white kids would not have to go to integrated schools with Black kids.

I was in the first two teacher strikes in NYC in the early 1960s.  We had to strike to get the  right to collective bargaining and a union in 1961.  We had a strike in April, 1962 for a contract that was more reasonable than what was being offered to us.  (Yes, I'm proud to say my protest sign and photo were on p.1, NY Daily News, April 11, 1962 "Don't Burn Us Again - Joan of Arc JHS 118M"  (I was Sanda Blum,  my dad's surname, and yes, the editor changed the reporter's aide's notepad spelling to the R word. I was 22, an elected delegate to the union assembly from my school.)

    I had gone to an upstate NYS teachers college because my mother had been a young widow and wanted me to have a more secure career than art.  I quit teaching at 25 for art.  She accepted my being an artist when I was 50.  And she lived to see that teaching jobs are not a secure career.  That is mentioned to put in context that the teachers college propaganda from administration and staff, 1956-Feb.1960 was "teachers are professionals and don't need a union".  I learned what a lie it was on my first day of school - no books, kids who couldn't read in one class.  I used to say to people who made noise about how easy it is to be a teacher: How would you like to have to be in a room and not be able to go to the bathroom for hours?   I'm not even going to talk about buying my own supplies, writing my own materials, teaching kids how to do research, ...some things are the same, but now teachers have to teach to have kids pass tests, and still buy their own supplies and not have books.  We did have a school nurse but no more nurses on site in many of the schools.

    The goal is, in part, to get back to where the school principal (now from business, not even with education knowledge or experience!) can be dictator as it was pre-union, "diss" the kids, kill teacher and parent opposition, destroy the community spirit which schools create....and so much more.   Good luck to the teachers of the Chicago Teachers Union, the parents and the kids.  I am thrilled that it's the teachers fighting for the school community, like Oaxaca, Mexico...It's the most hopeful I've been in decades.

Outstanding column, Mr. D ! !

My personal take on the matter:

Obama on Education
As with so many other neocon policies, President Obama has managed not just to extend the George W. Bush policies, but to expand them.
While Bush went after the students to sabotage their education with his "No child left behind" fiasco, Obama has expanded that to go after not only the students, but the teachers as well, with his "Race to the top" -- moving towards the final Wall Street goal of the complete privatization of American education.
At the Chicago --- or city --- level, Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now Mayor Rahmney of Chicago, carries on the corporate model.  (Rahm, or Rahmney, was a former private equity banker with Wasserstein Perella, so he's well suited for the job of the destroyer of public education.)
It was Obama's man, Arne Duncan (formerly of Chicago, now Sec'y of Education), who stated that Hurrican Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans.  Aside from the sheer obscene crassness of that remark --- Katrina killed thousands in New Orleans --- Duncan intended that remark to mean that the aftermath of Katrina's destruction allowed for the establishment of widespread charter schools --- the privatization of education --- and the destruction of the teachers' union.
The standard scam, or process, is exemplified in Chicago:  the testing is non-curriculum based, producing poor test results, which leads to support for shifting to charter schools, or the complete privatization of education.
The building of charter schools is a lucrative profit center, given the tax breaks and structure for educational real estate development. 
Profit, profit and more profit, coupled with the further destruction of unions with the subsequent reduction in workers' rights and quality of education.
While education suffers in Chicago, Rahmney's children attend the best of private schools.
While education suffers nationally, President Obama's children attend the best of private schools.
Once again the American electorate is given real "choice" by Wall Street:  Mutt Romney who supports the complete privatization of America, or President Obama, who supports the complete privatization of America.

CTU Teachers Strike Highlites a Point RE Obama & Rmoney

For those who are Attentive- yet it'll be just skimmed over by the Lame-Stream Media & Obama fast/slick talking-head hypers like Dr Mike Dyson...

The fact that at the outset of the strike RawMoney & Ryan vocally backed Rahmbo / Rahmney policy vs Chicago Public School teachers, should be an eye-openner to folk who aren't walking around w their 'Eyes Wide-Shut'. Because Rahmbo is Obama's man. He was Obama's chief of staff till he left to become run for Mayor of Chicago- hyped by Obama himself. Hell Rahmbo / Rahmney even just spoke at the DNC confab that renominated Obama for POTUS, hyping his Education Deform policy under Obama's Sec of Ed Arne Duncan's [all 3 of these Corp Dims are products of the Chicago Dims' poly-trickal machine] RTTT paradigm. 

Never-the-less RawMoney & Ryan quickly backed their fellow corp-controller polytrickster Rahmbo / Rahmney over Chicago's teachers- Meaning the power Elites, no matter if they're known as Dims or Repugs, have more in common w themselves, including on policy, than w working-class & working-poor folks.

Then of course Obama-care is actually Rmoney-care rolled-out nationally [RawMoney signed it into law as State of Mass' Gov]. So actually it should be called Obama{Rmoney}Care.

Food for thought for those who think &/or insist that there's a 'real' choice between Obama & RawMoney.

Real Education vs Privatization

Thanks Bruce for a great dissection of the truth.  Obama’s Race to the Top is the No Child Left Behind garbage repackaged recycled re-hyped.  What is happening in Chicago will go a long way to determining what will happen in the rest of the country.  Just like our economic policies come from the Milton Freeman’s Chicago School of Economics our educational policy comes from the Arne Duncan’s Chicago School of Education.

It is utterly unbelievable that someone could be the head of the Dept of education that doesn’t have a degree in Education.  I’m wondering if he has a college degree at all.  He doesn’t have a teaching credential and has never taught in anybody’s classroom anywhere at any time.  This guy doesn’t know JACK about education.

Both Dim-O-Wits and Re-Thugs have been demonizing teachers and their unions for decades.  It is blatantly clear that neither party is interested making sure that there is a functional educational system that serves the public.  The system they want only serves the Privateers and other moneyed interests, children be damned (especially African American children).  Obama is just as much part and parcel of this assault on teachers as Rahm Emanuel and Arne Duncan.  Those who think he isn’t are ether clueless or comatose or both.

I have said this before and will say it again, they want us all dirt poor, dirt ignorant and dirt healthy.  How much plainer do we need it to be said???

Karen Lewis Pushes for End 2 Strike along lines dictated by Rahm

By Joseph Kishore

15 September 2012

Even though a contract has not yet been finalized, the CTU has indicated it is hoping to send teachers back to work on Monday.The union is seeking to end the strike even though the teachers have won widespread support from workers in Chicago and throughout the country.

The CTU is worried that a prolonged strike will escape its control and develop into a broader struggle against the Obama administration, which fully backs the attack on teachers being carried out by Emanuel.

The union is prepared to sacrifice the basic interests of its members to maintain its political alliance with the Democratic Party.

On Friday, both the CTU and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials said they had agreed on the “framework” of an agreement, which they hoped to finalize over the weekend. On Friday afternoon, the CTU held a meeting of the House of Delegates, comprised of about 800 teachers, including representatives from each school.

The delegates must vote to end the strike, though the membership as a whole will get to vote on the final agreement only some two weeks later.

CTU officials had said they wanted to get a vote Friday to end the strike before a final deal was even worked out. In the end, the union decided to delay the vote until Sunday. President Karen Lewis said at a press conference after the delegates’ meeting, “Delegates were not interested in blindly signing off on something they have not seen”—precisely what the CTU had originally planned to do.

Lewis refused repeatedly to provide any information on what concessions the union had made. “Creative thinking” was involved, she said. “They thought about some stuff, and we thought about some stuff.” Lewis said that the union was not going to provide any information to members before the Sunday meeting.

It was left to Jesse Sharkey, a member of the International Socialist Organization and vice president of the CTU, to provide the most contorted justification for the union’s refusal to release any details to the teachers. There are “pretty high stakes attached” to a vote, he said. “If our membership looks at a detailed summary of an entire contract document and rejects it, then we are still on strike.”

Sharkey worried that “if people can’t look at the settlement as a whole, that undercuts that process.”

This, he explained, is “why we are being circumspect” by not saying anything about what the CTU had agreed to.

In other words, the CTU has agreed to massive concessions but does not want to reveal them without carefully packaging them together with supposed “victories.” If the union capitulation is not properly sugar-coated, the delegates might vote to continue the strike—something the union is determined to avoid at all costs.

For his part, Mayor Emanuel showed less circumspection.

He praised the deal, saying the “tentative framework is an honest and principled compromise” that “preserves more time for learning in the classroom, provides more support for teachers to excel at their craft, and gives principals the latitude and responsibility to build an environment in which our children can succeed.”

Providing “more time for learning in the classroom” is a reference to the lengthening of the school day without compensation to the teachers; providing “support for teachers to excel at their craft” is a euphemism for a standardized test-based evaluation system; more “latitude” for principals means gutting recall rights for laid off teachers.

The little information that has come out in the press makes clear that the CTU has agreed to the virtual elimination of job security for teachers. Under a new system, “student growth”—primarily standardized testing—will make up 35 percent and possibly 40 percent of a teacher’s total evaluation. Non-tenured teachers will be subject to immediate dismissal if they are deemed “unsatisfactory” on this basis, and tenured teachers can be dismissed after one year.

Lewis’ only substantive comment at the press conference was to say, when asked about the union’s attitude to the evaluation process, that it is “based on state law.” A 2011 Illinois law, passed with the support of the CTU and in response to Obama’s Race to the Top program, provides for an expansion of test-based evaluation systems.

From day one of the strike, Emanuel made clear his determination to force through measures that undermine teachers’ job security. This is part of an overall strategy of dismantling the public education system.

The Emanuel administration has plans to shut down up to 120 public schools over the next five years, laying off thousands of teachers in the process. It is withholding details of these plans until after the strike is ended, with the understanding that there will be massive opposition among teachers.

Emanuel is also planning to vastly expand the network of for-profit charter schools.

The mayor’s demands are supported by the mass media and both the Democrats and Republicans at the national level—with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan declaring that education “reform” is a “bipartisan issue.” Emanuel is carrying out in Chicago what the Obama administration is implementing at the national level.

The CTU has already signed on to these plans, with Lewis saying that it is only a matter of implementing them in a “reasonable way.”

Don't forget Obama's Original sugar mommy: Penny Pritzker

Exclusive Photo Essay: Jews and Blacks in America:

The Obama Era

Page 8

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Many of the charter schools are owned and operated by Noble Charter Network, which has close ties to billionaire Hyatt Hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, a longtime supporter of Obama.

Tell me I didn't read this

Questioning the Fairness of a Detention Fee


Published: February 17, 2012

In the wake of news that a Chicago charter school network receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from fees on student misconduct, some educators are raising questions about the fairness of the practice.

Students at Noble Street schools are given demerits for a list of infractions as varied as “not looking a teacher in the eye” or “chewing gum.” Four demerits bring a three-hour after-school detention and a $5 fine.

Students with 12 or more detentions must take a behavior-improvement course for $140.

Last year the Noble Street Charter School Network collected $188,647 in fines, which it calls fees, from the 10 high schools it operates. Since the 2008-9 school year, the organization has collected $386,745 in detention fees and behavior classes. The findings were released this week by the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, a student-led advocacy group, Parents United for Responsible Education, a parents’ rights organization, and Advancement Project, a civil rights legal action group.

Michael Milkie, chief executive of the Noble network, said the money “only partially defrays the costs associated with detention.” In an e-mail, he defended Noble, writing that students who misbehave should “share in the cost of addressing their behavior.”

Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who has studied discipline issues, said the practice amounted to double taxation because parents already paid taxes to cover public school costs, including those associated with detention.

“There are enormous equity issues raised by this approach because charter schools are public schools,” Mr. Welner said. “On one hand, you don’t have disruptions so you can stay on task. On the other hand, it’s not the sort of engaging classroom environment that one would expect to see at, say, Sidwell Friends school,” referring to the elite private Quaker school where President Obama sends his children.

Parents and students who released the findings called the discipline practices “draconian,” “totalitarian” and “appalling.”

“The punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” said Donna Moore, whose son Joshua attends Noble’s Gary Comer College Prep campus.

Though Noble officials say waivers and payment plans are available, 90 percent of students are low-income, raising questions about the affordability of discipline fees.

“I can’t imagine that a policy like this wouldn’t result in some families leaving,” Mr. Welner said.

He said that if the fees “push away more disadvantaged kids or more disruptive kids, that becomes highly problematic. The real question is, ‘How do we create a charter school sector that is healthy and does good things, while placing reasonable restrictions on policies that push kids away and exclude kids?’ ”

Mr. Milkie said that Noble offered an alternative for many low-income families whose children are unable to attend public selective-enrollment schools or private schools. “We provide a safe option,” he said.

The discipline fees are “a short-term pain for a long-term gain,” Mr. Milkie said, and do not compare to the millions of dollars in scholarships Noble students receive each year.

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