Magazine article Radical Teacher

News for Educational Workers

Magazine article Radical Teacher

News for Educational Workers

Article excerpt

The Chicago Teachers' Strike

Even though the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike lasted only seven days in September of 2012, what it accomplished and what was written about it will last much longer. Enrolling about 400,000 students, with about 22,000 school workers, Chicago is the third largest district in the country. For a history of what led up to the strike, see Labornotes, September 10, 2012.

The press and the public took somewhat different sides on the strike. The national media was "worried that children's education was being imperiled by the entitled members of a public employee union" (In These Times, November 2012). The majority of Chicago parents, however, supported the strike and approved of the fair contract fight. In a poll released by an Illinois political report, 66 percent of parents with children in public schools, and 55.5 percent of Chicagoans overall, approved the strike (American Prospect, September 14, 2012 and Labornotes, November 12, 2012). Even al Jazeera (September 1, 2002) wrote that "Chicago public school teachers managed to score a major victory over Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's business-oriented mayor."

With Department of Education's Arne Duncan coming from Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel going to Chicago, the teachers' strike is seen as central to the challenge against national educational reform (Reuters, September 10, 2012). After ten years of top-down "reform" the Chicago teachers showed the power of collective action by school workers and their supporters. The successes of the strike were seen as a feather in the cap of participatory democracy and a sting to a 1% mayor (www.nationofchange.org, September 25, 2012 and www.alternet.org, September 17, 2012).

The hero of the strike was CTU President Karen Lewis, who "held her ground against op-eds by billionaires, liberal media scrutiny and education 'reform' establishment" and even had the nerve to call Rahm Emanuel a "bully" and a "liar" (In These Times, November 2012). In the end, the new CTU contract includes: a 3% pay increase the first year, with a 2% increase each following year; phasing out "merit pay"; hiring 600 teachers in the areas of art, music, languages; having only 30% of student test scores factored into teacher evaluations; having laid-off teachers receive hiring priority for new teacher openings.

International Education Struggles

Sri Lanka shut down 13 of its 15 state-funded universities during the summer of 2012 after the faculty and students went on strike in early July. The strikers want additional funding for education, higher salaries for faculty, and decreased political interference in campus life from the government (TruthDive, August 23, 2012 and BBC News, August 22, 2012).

"Teachers-probably because a majority of them are women-are despised in this country" begins "Schooling in a Spot of Bother" (In These Times, September 2012), describing the state of London comprehensive schools. Just when the number of uneducated, unemployed, and untrained young people has increased by 8 percent in a year, the Secretary of State for Education is planning on introducing still harder examinations with failure rates that would increase an already serious educational divide.

Two Chilean student movement leaders, Camila Vallejo and Noam Titelman, were awarded the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award for their leadership in Chile's massive citizen democracy movement of 2011-2012, the largest protests in Chile since the Pinochet opposition a generation earlier. For over a year, the student movement rallied hundreds of thousands to demand affordable university education and deeper structural changes in Chile, which has the highest per capita income in the region but also the most unequal distributions of wealth (Democracy Now, October 16, 2012).

During a wave of student mobilization in Quebec, Canada, through the spring and summer of 2012, the students won a major victory against the Parti Quebecois government. …

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