Chicago teachers push back against Democrat ed deformers

From, With a Brooklyn Accent, by Mark Naison

Since Arne Duncan, with President Obama’s full support, launched Race to the Top, three and a half years ago, America’s teachers have been astonished and appalled to see a Democratic Administration that they worked hard to put in office, turn on them and launch a campaign of testing and privatization that have put their jobs in jeopardy and placed their students under intolerable stress, To get this policy changed, they have written letters, signed petitions, marched on Washington, formed Facebook groups, and Occupied, all to no avail.

Now a group of them in the nation’s third largest city have decided to go on strike. It is hardly accidental that the Mayor they are facing off against, Rahm Emmanuel, is President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, and the major fundraiser for his re-election campaign. The policies they are fighting- school closings, teacher firings, weakening of teacher job protections, favoritism toward charter schools- are all part and parcel of the Obama Administration’s education policies. And this contains an important lesson.

The struggle for justice in this country does not just pit Democrats Against Republicans. It also pits portions of the Democratic Party’s traditional constituency, especially teachers and government workers, against elites which have taken control of the Democratic Party. This division may or may not influence the outcome of the Presidential election. But it will shape the direction of the Democratic Party, locally and nationally, for years to come, and may even split that Party or lead portions of historic constituency to abandon it.

In the short run, all eyes are on Chicago where a courageous group of teachers have decided to put their careers at stake to resist policies spawned in elite circles of the Democratic Party that have made their lives a living hell, and have threatened to subject a generation of Chicago’s students to a regime of relentless, stifling test prep. They deserve our support, and more importantly, need us to follow their example and fight back against Corporate Education Reform in our own communities with all the weapons at our disposal.

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