Pass The Chalk Roundup #4 I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

The Chicago teacher strike is a huge moment in this modern education reform battle.  In recent years, particularly, teachers around the nation have been slandered, beaten down, displaced when their schools got shut down to make more space for charters, and fired.  It is fitting that the threat to public education, ironically called the ‘reform’ movement, should be challenged in Chicago, of all places, where a Democratic mayor who was once Obama’s chief of staff, and where Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan made a ‘name’ for himself.  This strike has brought national attention to the big issues, including the difficulty of devising a fair teacher evaluation system that included ‘measures of student learning’ — which in this case means an eventual 40% based on ‘value-added.’

And I’m pleased to say that Teach For America, for the first time since launching their ‘Pass The Chalk’ blog exactly two months ago, has finally done the right thing and has presented the issue with balance.

There were three posts featuring the strike.  Two were against it.  One called How to Solve the Chicago Strike threat by an alum who is president of the Illinois network of charter schools, mistakenly thinks the strike was just about money.  Then, in The Teachers Have Gone On Strike we get:

Both sides argue that they are fighting for what is best for Chicago’s kids. What’s best for kids is maximizing time in the classroom. I fail to see how this strike will benefit them; it could have and should have been avoided.

Teachers absolutely have the right to stand up for themselves, but sacrificing instructional time undermines the effort. I believe most teachers would drop their signs in an instant to get back in their classroom with their kids, but all they can do is wait for their leaders to let them.

We cannot continue to hold our kids’ education hostage and use them as leverage to satisfy the demands of the union.

But then there was one by Lindsey Rohwer, a 2006 Chicago alum, which also appeared in The Huffington Post called Why I Support The Strike which was great, especially in comparison to the lack of substance in the other two.

These three strike posts, it’s worth mentioning, were the first three posts I’ve noticed that had the disclaimer “The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Teach For America, its staff, and/or any/all contributors to this blog.

The recent Friday Five included links to good commentary from both sides, including a panel discussion featuring 1999 alum Dr. Camika Royal (remember when people were all over me for writing about her speech in Philly?), who is emerging as one of the great voices against the style of ed ‘reform’ going on in Chicago.

There have also been some great blog posts here on teachforus, including one by a new CM in Chicago, entitled ‘STRIKE’ and an excellent summary of the big issues by a 2011 CM, ‘I stand in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union’

There was hope that the strike would have ended after a week, but as of now, it is continuing until at least Tuesday.  Certainly the union didn’t go though all this to not get their demands met.  The parents and children in Chicago, as far as I’ve read, are in support of the teachers so the union, it seems to me.

StudentsFirst, I’m not surprised, responded with a statement from Michelle Rhee which included the line “It’s clear this was only about job security and compensation for union members. ” and with this tweet

Now, I can’t speak for every striking teacher, but from my perspective, the strike is ‘about the kids.’  I truly think that the ‘Democrats’ For ‘Education’ ‘Reform’ agenda, if allowed to continue, unchecked, will be disastrous for ‘the kids’ in the long run.

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7 Responses to Pass The Chalk Roundup #4 I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

  1. I responded to that Students First tweet by saying that if it were really about the kids, Michelle Rhee wouldn’t oppose allowing teachers anywhere to negotiate on class size, a necessary reform. Her position is that teachers should only be allowed to negotiate on wages and benefits, which would make it far easier for them to be scapegoated as only looking out for their own selfish interests.

  2. Megan H says:

    I like how Erin Teater (who wrote “The Teachers Have Gone On Strike”) says, “As someone who spends the majority of my day with teachers and their students and have seen first-hand the repercussions of this strike…” It’s really interesting to me that she would use her “experience” in the classroom to chastise the strike rather than saying, “I have seen first-hand the repercussions of CPS underfunding schools.”

    And, as an aside, it’s always funny to me how TFA staff members have to “explain” their role in the classroom (since many of them opted out of actually staying in the classroom and instead spend the “other” majority of their time driving around or in the TFA office in downtown Chicago). And that role includes “supporting teachers”… or does it?

  3. skepticnotcynic says:

    I actually blame Michelle Rhee, and the other extremist reformers in her camp for the strike in Chicago. Her sole purpose in life has been about her own career, and she, of course, shamelessly self-promotes under the guise of “Students First.” Her camp obviously has the ear of the politicians and ED executives, and this strike is a clear example of what happens when leadership lacks a clear understanding of the issue and bullies the labor who does the real work in education. This was a failure of democracy. Rahm Emmanuel is clearly not a very good politician, and what do you expect when he has largely lived in a bubble his entire life. His persona belongs in the private sector not in democratic politics.

  4. Jessica says:

    I’m at 2011 CM in Chicago (at a charter school) and I also support the striking teachers:

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      Thanks for writing this. I think there is a belief that most charter teachers don’t support the strike, so this is really great.

    • skepticnotcynic says:


      I’m impressed that a 2011 corps member, like yourself, is light years ahead of many of your peers. You strike me as someone who has not drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to ed-reform. Kudos to that, and I wish you luck in your professional journey. I’ve also taught at a high-performing charter and support the strike. We need to make sure that everyone is held accountable, including the reformers who seem to be immune from much criticism among the elite and media outlets in this country. Keep up the great work!

  5. veteran says:

    One thing that is always missing in the strike/union issue is that some teachers in the union are not particularly political but join the union for the legal representation available in case of a lawsuit (Kind of like malpractice insurance)
    I wonder what percent this is.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts on this, Gary?

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