Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has twisted the knife just a bit more in an attempt to draw out President Obama on the Chicago Teachers Union strike, now entering its second day. He told a fundraiser in Portland, OR yesterday that he endorsed the position in the strike of the former chief of staff of Barack Obama:
“If you turned on the TV this morning or sometime today, you probably saw something about the Chicago teacher’s union strike,” Ryan said at fundraiser at the Governor Hotel here. “I’ve known Rahm Emanuel for years. He’s a former colleague of mine. Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher’s union strike is unnecessary and wrong. We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.” [...]
“We stand with the children and we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that’s a bipartisan issue,” Ryan continued. “This does not have to divide the two parties. And so, we were going to ask, where does President Obama stand? Does he stand with his former Chief of Staff Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the children and the parents, or does he stand with the union? On issues like this, we need to speak out and be really clear.”
For a team that has been bumbling for weeks, the Republican ticket is finally practicing some good politics. They are trying to change the subject from the convention bounce, the lack of honesty and the other issues that have dogged them by attempting to bait Obama into commenting about the strike. And as I said when Mitt Romney first attempted this tactic yesterday, Obama should come out and say where he stands.
I think the most important by-product of this strike is that it will show how deeply embedded the Students First/Waiting for Superman frame has become, in the traditional media, in the cultural firmament among elites, and in the Democratic Party. I’ve heard people on social media wondering what this strike is about. Narrowly speaking, Chicago teachers aren’t supposed to be able to strike over anything but pay and benefits. And certainly, they’re trying to retain their health care. But it’s not that hard to see what this is about. Significant sections of the Chicago Public Schools system are starved for funds. They are putting 40-50 students in classrooms without air conditioning. The kids don’t have books or materials weeks into the term. And ultimately, the goal is to make those schools so poorly maintained, staffed and administered that they “fail,” allowing Rahm Emanuel and his hedge fund buddies to essentially privatize them:
What we’re seeing in Chicago is the fallout from Jonah Edelman’s hedge fund backed campaign to elect Illinois state legislators who supported an anti-collective bargaining, testing based education proposal giving Edelman the “clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down [the teachers unions'] throats,” political capability he used as leverage to jam an only slightly less awful proposal down their throats. It’s a political deal that explicitly targeted Chicago teachers, while trying to make it impossible that they would strike by requiring a 75 percent vote of all teachers, not just those voting, for a strike to be legal. But more than 90 percent of Chicago teachers voted to strike.
It’s not just Jonah Edelman, though. Rahm Emanuel worked with a tea party group to promote Chicago charter schools and denigrate traditional public school teachers and their unions. Emanuel’s political allies have been caught paying protesters to show up at hearings on school closures. Every story you read about the greedy teachers (greedy? does that description fit the teachers you know?) has years of big money anti-teacher campaigning behind it, pushing us to believe that teachers, who bring work home every night and routinely spend their own money on school supplies and even food for their students, are overpaid, selfish, lazy. Now, all those narratives that the right wing has built up—anti-union narratives coming together with pro-privatization narratives—are being used against Chicago’s teachers.
Privatizing the services of public schools, or the entire schools themselves, has become big business. If it takes a standardized test to force that into being, if that becomes the data that “proves” the need for privatization, that’s what will get used.
It will be important for the teachers not to get distracted by the forces arrayed against them. This liar floated that they asked for a 35% raise, a complete fabrication made doubly disingenuous by the fact that the management figure of 16% is off by almost a factor of 2.
So far, the public, which gathered in excess of 50,000 by some accounts last night at a CTU rally, is supporting the teachers, and not buying the narrative swallowed whole by the elites. We’ll have to see if that continues.