Tough Out There For Moderation

Lost in much of the narrative about teachers’ unions – from their defenders and critics – is engagement with the basic political reality that teachers’ union leaders are elected.  That means that like any politician they must be attuned to constituencies and the political winds within their union. And the winds do blow, there are many factions within teachers unions that agree or disagree on various issues, have different priorities, or have different political underpinnings.

One dynamic we see a lot is that if you’re trying to unseat the incumbent you attack them as insufficiently strident, not getting everything they could for members, not fighting hard enough and so forth.  That tactic cost a lot of pro-reform union leaders their jobs during the aughts. But it can also lead to the absurd. Take the case of Chicago where Karen Lewis was just elected to a second term.  Her opposition attacked her, as the Chicago Tribune reports:

“…Saunders-Wolffe said contract negotiations didn’t result in sufficient raises for teachers and that Lewis “didn’t deliver at the bargaining table” with issues surrounding teacher seniority and teacher evaluations.”

That line of attack is about someone, Lewis, who broke the teachers’ union losing streak with a strike that paralyzed Chicago, got sizable increases in compensation that may ultimately bankrupt the schools, reshaped the debate in Chicago and to a large extent nationally (AFT President Randi Weingarten had to go get herself arrested in Philly, for instance), forestalled evaluations in Chicago, and is fighting the proposed school closings tooth and nail. In the stridency department there is stuff like this.

The line of attack is also, of course, the same one that Lewis used to win the presidency from her predecessor. So the point is as obvious as it generally is intractable.  Just as in our national politics, in an environment like that genuine sustained moderation and consensus will remain hard to come by.

5 Replies to “Tough Out There For Moderation”

  1. Rahm:
    “25 percent of these kids are never going to be anything. They are never going to amount to anything. And I’m not going to throw resources at them.”

  2. Lewis may bankrupt the schools.
    Crap, Andy.
    Explain this:

    Cuts Disproportionately Hit District Run Schools while Charter and Central Office Spending Increases

    CHICAGO, AUGUST 21 2013 — With just days left until school starts, parent group Raise Your Hand is calling on the city and CPS to stop the attack on district-run schools and restore funding so that children can start school with a dignified school day.

    After reviewing the budget, Raise Your Hand is alarmed to find many areas of increased and spending to Central Office including:

    · $8.8 million for Family and Community Engagement Department – increased from last year
    · $50.4 million for Office of Innovation and Incubation – $22.2 million increase
    · $41 million for new school development (after CPS closed 50 schools due to a “utilization crisis”)
    · $68 million for Talent office – $22 million increase
    · $20 million for no-bid SUPES contract
    · $19 million Strategy Management Office – $10 million increase
    · $14 million Accountability Office –same as last year despite claims that CPS is making significant reductions in standardized testing

    Cuts to traditional district run schools are at $162 million while charters got an overall increase of $85 million dollars.

    “CPS says they have no alternatives but to make these school-based cuts,” says parent Jeff Karova of Darwin Elementary. “Clearly CPS has chosen to increase spending in certain areas very far away from the classroom while cutting essential programs critical to the development and learning of our children.”

    *Raise Your Hand has analyzed cuts to programs across the district and has found:
    At the elementary level:
    · 68 schools lost an art position
    · 47 schools lost a music position
    · 19 schools lost a performing arts position
    · 51 schools lost a librarian position
    · 22 schools lost a technology position
    · 77 schools lost a reduced class size position

    At the High School Level, cuts include:
    · 90 English positions
    · 28 Music positions
    · 14 Art positions
    · 37 History positions
    · 28 Librarian positions
    · 22 Social Studies positions
    · 21 Biology positions
    · 6 Chemistry positions
    · 3 Physics positions
    · 50 Math positions

    130 bilingual positions at the elementary and high school level and 530 special education positions.

    *The above is not a comprehensive list. There are other program areas impacted by budget cuts. RYH found these cuts on the cps budget site under “Budget by Program/Instruction/School”

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