Lessons of the fight against Obama’s “school reform”—Part 2


As teachers face new battles against Trump

Lessons of the fight against Obama’s “school reform”—Part 2

Nancy Hanover and Jerry White

6 January 2018

In September 2012, 26,000 Chicago teachers, in the nation’s third largest school district, mounted their first strike in 25 years. The teachers sought to reverse the ongoing destruction of public education in the city, raising issues of class sizes, high-stakes testing, lack of music and art in schools, teacher pay, benefits, paid prep time and job losses.

This strike pitted workers directly against the Democratic Party administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff. It occurred in the city where Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, first tested out his reactionary “school reform” agenda of dismantling public education.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) did everything to downplay the political issues at stake in the strike and to prevent it from becoming a catalyst for a broader movement of the working class against the Democratic Party. The CTU, headed by the nominally “left” Caucus of Radical Educators (CORE), had worked hard to prevent the strike, then did their best to end it quickly.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made clear the national union’s determination to wind down the strike in the interest of Obama’s campaign, stating that although “Emanuel wanted to make major changes in Chicago Public Schools … some changes we didn’t agree with … we are all Democrats.”

The strike evoked popular support among workers and young people looking for a fight.

Emanuel had overseen an explosion of social inequality, handing out tax breaks and other incentives to financial, real estate and other firms while starving the schools, public transit…

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