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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Community counter punches cabal’s disestablishment tactics: CHICAGO

 EDUCATION meets SOCIETY: workers, community champion public good
Excerpt, editing by Carolyn Bennett

“Rebirth of Chicago Teachers Union, Possibilities for a Counter-Hegemonic Education Movement” by Eric (Rico) Gutstein and Pauline Lipman

Philadelphia, Pa
The authors of this essay are activists and scholars. Lipman writes and teaches about the political economy and racial politics of urban education.  Gutstein writes and teaches about critical pedagogy, education for social justice, and mathematics education policy. Both are active members of the grassroots organization Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ) in Chicago and have participated in education organizing against school closings and education privatization since 2004. Through TSJ, the authors were involved in building support for the Chicago teachers’ strike as part of a broad coalition of parents, community members, and educators. This is an edited excerpt from their essay.

Predators at America’s jugular: 
its young, its community, its workers

n a version of disaster capitalism reminiscent of post-Katrina New Orleans, the 2008 economic crisis was a golden opportunity to accelerate education privatization at all levels, weaken unions, and further streamline schooling for global competitiveness.

This was the thrust of the Obama administration’s $4.3 billion economic recovery initiative for education, known as ‘Race to the Top.’ The ensuing ‘fiscal crisis’ of the state provides a warrant to close public schools, expand privately run charter schools, and dismantle whole school districts (e.g., Detroit), or replace them with a ‘portfolio’ of education providers (e.g., Philadelphia).

Not educators, profiteers: Gateses, WaltonsBillionaire venture philanthropists, such as the (Bill and Melinda) Gates Foundation and the Walton (Wal-mart) Foundation, are deploying their enormous wealth to steer federal and state policy and local school districts in this direction. At a moment when public schools face severe budget cuts, “in state after state, (mostly) men … with vast personal fortunes invest in campaigns to end teachers’ tenure, end seniority…and clear the way for private takeovers of public schools, where teachers work with no job rights at all.” The focus is urban school districts where African-American communities have borne the brunt of school closings.

This neoliberal class project exemplifies ‘accumulation by dispossession’—commandeering public goods for private accumulation—whether through opening the Amazon rain forest to cattle ranching, privatizing water in Bolivia, or privatizing public housing, roads, bridges, and schools in the United States.

It is in the context of this drive-by investors to appropriate public goods—and the related displacement, dislocation, and robbery of the vast majority—that the global neoliberal assault on teaching, teachers, and their unions needs to be understood.

hicago teachers stood up to this agenda (and) …the significance of their strike should be viewed in relation to the global agenda to restructure public education for economic competitiveness and capital accumulation.

In the United States, this agenda ─ a bipartisan agenda ─ began with the Reagan (Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th president of the United States,1981–1989,  born in Tampico, Illinois, died in Los Angeles, California)  administration’s call to hold teachers and schools accountable for results and to run schools like businesses.

In more than twenty-five years various sectors of capital and corporate “education ‘reformers’” have pushed a national system of top-down accountability driven by high-stakes standardized tests, national standards, teacher evaluation tied to test scores, mayoral control of schools, and privatization. In the second decade of the 2000s the public counterpunched.  

Isolationism and regress to possibility and progress

A convergence of social forces and unfolding crises has created an opening for a counter-hegemonic education movement in Chicago.

The economic crisis, the accumulated effects of neoliberal education policies, the acceleration of school closings, the illegitimacy of mayoral control, the persistence and maturation of the education-justice struggles in black and Latina/o communities, and the rebirth of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) created conditions for new alliances and new possibilities to contest the dominant education agenda. This new moment was crystallized in the Chicago teachers’ strike. 

2010 Illinois ‘fiscal crisis’: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had threatened broad cuts to music and art, increases in class sizes ─ even in affluent neighborhoods; and middle-class parents, a key constituency that Chicago’s mayors had worked to recruit to public schools and whose neighborhoods had experienced no school closings, were alarmed. They formed a new organization to lobby against the cuts.

2011: Newly elected Mayor Emanuel had launched a crusade for a longer school day (same as pre- Emanuel, interminable-day approach to improving schools with no additional resources) as a quick-fix education reform. Parents across the city got angry; white working-class communities were galvanized. Parents previously uninvolved in education struggles began protesting school board policies and in the process encountered black and Latina/o parents who were fighting school closings and charter expansion.

2012 Solidarity: groups of mainly white parents and African-American and Latina/o organizations fighting school closings and education-justice organizations formed a cross-city campaign for an elected representative school board in Chicago.

he CTU strike, the elected school-board campaign, and growing alliances demonstrate new possibilities.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike changed the education landscape, locally and nationally.

It showed that teachers’ unions in partnership with the community can stand up to the neoliberal assault on public education.

It showed the power of social movement unionism born in part of community education struggles also enlivens those struggles.

It demonstrated the possibility of imagining a counter-hegemonic formation that pushes forward an agenda for education justice that spreads beyond schools to stake a claim for the right to the city.
Broad Public Solidarity: community, workers, public interest conjoined

“The significance of the Chicago teachers’, strike, the educators write, “has to be understood in relation to the broad attack on the public sector.

Local governments insist that there is no alternative to address the ‘fiscal crisis’ and press for austerity budgets that cut deep into what remains of the social-safety net and decent public-sector jobs

City governments are cutting police and firefighters, slashing public employees’ wages and benefits, closing libraries and schools, foregoing infrastructure repairs and maintenance, and selling off public infrastructure to consortia of transnational investors.

This is a class strategy to shift the cost of the crises of financialization, speculative real estate investment, and corporate profiteering run amuck onto working class and poor people, especially people of color and middle-income earners; and to support capital accumulation in the context of lack of ‘profitable’ outlets for investment.

Public Sector rally
Civil Servants
eachers and other public-sector workers are ultimately responsible to the families and communities they serve and their working conditions are tied to the funding and quality of public institutions. This calls on unions to emphasize the connection between the well-being of workers and the well-being of communities and to build principled union-community alliances.
The broad-based attacks on teachers and teachers’ unions create conditions for a new teachers’ union politics that breaks with the business unionism that has failed miserably to defend workers and the public interest.

Sources and notes

“The Rebirth of the Chicago Teachers Union and Possibilities for a Counter-Hegemonic Education Movement” by Eric (Rico) Gutstein and Pauline Lipman (Introduction), http://monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/the-rebirth-of-the-chicago-teachers-union-and-possibilities-for-a-counter-hegemonic-education-movement

Article examining interrelationship of community education struggles and the emergence of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) as a social movement union; and concluding with possibilities for a counter-hegemonic education movement in Chicago:

“For nine days in September, Chicago belonged to the teachers, school paraprofessionals, and clinicians. On September 10, 2012, 26,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike. It was the first teachers’ strike in Chicago in twenty-five years. While public and private sector unions have taken concessions and capitulated to cuts in wages, benefits, seniority rights, job protections, and much of what was won by the labor movement in the twentieth century, the CTU stood up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Commercial Club of Chicago, and the billionaire hedge-fund managers who have set out to break teachers’ unions and dismantle public education. Chicago was a sea of CTU red.

“Teachers—and their parent, student, and community supporters—picketed at schools across the city, marched through neighborhood streets, and brought downtown Chicago to a standstill with mass rallies of thousands, day after day. There was no need to defend school entrances against scabs—there were none!”

Authors of essay

Eric (Rico) Gutstein is a professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois-Chicago and is active in the movement against education privatization. He is author of Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics: Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice (2006), and co-editor of Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers, 2nd ed. (2013).

Pauline Lipman is Professor of Educational Policy Studies at University of Illinois-Chicago, Director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education, and an education activist in Chicago. She is author of The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City.


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