CN August 23, 2012

“Two weeks ago I did a community education forum in Rogers Park”, says Matt Farmer, who blogs for Huffington Post and is active with the CTU, “and an audience member asked each of us the question whether or not there would be a strike. My answer two weeks ago was ‘I haven’t the foggiest idea.’ Now I’m not a gambling man, I buy a lotto ticket about every five years. But if you asked me today, I believe there will be a strike. Whether that srike begins on September 4, September 24, October 4, remains to be seen.”

Farmer is making reference to the claims being made by many teachers that the terms of the”interim agreement” announced a few weeks ago simply aren’t being implemented at the local school level.

“From everything I pick up,” he reports, “talking to teachers, talking to folks in union leadership, it just seems we’re moving in that direction, I think in part because I think teachers are viewing what’s going on as not just a one-time let’s-get-this agreement-signed deal, but they’re viewing the future of their profession in the balance.

There are two entirely different world views, he says. One at the central office and one in the classroom.  There are still issues around merit pay and tying salaries to standardized test scores. But, he says of the teachers at this point, “They are equally, if not more interested in making sure that the classrooms for the kids in Chicago are providing the types of education for those kids that the Mayor wants to see for his own children.”

Achy Obejas, who writes at wbez.org, says when Mayor Emanuel came onto the scene, by pushing for the longer school day, he completely ignited emotions on both sides. By insisting that teachers work up to a couple of hours longer each day without pay, and then portraying them as “jerks” when they resisted, he took sides in the dispute from the beginning.

But, she says, “No matter how you slice it, no matter who the mayor is, three, four, five years from now, this thing is going to be just waiting to explode. There is an economic bomb embedded in the budget at CPS, it’s just that simple. ”

We veer off into national politics this week, as Achy points out that Paul Ryan has essentially no connection with America’s Latinos, and is on what she perceives to be the wrong side of all of the major issues -especially education and health care – that Latinos, and, in fact most new immigrants, care about.

Regardless, she says, the Democrats will still let the Republicans control the message.

“The democrats are remarkably either complacent or arrogant, I can’t figure it out, in assuming that their message is in and of itself so fantastic that people will see the reason for it. So the way it ends up playing out is that no matter how solid the issue is for the Democrats, the Republicans manage to turn it around and put them on the defensive. The fact that they’re playing defensive on Medicare is absolutely astounding to me.”

Finally, Matt Farmer says he took a closer look at the numbers released yesterday by CPS that played positively in the news media  – increases in ACT and Prairie State test scores over the past year. But the news wasn’t so rosy, he says, at the AUSL-managed schools that Mayor Emanuel and Sup’t Brizard praise so heavily. He cites the example of Dyett High School, which is being phased out due to poor academic performance, its students being moved to Phillips.

Dyett, he says,  “had an ACT score, reported yesterday, that exceeded the ACT score at Phillips High School. Not only that, Philips High School’s ACT score dropped from last year. Its Prairie State Achievement test score was lower.”

“other AUSL schools – Collins High School dropped. Orr High School dropped. So to the extent that the Mayor wants to hold this group and these schools out as the beacons on the hill, let’s take a look at the test scores that you’re using to close other schools, and use the same standard and see what happens. ”

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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