by Don Washington on 2012/04/09
On Friday we talked about how our little marmoset of a Mayor and his corporate friends have decided that the best way to build an education system would be to pit schools and kids against each other in a metaphorical death match. That these market-driven schemes have a twenty-three year, verifiable track record of failure at everything except making a collection of rich people richer should not be lost on you. Here’s just one of our thirty sources and as bleak as it is please remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. We could decide to actually educate kids.
Remember, Chicago has ninety-four schools that are among the best schools in the state and some of these schools are in places public policy has forgotten. What do they have in common… they are all about cooperation as in the give and take of power. They all have highly functioning Local School Councils (LSC) that have hired their own principals under the terms of a four-year performance contract. They also all have strong and active Chicago Teacher’s Union chapters. They are cooperating around educating the kids in their schools not being overwhelmed by ever more ridiculous mandates falling on them from the Chicago Public Schools’ market-minded competition junkies. One would think that Mayor Emanuel and his school board would be living in those schools and spreading their expertise across the system. You think this because you have the reasoning skills of the average six-year old and want to solve the problem of kids not getting a quality education.
If Mayor Emanuel was actually committed to school reform he would start with a program designed to improve and enhance LSC’s, make sure that every principal in the system was an educator, picked by well-developed LSCs and not a shake and bake corporate captain and he’d read the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s (CTU): The Schools Chicago’s Student’s Deserve and use his political acumen to make their ten point plan reality down in Springfield for the whole state. The CTU thinks that smaller class sizes; holistic education and services like libraries, art and physical education; that our schools have to address poverty and inequality; and that you have to fully fund education from great buildings, to adequate resources and well-paid teachers with secure pensions to have a functioning school system. Go figure. Essential to all of these reforms is a simple concept, cooperation to address a vast societal challenge not competition to survive in a hostile environment.
These solutions are not a secret. Mayor Emanuel is a lot of things, being illiterate is not one of them. His problem is that he’s not interested in cooperating with a system where he’s already written off 25% of the kids in it because it helps him with his actual agenda. The Mayor and the political and financial interests that comprise both his campaign investors and the powers he has served his entire political career see the public school system as a socialist monopoly and a juicy collection of guaranteed public money for them to plunder via market-based reform. He’s blaming unions, teachers and 100,000 children for the mess corporate school reform and terrible tax policy has made of that system because real reform costs money that would come from them instead of corporate reform that has money flowing to them.
These solutions, small class sizes, holistic education, educators as principals, local school councils/parent involvement, quality school facilities, fully funded and resourced schools, excellent teacher pay and pensions and wrap around services; by the way, are the “easy” common sense things the Mayor could do. The advanced placement education policies that have proven to work, not the profit-motive private charters, merit pay schemes or drill and kill testing regimes; but stuff that works also demand… cooperation. For example, Block Scheduling where kids get more time in class on subjects, community schools which brings community resources into schools and transforms schools into the hub of community-wide activities and a variety of new teaching models like peer tutoring, project based learning and cooperative learning are all things an education reformer would want to be making happen. That our Mayor is not interested in any of the above should make you wonder… what is the little fellah thinking about since he’s thrown cooperation under a big yellow-privatized bus.
The point here is that you can’t run education like a business because it’s not a business. In business you seek to cut costs and open markets for profitability. In education that means cutting teacher pay or pensions, reducing the number of kids in schools, spending less on infrastructure and maintenance, teaching more kids with less teachers, cutting costs on supplies and resources, getting rid of the extras like transportation or field trips or art or music or dance or phys-ed or sports teams, or bands or clubs… things like that because that’s what’s there is to cut. In education opening new markets means everything from testing, to monitoring teachers, to having new ways to create teachers and administrators, to investing in charter schools and a raft of other ideas that create profit but do not directly enhance education. The bottom of it all is that education is not a competitive business in God forbid a competitive market because we’re creating citizens not tennis shoes or a nation of wage slaves… right?