* The Illinois Policy Institute has a new Internet video called “Contagion” which makes some dire claims about what the right-wing “think” tank claims is escalating labor unrest. You gotta watch it…
Big labor is on the move in Illinois. Emboldened by the success of the Chicago Teachers Union strike, unions across the state are now waging, or threatening to wage, strikes of their own.
Why do unions erect roadblocks to reform? Remember that the explicit purpose of a union is to protect the employment status and benefits of their members, not to improve the quality or nature of the service that their members provide.
In fact, what we are now seeing may be the early stages of an outbreak of labor unrest that could consume the state.
The billion-dollar-question is: Will Illinois’ lawmakers confront these labor monopolies, contain the outbreak, and pass desperately needed reforms? Or will politicians once again succumb to the politically convenient in hopes that a federal bailout will save them from tough decisions?
* OK, five districts outside Chicago are mentioned in that ad. The state has 868 school districts. So, that’s about half a percent. And this is rampant labor unrest?
And if you look at the Institute’s own list, you’ll see that these strikes were pretty short. Lake Forest High School (one-week strike), North Shore School District 112 and Prairie Grove School District 46 (mere one-day strikes), Champaign (settled before strike). Yes, a hotbed of furiously angry communists, for sure.
By far the longest was in Evergreen Park, which lasted two weeks. From the Southtown Star…
The lessons of both the Chicago teachers’ strike and the just-settled one in Evergreen Park School District 124 are that teachers are tired of being made the scapegoats for public education’s ills and that animosity between them and their employers is growing. […]
We draw two conclusions about the strikes in Chicago and Evergreen Park. The school boards forced the teachers to walk out by making demands they saw as politically popular but that were unrealistic. And faced with strong parental support for the teachers, the boards blinked because the unions would not.
The national debate over public education and the power of teachers unions has teachers more united than ever, and if our local results are any measure, parents value teachers more than the critics. That’s a losing hand for school boards, and pushing teachers to strike and keeping kids out of class is the worst bet of all.
I get so tired of large groups of people being demonized like this.
* Do teachers unions have their faults? Heck yes they do.
But, to me anyway, the people at the very top are most at fault. I’ve never been a fan of the industrial model for education. Hate it, actually. As I was traveling home from Galena not long ago, I found myself wondering if a relatively new building out in the middle of nowhere was a school or a prison. It was a school.
I happen to like the concept of charter schools, not because I think they are a panacea, but because I believe they can offer kids incredible alternatives to the one-size-fits-all industrial model. That link, by the way, goes to a French immersion charter school in Kansas City that my best friend’s children attend. My friend died a couple years back, and we wanted to help his widow and the kids come to Illinois, but there’s just nothing like that school anywhere here. So, they stayed put.
Why can’t we have these same choices in Illinois? What’s keeping us back?
Gov. Pat Quinn isn’t buying everything charter schools are selling. The governor invited education scholar Diane Ravitch to speak to a civic group in Chicago. Ravitch told the audience that charter schools are no better than traditional public schools, except that they allow the private sector to make money off education.
Ravitch, a former U.S. assistant secretary of education who served in appointed capacities under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, says charter schools were intended to help the poorest, least-able students, but they’re being used now to skim the kids who are easiest to educate.
“And my fear, having attended segregated schools in Houston, Texas, is that we are returning to a pre-Brown vs. Board of Education society, in which segregation will be based on class, not on race, in which the charter schools will take the most motivated children, and the public schools will become dumping grounds,” she told the City Club of Chicago, after an introduction by the governor.Ravitch is the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
I think the segregation fear has some legitimacy. But that can be overcome with reasonable regulations. The stuff about people making money off of schools doesn’t really bug me too much as long as the schools are well-run. The beauty of charter schools is the diversity they can potentially offer - and do offer in places like Kansas City.
There are downsides. Charter schools don’t perform all that much better on standardized tests. But I don’t like basing education on testing anyway. In Chicago, the charter schools are mostly non-union. But there’s nothing preventing the CTU unions from trying to organize those teachers.
All I’m saying here is let’s stop with the demonizing, please, and get on with truly changing the way we educate kids.
You couldn’t be more right about the IPI’s silly tactics, of course. At this point they are pretty much laughed off by anyone who takes public policy seriously in Illinois, including smart journalists.
But to this side point:
there’s nothing preventing the CTU from trying to organize those teachers
Actually, there is something — many things, including federal labor laws that are tilted to favor anti-union employers, toothless enforcement of what laws do exist, and the anti-union virulence of charter operators.
If charter operators agreed under the law to neutrality in organizing campaigns and voluntary recognition of bargaining units, then maybe what you’re saying here would have more merit.
I know there are people who love to demonize teachers.I worked for the Board of Ed here (long ago) and a large part of my job was to go to the underperforming schools and talk to students. I’ll tell you what has to change. We need to get kids to school and from school without their seeing dead people on the streets, or being late because of a shooting, or even getting to go to school every day since both they and their brother have a coat a piece.
And feed them decently, while we’re at it, so they can pay attention.
lake forest high school does not look like a prison, but your point is well taken. Last night I was looking at those 2 places cellini wants to go online-one of them is on an air force base, and it looked a lot like a high school.
This LFHS, the bmw’s in the student parking lot usually let you know it’s not a prison.
I think both sides are over the top with their attacks. I’m also in favor of vouchers for each student.
The biggest problem with expanding charter schools is it lends legitimacy to the whole school voucher concept of the money following the student.
If vouchers were in place, it would be a big blow to the public schools districts because then even the less well off could flee the public system for private education, including faith based institutions … and that would be a huge threat to the teacher’s unions. If the private (mostly religious) schools were ever on par salarywise with the public schools, all the good teachers (and their union dues) would be gone overnight. The lastthings the union bosses want to see is their memebrship (dues) drop.
Disclosure: I attended Catholic schools up to and partly through college and listened to my parents constantly complain about having to pay twice (taxs & tuition) for schools … so I do have a bias.
What happens to the vouchers–oh wait, I mean students–who can’t get in to a charter/private/parochial school? Or the students who can’t get to the school of choice because it’s far away and there’s no transit and his parents won’t/can’t drive him?
I’d rather have decent public neighborhood schools, and ways for students to get there safely and well fed.
- Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Oct 17, 12 @ 12:27 pm:
Labor unrest can usually be traced back to unfair treatment of workers. You don’t see happy workers voting to go on strike, even mildly unhappy workers typically opt to stay off the picket line. If anything is likely to cause labor unrest, it is tactics like this IPI video.
With respect to charter schools, they are a good idea in theory, but not they way they have been used in practice. In practice, they have been used as a means to toss out unions, cut teacher pay, and increase work load without negotiation. School districts have seen charter schools as a way to cut costs. The other place where they are missing the boat is documentation. If a charter school is to be a place where innovative ideas are put into practice, the results need to be tracked to ensure that educational outcomes are as good or better than what was replaced AND to allow the good ideas to be disseminated and implemented elsewhere. Unfortunately, evidence is not typically collected (or, if it is, it is not being shared).
- WhatRecession? - Wednesday, Oct 17, 12 @ 12:46 pm:
“What happens to the vouchers–oh wait, I mean students–who can’t get in to a charter/private/parochial school?”
- The same thing that happens to today’s Chicago students who cant get into the CPS magnet schools.
I have to agree that going to a voucher-based system would result in even more inequality in education. It’s really comparable to the argument against vouchers for Medicare, i.e., insurance companies would just cherry-pick to sign up the healthiest seniors, leaving the public system for others even more underfunded. And we’ve had this argument in the U.S. about public vs. private education before, to wit:
“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”
— John Adams, 1785
Does the IPI not realize that their extremism actually blocks reform and does more damage that good? When groups like this make ad’s and statements above, moderate and reasonable minded people run from their positions.
Maybe IPI’s not in it to actually affect policy but to raise money from people associated with the far far rightwing, although my guess is there just incompetent.
- lake county democrat - Wednesday, Oct 17, 12 @ 12:53 pm:
Well, I’ll do some demonizing: the most effective change we could make to the Chicago schools would be to shift teachers and resources from upper grades so as to provide universal kindergarten and preschool (yes, that would involve some re-certifications). The Sun-Times editorial board said universal preschool was “hands down” the most effective reform you could make. Other research shows that smaller class sizes in upper grades doesn’t improve performance (there’s probably a limit, but the bang for the buck at the young end would far, far exceed the diminishment in the higher grades). It’d be like ignoring the evidence that aspirin works to lower a fever for the sake of debating which herbal remedy works best.
I think conservatives are generally right about vouchers and about how poor public schools are one of the greatest threats to social equality and mobility today.
However a) conservatives get very resistant fast if the vouchers mean any of those Chicago kids might start coming out to the better suburban schools; b) while I think the evidence shows that the best charters and KIPP programs can provide excellent educational results, those per-pupil programs -do- cost money … a lot per student, more than many conservatives in my experience want to spend on poor blacks and Latino kids in the city (sorry for the inference, but … yes). There’s not enough millionaire and billionaire foundations and charitable donors out there to finance more than a tiny fraction of those kids’ charter school educations. If you want to replicate the successes here widescale, it’s gonna take taxpayer dollars.
Is that quote from noted labor agitator John Adams? Clearly he was in the pocket of the AFT and IEA!!
Charter schools sound great and have, in some cases, produced impressive results. But it’s pretty clear that programs like KIPP require utterly heroic efforts by individual teachers. There’s good reason to wonder if that is sustainable, and even better reason to doubt that this approach is scalable. There are ~3 million teachers in the US, good luck telling them to embrace charter-school techniques while you’re burning their unions to the ground.
Ravitch stated”in which the charter schools will take the most motivated children, and the public schools will become dumping grounds,” she told the City Club of Chicago, after an introduction by the governor.”
I have no problem with taking the motivated kids and ensuring they get a quality education. Yes we should still try and educate everyone but those who are willing to put forth the effort and who have the parental support should not be held back by peers with no interest in learning
Cheryl’s post at 12:06 is right on. Pretty tough to get students to concentrate on the spelling words of the week when they’ve been beaten, haven’t eaten that day, are living out of a car, have been traumatized in numerous ways in their lives……..you get the picture. But somehow the SuperHuman teachers are supposed to make miracles happen for these kids. Often, the teachers are the only adults who show any concern for that child at all yet they’re berated for not making geniuses of them. It is a frustrating job. Add to that the outrage of pinning years of theft from their pension plan on them, the victims, and I’m surprised you don’t see more strikes than we have seen. It isn’t about the money……….it’s about abuse. If this all keeps on the way it is, I predict we’ll really see the bottom of the barrel in our universities becoming your childrens’ teachers. Then everyone will wonder why that happened? Duh.
It’s far too big an issue and another blog in itself but let’s face it. The culture of poverty is often just too much to overcome for many students and the schools that serve them. The quality of the school is determined by the quality of the people in it, top to bottom. It’s an idealistic dream to believe that a great teacher can overcome these obstacles and some, to be sure, have succeeded. But there has to be receptiveness from the student and motivation to learn. It is a two way street. Every teacher would be a miracle worker if he could just open up the students’ heads’ and pour in the information. Resolve the poverty issue, and many of the “poor” schools would perform much differently. I don’t think classroom teachers, much less anyone else can resolve poverty.
- Robert the Bruce - Wednesday, Oct 17, 12 @ 1:50 pm:
Well said, Rich! There seems to be, on both sides, a war rather than a civil discussion on educaiton.
I’m somewhat skeptical of Charter Schools’ reported success. In Chicago, the Charter Schools have a lottery, but only children who have parents organized enough to apply for the lottery have a chance of getting in. That leaves the most abandoned kids in the neighborhood schools. So when those neighborhood schools fail, school reformers then perhaps incorrectly blame the teachers union.
I’d like to see what a non-union charter would do in taking over a neighborhood school in Chicago, just taking the kids who live in that neighborhood. I don’t believe Chicago has tried this; not sure if other cities have.
What is so extremely different in the charter schools that public schools are incapable of doing? From my understanding of them, they get to select their students which automatically makes it easier for a teacher to teach. And test results will automatically be higher if you are able to select your students. Something else?
Along with being “self selected” just by applying, the students in most charter (and private) schools are generally more motivated to succeed. This is a combination of (a) the kids being pushed by parent(s) who want a better education for their kids where there are high expectations and (b) every day being part of a (peer) group that is expected to perform at a high level. High expectations often lead to high performance.
Another advantage of that self selection is you don’t have the troublemakers disrupting the classes and preventing the rest of the kids from learning. This is going to sound cruel, but after watching what happened in my son’s high school, I came to the conclusion the public school system would be better at their job of education if they just wrote off the 1% or 2% that were disrupting the classes. Better to properly educate 98% of the kids than to give a failing education to 100% of the kids.
Any teacher will tell you parental involvment is the most critical component. Without involved parents, it ain’t going to happen. My wife used to work in the Early Childhood Program for at risk kids mostly from depressed neighborhoods. Most the parents, if they were even around, couldn’t be bothered to show up for the Parent’s Nights or Teacher’s Conferences … even when free transportation and bribes in the form of meals and door prizes were offered … think the attendence rate by parents was something like 3% (I was bored sitting there that night and spent the time counting the attendees). And this was downstate … I can’t begin to imagine how bad it is in CPS.
Rich I am a little surprised that you wrote: “But there’s nothing preventing the CTU from trying to organize those (charter) teachers.” Actually Rich there is something preventing the CTU from organizing charter school teachers, it is called the law.
105 ILCS 5/27A-7(a)(11)states “a bargaining unit of charter school employees shall be separate and distinct from any bargaining units formed from employees of a school district in which the charter school is located.”
The charter schools that are unionized in Chicago are not part of the CTU, they are in a completely seperate union called Chicago ACTS Local 4343 of the AFT. The CTU recieves no dues payments from the members of Local 4343. All organizing work is done by this unions staff not the CTU. To learn more about this union go to http://www.chicagoacts.org/
“Remember that the explicit purpose of a union is to protect the employment status and benefits of their members, not to improve the quality or nature of the service that their members provide.”
Well no, not exactly. Unions were formed because the people that ran big businesses and corporations were mostly focused on making money. They disregarded worker safety and the quality of life of their workers because they did not fit into the profit picture. They looked upon their workers as little more than machines that either did the required work or fell by the wayside. As a result workers were unhappy and tired of long hours, hazardous working conditions, no benefits, and poor pay. They formed the unions to better themselves. They wanted credit for their work that was providing large profits for the business owners, they wanted a piece of the pie and the American Dream. Thus began the unions vs. big business war that contiues today.
In our present world where everything revolves around the almighty dollar and obscene profits are the goal the haves want even more and are reluctant to share any of their bounty. They want to cut their workers benefits and where unions are involved they fight against those cuts.
The haves say they need to keep their profits so they can invest in other businesses that will create more jobs, trust us. Yet the record shows that the haves are holding onto record profits and
NOT investing choosing instead to protect their opulent lifestyles. So it is no wonder that this war has escalated with the likes of the IPI demonizing all workers because they dare to want their fair share.
The problem with Charter schools is they are business applied to a public service. Where there is opportunity to make money corners will be cut by the CEOs to please the shareholders, and that should not happen in the education of our children. My daughter works at a charter school for special needs kids. This school has no school nurse available in spite of the fact that many of the kids have serious medical issues. That would cost too much. They have no means of communication to every classroom from the front office. If an intruder were to enter the building the SOP is for each teacher or staff member to open their classroom door and yell down the hall that there is an intruder. In public schools these items are addressed in a mandated procedure with the safety of the child being the ultimate goal. Apparently in this school this does not fit into the profit picture. And that is why business should not be running our schools.
–. The stuff about people making money off of schools doesn’t really bug me too much as long as the schools are well-run. The beauty of charter schools is the diversity they can potentially offer - and do offer in places like Kansas City.
I think that school in Kansas City is a good example, but we aren’t seeing similar schools popping up enough. I think your points are pretty dead on and in fact, I’ve long thought Charters could provide excellent settings for kids on the tails of the distribution.
Kids with behavior problems would probably benefit in a more specialized setting that was structured, but also flexible for them. The first charter in Minnesota was for kids with behavioral problems. Gifted kids could probably do well in a more challenging environment.
The problem is we aren’t seeing that in most charter schools. They are largely as industrial as the public schools or worse and there’s the rub. How do we promote diversity amongst charters when the state testing programs require such specific subjects be taught in a specific time frame.
We can’t fix the charters being largely routinized as long as they exist in the same framework they currently do or they won’t make the states’ requirements.
===The problem with Charter schools is they are business applied to a public service. Where there is opportunity to make money corners will be cut by the CEOs to please the shareholders, and that should not happen in the education of our children.
But they don’t have to be–this is part of what I see as the problem. Charters are being dominated by for profit companies, but a non-profit could just as easily run them. The question to me then is why aren’t we seeing that happen–and I think the answer related to two factors.
1) There isn’t adequate start up so business is needed for capital
2) The short term requirements to meet standardized test scores forces emphasis on those basic subjects limiting the flexibility most non-profits might capitalize on
The “I’m paying twice” argument voiced by parents who send their kids to private schools and want a voucher/subsidy is extremely unpersuasive. What about the large percentage of taxpayers who have no children and are paying for public education? I don’t see the childless complaining about paying to educate the public. Parents, it’s not all about you or your own children. Maybe a more civic-minded attitude would be a good example to set for your kids.
In addition, as someone who had children in public “charter” schools, what I saw was self selection of the most motivated parents. Private charter schools thrive upon exemptions from rules (ADA). Poor parents with vouchers are still poor parents who can’t drive to New Trier.
To those who believe charter schools are the gateways to class-based segregation, I would ask: Is there any greater greater generator of class-based segregation than Illinois’ current system of funding schools by property tax?
Uptown has a point, we need to change how we fund education. There are more and more studies coming out that show that Charter Schools are in fact under performing public schools. Let’s take time to make decisions based on fact & not profit for some company.
- Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Oct 18, 12 @ 12:31 am:
I knew Joe McCarthy, and IPI, you’re no Joe mcCarthy.