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To Russia (or Chicago), With Love?

Dear Friend,

Are we in Russia??

I thought the strike was bad enough. Thousands of children out of school who are already 2-3 years behind on average, if not 5 or 6! Parents with no power, staff at failing schools who continue to get paid in spite of it all.

But the contract outline prepared by the Chicago Teachers Union really takes the cake:

“Our brothers and sisters throughout the country have been told that corporate ‘school reform’ was unstoppable, that merit pay had to be accepted and that the public would never support us if we decided to fight. Cities everywhere have been forced to adopt performance pay. Not here in Chicago! Months ago, CTU members won a strike authorization vote that our enemies thought would be impossible-now we have stopped the Board from imposing merit pay! We preserved our lanes and steps when the politicians and press predicted they were history. We held the line on healthcare costs. We have tremendous victories in this contract; however, it is by no means perfect. While we did not win on every front and will need to continue our struggle into the future.”

Their struggle? For what? To ensure that they always come first over kids? That they control the education system and not the results?

They might as well have said “Dear Comrades!”

Pity the highly successful teacher who was on the picket line due to no fault of her own. Becoming a teacher in most public school systems today comes with mandatory membership in the union. Oh sure, technically you can choose not to join the union, but making that choice will mean getting harassed by the leadership and still paying agency fees for the bargaining they do on your behalf.

That bargaining resulted in the strike that ended last night. Not only did the union not want to accept some very basic, and hardly substantive evaluation components, but they were aghast at the notion that their members should work longer days or weeks and accept more professional development. You can read it for yourself, as well as background on the strike and various opinions on our Unions & Education Establishment page. I just wanted to touch base with each and every one of our followers directly on this issue and remind you of three key things that should guide your every decision on education reform going forward:

You can’t work with the unions. Anyone who tells you otherwise – be they Secretary Duncan, President Obama or Governor Christie – is either wrong or misinformed. Besides the modest gains made in Washington, DC, there is no current law or contract today that, across the board, treats teachers like professionals and ensures that children come first.

The unions have co-opted the language of reform. Too many reformers have bought into the notion that the union leaders are finally coming around. When they speak on Morning Joe or at conferences and express agreement with teacher evaluations, they always qualify their remarks. Still, some reformers get giddy and think they’ve succeeded when they exact such “concessions” from union representatives. They haven’t.

The national leadership walks in lockstep with the locals and vice versa. Sure the language may be different and the locals may be less sophisticated, but whether the nationals agreed a Chicago strike was a good idea or not, there is no union leadership in this nation that would work to ensure that student success be the leading factor in their evaluations. That, my friends, is the truth.

Best Regards,

Jeanne Allen