There's a battle going on in Chicago for the future of the Chicago Public Schools. It mirrors the national education story in at least one way...it's a battle between vocal parents and teachers against a "reform" movement led by the rich and powerful at the expense of public education.
The Chicago Tribune, owned by the same company that owns other "reformist"-leaning media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, has been a strident voice against the teachers and for the mayor and his hand picked "school board" (which includes a member with ties to Teach for America, a charter school co-founder, a CEO of one of Chicago's largest banks, a supporter of parochial schools, as well as a couple of former CPS principals).
Wednesday, for example, the Tribune came out against the CTU because they didn't approve of the way in which the union was conducting their open strike vote - a second strike vote this year because the anti-union forces are working to negate the secret-ballot strike vote taken earlier this year. Of course, the Tribune, which compares what they claim is an undemocratic CTU to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, operates in a city which refuses to hold elections for school board members – Irony alert!
Earlier in the week the Tribune published their "Schoolchildren's Bill of Rights," a list that Chicago teacher and blogger Mike Klonsky said,
...has little to do with schoolchildren or their rights--except, that is, for their right to have their schools closed or privatized and their teachers debased.Klonsky's article described the editorial...
The Tribune's so-called 'Schoolchildren's Bill of Rights'
The Trib's Bill of Rights includes not a single right for students, but instead includes things like:With high sounding vocabulary in the genre of "think of the children!" the Tribune succinctly gathers every "reform" practice and rolls it into one "reformy" editorial. We're supposed to have "high quality teachers" which really means teachers who teach to "the test" because "the test" is everything. We're supposed to support "choice" for parents, which really means "choice" for private schools to reject your non-standardized child. And, if that's not good enough, they want "Even more choice than that" which really means, privatize, privatize, privatize.
- Merit Pay for teachers, a oft-tried initiative which, according to researchers, produced no gains in measurable learning outcomes.
- Using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Already the law in IL.
- Widespread school "choice," the Trib's code word for school vouchers and privately-run charters. Trib editors write: "The public education industry should view ethnic, parochial or other private schools not as threats but as alternatives that enrich and diversify a community's educational offerings."
- An end to collective bargaining, including the right to strike.
- Parent Trigger Laws which enable a small and temporary group of parents to take over a school and hand it over to a private, for-profit company to operate. As you might expect, there's nothing about parents' right to opt-out of the plague of standardized testing.
- Mass closing of black and Latino neighborhood schools and leaving boarded-up buildings to further blight communities or sell them off to condo developers. Again, too late. They're already doing it.
EDUCATORS: STUDENT ADVOCATES
Here's a "Student Bill of Rights" which would actually help students and improve education in Chicago...and the rest of the country.
It was published during the last CTU strike (2013) and is called The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve. It includes actual "proven educational reforms," not just "reformist" talking points.
- smaller class sizes
- education aimed at the whole child which includes recess, libraries, PE, the arts, and world languages in every school
- wraparound services such as nurses, counselors, and social workers where needed
- equitable funding and services
- age-appropriate education including pre-K services and full day kindergartens
- teachers treated as professionals with comparable salaries, adequate planning time, and professional autonomy
- fully supported programs for students with special needs
- well maintained and safe school buildings
- partnerships with parents
- full funding
Every student in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) deserves to have the same quality education as the children of the wealthy. This can happen, but only if decision-makers commit to providing research-based education that is fully-funded and staffed in an equitable fashion throughout the city. [emphasis added]
A Parent's Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century, by Russ Walsh
Finally, here's a Bill of Rights for children from Russ Walsh's book, A Parent's Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century (also available on his blog, here).
1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public educationNote that Walsh's Bill of Rights, as well as the CTU's, focus on the rights of children – on what children need. There's nothing about busting unions, closing schools, or transferring tax money from public schools, which operate under public oversight, to private corporations or parochial schools. Why? It's simple.
2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe neighborhood school.
3. Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person.
4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.
5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.
6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well planned, engaging, and collaborative.
7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.
8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.
9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.
10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses.
Members of the CTU and Russ Walsh are educators. The editors of the Chicago Tribune are not. Educators know about education.