MORE CORE

Contributor Ben Strauss files this post about CORE -- including some very interesting quotes from CTU's John Ostenburg about why the union shouldn't focus on school closings:

One of the newest caucuses

within the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) isn’t just new. It’s

different.

Part of the reason may be it

hasn’t been around long enough to see its vice president impeached,

like the CTU president Marilyn Stewart-led United Progressive Caucus

(UPC).

Or it could be because it hasn’t actually filled the

positions of president and vice president, thereby preventing any squabbling over power politics.

Or, it could be something greater.

Click below for the full story and to see previous posts and comments about CORE.

Contributor Ben Strauss files this post about CORE -- including some very

interesting quotes from CTU's John Ostenburg about why the union

shouldn't focus on school closings:

One of the newest caucuses

within the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) isn’t just new. It’s

different.

Part of the reason may be it

hasn’t been around long enough to see its vice president impeached,

like the CTU president Marilyn Stewart-led United Progressive Caucus

(UPC).

Or it could be because it hasn’t actually filled the

positions of president and vice president, thereby preventing any squabbling over power politics.

Or, it could be something greater.

Strauss, continued:

The Caucus of Rank and File

Educators (CORE) was created to “put pressure on the union in an established

way,” explains Jackson Potters, one of its founders (pictured).

Members hope the pressure will

eventually result in the action CORE has at the top of its agenda: a

moratorium on all school closings and turnarounds until an independent

commission can determine their effectiveness.

According to CORE, the closings

and turnarounds resulted in 2,000 teachers losing their jobs this year,

and will do the same next year. [CPS claims that the vast majority of displaced teachers find work at other schools.]

While there has been strong

resistance to Renaissance 2010 among community groups such as The Pilsen

Alliance, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) and Kenwood

Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), it has been “compartmentalized,”

as Potter puts it – and unsuccessful, with the Board of Education

set to announce a new round of closings and turnarounds in January if not earlier.

CORE aims to corral the dissention

within a faction of the CTU.

“We

take the view that (teachers) are at the crux of this issue and relate

to all the constituents,” says Potter, who is was a delegate from Englewood

and who graduated from Whitney Young in 1995 (bio here). “We, as the biggest union in Chicago, can alert members

to how critical this issue is…this is really the fight of our professional

lives.”

Stewart has spoken out against

the turnaround model, as have two other minority caucuses: former president

Debbie Lynch’s Proactive Chicago Teachers (PACT) and Ted Dallas’

(Stewart’s former VP) Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU).

CORE’s "new kid on the block"

status gives it a different appeal than the other two caucuses

because its reformist rhetoric doesn’t come with a history.

Lynch was president of the CTU for three years before Stewart defeated

her in 2004. In 2003, Lynch reached an agreement with the Board

that doubled the cap on charter schools from 15 to 30.

Dallas, meanwhile, is recovering

from the fallout of a he-said, she-said blame game with Stewart over

CTU’s $2 million deficit. The Stewart-controlled Executive Board

voted Dallas out of his vice president post this summer on charges of

financial impropriety, although Dallas maintains Stewart mishandled

the budget.

George Schmidt, who has published several articles by Potter in Substance, sees

CORE’s true calling card not as an untarnished legacy, but a comprehensive

organizing platform.

“They’ve been organizing

around local school issues,” he says. “They’ve reached out

to teachers and have a program.”

Since its inception this summer,

CORE has seen a steady increase of support. Potter says today

it has close to 60 members and a network of about 1,000 supporters.

At the Nov. 5 CTU delegates meeting, Potter proposed the CTU protest

all school closings when they are announced. [Potter is currently at LVHS School of Social Justice.] Stewart argued against

the motion, which was defeated by 12 votes.

John Ostenburg, Stewart’s

chief of staff, says the action called for teachers to protest on a

school day and could have resulted in those participating getting fired.

He cautions that a caucus too focused on a single platform can be narrow-minded.

“Sometimes you have to weigh

it in terms of is this likely to be successful—is this the most serious

of all the issues on the table,” says Ostenburg. “That issue is certainly

one of great importance…we would not say just focusing on the single

issue would be a benefit to the vast majority of the union.”

Will CORE be able to make headway in preventing school closings or

persuading the CTU to focus on the issue? No one knows for sure.

Other efforts at internal union advocacy have sputtered or failed.

All caucuses will be invited

to CORE’s Day of Action, where students, teachers and community members

will discuss how they have been affected by Renaissance 2010.

It will be held Jan. 10 at Malcolm X College.

Ben Strauss is a Chicago-raised freelance writer whose work has appeared in In These Times among other publications.

Previous Posts:

Catching Up With CORE

CORE Event Wednesday Afternoon

Excessed Teachers, CTU Infighting (Continued)

Filed under: Campaigns & Clout

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