This is a guest post from John Thompson, a longtime high school teacher, and was cross-posted from This Week In Education:
Chicago Teachers Union social media guru Kenzo Shibata’s recent post in In These Times -- CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett May Have Met Her Match in Chicago -- explains that the primary prerequisites for a Chicago school CEO were “an ability to address the media and a talent for glad-handing power brokers (and, in some cases, a willingness to fall on the sword after new policies failed).”
By that measure, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett seemed perfect for the job. In Cleveland, she was called the “$300,000 wonder.” Byrd-Bennett was expensive, “but worth every penny.” She closed over twenty schools and cut hundreds of teachers positions. As “chief academic and accountability officer” in Detroit, she closed 59 schools and cut 30% of the workforce, while adding 41 charters.
Shibata writes that Byrd-Bennett has “proven herself so skilled at the art of “cleaning” districts that she has part-time job with the Broad Academy."
Shibata argues, however, that Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are now in a very different political landscape. I agree.
Part of the reason for school “reform’s” political success is the politics of resentment. Until recently, teachers had not been punished by the new economy as badly as most workers.
However, the corporate powers who seek to micromanage schools do not have a very good record in improving the living conditions of most people. At some point, angry workers will ask why the billionaires think they can improve learning conditions in schools. If the elites had the power to improve schools, voters might ask, why won't they use their power to make life better for families and communities?
Here's the problem. Cutting jobs is no better of a strategy for building a strong society than closing schools is for improving education. Corporations have had great success in increasing their bottom line, as they have reduced wages and benefits for most Americans. Somehow, we must rebuild a value system which affirms that all working people are in the same boat.
Who knows? Perhaps a revitalized public sector labor front in the "City of the Broad Shoulders" will lead to a broader consciousness that reorganizes all citizens.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.