If you own a TV and live in the Chicagoland area, chances are you have seen the commercial that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has put out about the Chicago Teachers' Union strike contract. There has been some controversy over how much the air time to run the commercial costs at $1 million. The group that funded the air time costs, Education Reform Now, is also stirring up controversy since they are a group known for being anti-teachers' unions. Yet, no one is talking about the actual content of the ad, which in itself is very telling.
The commercial begins with Mayor Emanuel sitting in a warmly lit room addressing the camera. Eventually, it becomes a voiceover commercial with the mayor explaining some of the details of the contract while scenes of teachers and students fill the screen. One particular scene that sticks out is the one depicted when Rahm Emanuel mentions that the new contract allows principals the right to hire the best teachers. On screen is a teacher using an iPad to teach math to a class filled with six students in a library. There are a couple of issues with this scene.
If we are talking about the best teachers in Chicago, they are not dealing with the conditions presented in the commercial. Firstly, the average CPS class size is not six kids; try four to five times more. Secondly, the teacher is using an iPad. Considering it is difficult for CPS to get textbooks for the teachers on the first day of class, it is even more difficult to believe that CPS has the resources to get its teachers iPads. Unless of course, the teachers are buying it out of their own pocket to help further their own teaching. Thirdly, the teacher in the commercial is teaching in a library. One hundred and sixty schools in CPS do not have libraries. The total number of schools in CPS is 681. That is almost 25 percent of learning environments where real teachers do not have the option to teach their class in a library or have their students access one within a school building.
Mayor Emanuel continues to build a case to fight for better resources in education. In the next point that Emanuel cares to make, he states that parents will have the option for the best schools because of the contract. While he is saying this, on screen is an incredibly adorable boy participating in an art class. Why an arts class? Why not a math or science class? You know a core class? Because Emanuel believes in a well-rounded education, and that includes the arts. Except, in actual CPS schools, 42 percent of neighborhood elementary schools are not funded to provide a full time art or music teacher, and eight percent do not even have an art or music teacher.
It seems that Mayor Emanuel is saying the best teachers need awesome technological resources, a library, and a small amount of kids in a classroom to be great teachers, and that the best schools have arts education, which does not match the reality the majority of teachers face in CPS. Interesting, since what he wants sounds like what the Chicago Teachers' Union was fighting for during the strike and continues to fight for post-contract negotiations.
Check out my other posts on CTU and education: