Despite Chicago Reader's Mick Dumke's harrowing observation that "Chicagoans seem physiologically incapable of voting against incumbents," this teachers' strike will have serious repercussions on the now unlikely re-election of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Rahm Emanuel catapulted into Chicago's mayoral seat for a variety of reasons. One of the most important ones, was that he lobbied the African American population hard, and they followed suit with over 53 percent of them voting for him in the 2011 Chicago mayoral election. As a politician, he had every right to try to get the largest racial population of Chicago, blacks with 33 percent, on his side. He needed to in order to be able to win the election. However, this strategy will backfire with this teacher's strike.
Since African-Americans make up a large part of Chicago, they also make up a large portion of teachers at 30 percent, and the majority of the teachers in the union. Nearly 50 percent of principals at Chicago Public Schools are also African Americans. Rahm, by not helping to settle the negotiations and making them worse, faces alienating the base that got him elected even more than he already has.
African-American teachers have already been heavily hit under the Rahm administration. They were terminated at a much higher rate than white teachers during the 2011 layoffs. Despite making up 33 percent of teachers, 43 percent of those laid off were African American. White teachers make up 50 percent of those in the Chicago Public School system, but only made up 36 percent of those laid off in 2011.
Those in the center of the strike, the students, have a heavily skewed racial and economic make-up of their own. African-Americans alone make up over 41 percent of those enrolled in CPS schools. Over 87 percent of the students come from low-income households. The schools that Rahm decided to shut down earlier this year were overwhelmingly located in low-income and/or African American neighborhoods.
It is very political of Rahm to use a populace to garner enough votes to get elected only to put them at the chopping block as soon as he takes power. How does Rahm Emanuel expect to regain the respect and votes of Chicago's African American population when they, using a term he likes, are getting the "shaft," because he won't do what's right for the teachers and students? Teachers and students that are overwhelmingly black. Education isn't a petty issue that can be thrown on the back burner during an election. He will have to do some hard issue gerrymandering to somehow not make the teacher's strike the center of his reelection campaign, and if he fails, to the cheers of many, Chicagoans will have beaten the incumbent curse that hangs over them.
Check out my other posts on CTU and education: