Speaking on the Brian Lehrer Show, Prof. Esther Fuchs said Chicago has long been a battleground for education policy as well as union activism.
“There was an early effort in Chicago to focus on reform of both the managerial infrastructure of the public schools as well as the pedagogy,” she said. “Also bringing in this issue of accountability front and center, and bringing in the question of charter schools and vouchers, so Chicago was sort of the lead on this. New York City was not.”
One caller pointed out that he considered some things the teachers are asking for completely reasonable, such as social workers in needy schools. A teacher called in to note that the tone of the dispute in Chicago is more aggressive and vitriolic than it currently is between New York City officials and the local teachers’ union.
Fuchs repeatedly called for both sides to focus on solutions.
“There are no villians in this story and I believe it’s important to not demonize teachers. We need excellent teachers to make our schools work,” she said. At the same time she said teachers and their supporters should be wary of defending the status quo because of the anti-union political climate.
The online conversation on WNYC took on a life of its own, and several people took issue with the show’s guest.
“If teachers want to get market or above pay (100K+ is so common in NY suburbs, I heard the number 76K as average in Chicago plus gold plated benefits) then if, for the children’s benefit, they are asked to work even an hour extra they should accept it,” said Shoniqua from Brooklyn. “Particularly since most work not much more than 180 days per year.”
That elicited a response from Arthur in Astoria: “Gold plated” benefits? “Protected from firing?” I’m sorry, you mean… benefits and job security? Things that most of our parents and some of our grandparents had? Those are considered exceptional perks now? Give me a break folks. We’ve gone so far down the Republican rabbit hole that we look at any form of benefit as some kind of entitlement.”
Parent advocate Leonie Haimson took issue with having Fuchs on because she is close to the Bloomberg administration and used to work for the mayor.
“The teacher evaluation system based on test scores that the teachers in Chicago, NYC and elsewhere are facing has been debunked by many experts as unfair and unreliable, including the National Academy of Sciences (twice!). Perhaps you ought to have a guess who is not so biased,” she wrote.
“Brian, you invited as usual someone representing management and not a teacher spokesperson or even anyone from Chicago,” said Martha from Greenpoint. “How about presenting the striking teachers’ point of view? They REJECTED a 16% four year raise and are striking over classroom conditions. Spell it out! Union busting is in the air, as some have commented on your show. Charter schools have been proven to do NO BETTER on the metrics than regular schools, and their whole basis for existence is de-unionizing the workforce, aka teachers. And yet the privatization of public money continues.”
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