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Chicago Strike: Day Four

12:44 PM, Sep 13, 2012 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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Like others who are convinced that reform of public education is possible, Bloomberg believes:

Chicago might be the last stand for business as usual. Parents know it. Politicians know it. And, in their heart of hearts, the teachers probably know it, too. Perhaps they need a nudge from authority to move beyond the denial stage. Ordinarily, there’s no reason for the White House to get involved in local political disputes. But Chicago is President Barack Obama's hometown, Emanuel is his former chief of staff and Duncan is the city’s former schools chief. Obama has so far declined to take sides. He should -- and he should side with the future. 

The crux of the fight is over teacher accountability and the union's position is that, if it accepts the terms it is being offered, 30 percent of its members will lose their jobs. That, plainly, is unacceptable. It would break the union.

The reformers' position is that, without drastic new emphasis on accountability, the schools will continue to fail.  Giving on this one, then, means total defeat for the reform movement.  But not, necessarily, for those in the political class for whom education reform is just one item of concern.  With some skillful spinning – a talent that is in every successful pol's DNA – a loss on accountability can be made to look like a compromise in the public interest.  

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel doesn't need this.  President Obama needs it even less.  They both need for it to go away so they may get on with the fulfillment of their respective destinies.  So one senses that the strike will not last much longer and may be over by the end of the week.  The revised teacher accountability piece of the new contract will be a nuisance the union can live with and written in language made to sound like serious reform.  And this is the direction negotiations seem to have taken:

Chicago Public School officials Wednesday released what one expert called a “pretty generous concession” to the union on teacher evaluations.

If the teachers are happy with it and the pols can spin it, then the only thing left is for the  kids and their parents to live with it.  And, of course, they have no choice.  

Because "choice" is a word we do not use, in polite company, when talking about education.  

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