Students, Parents Side with Teachers Against Corporate Education “Reform”
An astonishing poll was released by We Ask America, a right-wing subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturing Association. It found that 66 percent of parents of Chicago Public School students support the strike. It also found that the 55.5 percent of people in Chicago support the strike in contrast with 40 percent who are opposed.
Why are these numbers so astonishing? Because Mayor Emanuel and every single news outlet in town have gone on record claiming that the strike is harmful to the children. Nearly every media source has gone to great lengths to make the teachers out as the villains and the Mayor as a “sensible reformer.”
During the strike, not one Democratic party member in office in Chicago, a town run by a Democratic-party machine for decades, has used their office to oppose the mayor and the city’s elite. Not one has supported the strike. Many Democrats have actually attacked the Chicago Teachers Union.
Out of 400,000 students affected by the strike, only 18,000 showed up on the first day of the strike at schools that the CPS bosses are keeping open with untrained employees. This low turnout is truly amazing considering that 84 percent of CPS students are eligible for and rely on the free or low-cost meals they get at school.
Instead of siding with the city government, parents and students have joined the strike.
Why has the campaign to isolate and demonize the Chicago Teachers Union failed? Because the parents and students have the same basic interests as the teachers.
CPS parents are all workers who rely on public education. They know the conditions in their schools. They know how hard teachers work. They know that the city, which has underfunded and disproportionately closed schools in African American and Latino neighborhoods for decades, is creating two separate, unequal school systems. They know the city is disproportionately firing Black workers. From 1995 to 2011, the percentage of African American teachers at CPS has gone from 45 percent to 28 percent.
A departure from business as usual, the strike has called on the underlying power all of us workers have to withhold our labor, and has enlivened and united working people around a street struggle to save public education.
The teachers strike shows us in reality what labor must do. When we engage in independent struggle, we can overcome the isolation between workers, unite around our common interests and use our numerical superiority to defeat the schemes of a tiny handful of bankers and billionaires who want use the economic crisis as an excuse to destroy public education, smash our unions and dismantle what is left of our social safety net.