Brothers from Other Suburbs

The CTU [Chicago Teachers Union] wants a proportional pay raise for the longer work day. The union is also calling for smaller class sizes, an increase in wraparound services like school nurses and social workers, and arts and music in all Chicago schools.

The board, however, has refused to engage on quality of education issues. The city says it lacks money to fairly compensate teachers for increased hours. Instead, the board has offered only 2 percent raises for the first two years of the contract. After that, it wants merit pay with evaluations based on student test scores. The city is also trying to get rid of contractual increases for education and experience.

CTU has noted that the city gives nearly $250 million every year in tax abatements to well-connected developers.

Saying It’s Not about the Money, Chicago Teachers Inch Closer to Strike,” Theresa Moran, July 18, 2012

Labor Day signals the start of the (really) silly season, as the  presidential campaigns swing into high gear. Meanwhile, in the land of reality can expect party hi-jinks to generate yet another wave of both parties are equally terrible laments. The CTU’s ongoing struggles with Mayor Emmanuel, shows why this is such a tempting position. This piece, by Ben Joravsky, where I stole my title, shows that on key public school issues, there’s just not much difference between Democratic and Republican policy.

Some liberals seem to love charter schools– it’s their own version of the broader market/competition religion/delusion– and too often they grow myopic when they get their hands on the newest reform idea. (Here’s a nice piece on how the charter schools, which are in fact no better in general than pubic schools, play the numbers game to make their programs seem more effective than they are.) They decide that a longer school day is a good idea but then forget that this puts a burden on teachers.

The CTU, meanwhile, seems to be making a lot of sense. Given the “hard times” it seems smart to shut down some of those business subsidies– to cite one example–and use the money to get back to basics, as it were, by making sure that all schools have good arts programs and services like nurses. If you increase the amount of work someone does– say, by lengthening the work day– then you should pay for it. This would be investing in the local economy in the best possible fashion.

These similarities are a problem mostly because presidential elections are almost always so close. The entire fight, in the next several weeks, will be over the 3 or 5% of people whose minds might be changed.  If those “both parties are equally bad” messages dampen down the Democratic vote,  even if by only a few percentage points, we might end up with those House Republicans setting public policy back decades.  So we have to ask ourselves if it matters that there’s so much overlap.

There’s still a lot of difference.  Democrats are comfortable with birth control and the Roe v. Wade compromise and Planned Parenthood. I’m going to vote Democrat, though, mostly because if people start getting organized and fighting back, I would rather have Rahm Emanuell, who wants to curb union power, across the table, than Scott Walker, who wants to wipe them off the face of the earth. We can push the Democrats into reality; the Republicans are likely to just shoot everyone and let God sort it out.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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