Emanuel Finally Meets with Chicago Teachers Union

If there is one group the newly elected mayor of Chicago has been trying to avoid for as long as possible — that would have to be the Chicago Teachers Union. That ended a few weeks before the city mayoral election in February when Rahm Emanuel met with the Chicago Teachers Union political action committee (this reporter is a member).

Chicago's Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel has already declared war on the unions, especially the Chicago Teachers Union, with a disinformation offensive (he claims that the "best high schools in Chicago" are all charter schools, but refuses to give the facts to base his claim and ignores the fact that his favorite charters — UNO and Noble Street — just kicked out dozens of kids again to sustain their inflated test scores and claims) and headline grabbing talking points. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.He also met recently with CTU President Karen Lewis. According to Lewis, the mayor was most interested in finding out if the teachers union is planning to go on strike.

Emanuel has told the media that he would seek an injunction that would prevent the teachers from striking in the near future.

Many believe that should he get legislation passed to prevent a strike, the city would then be able to generate huge concessions from the teachers, including furlough days and rescinding salary raises.

While the newly elected mayor is known for a foul mouth behind closed doors, his meeting with the teachers on the fourth floor of the Merchandise Mart was clean and respectful.

At the CTU office, Emanuel wanted to show everyone he was in charge from the minute he entered the conference room to field questions from the committee.

He first went around the room and firmly shook everyone’s hand, looking each person straight in the eye.

Then he sat down, and with a straight, serious face, immediately outlined his education agenda.

“The principals, teachers and parents are most important,” he said. “Holding principals accountable is the key. That means the principal and the teachers are a key. But the teachers can’t do the education alone. And nobody has been as vocal about the role of parents as I’ve been.”

Emanuel said he wants a fully-funded after school program.

He then said the city high schools with the top test scores outside Northside College Prep and Walter Payton are the charter schools.

He left out Whitney Young, Jones College Prep, Gwendolyn Brooks Academy, Lane Tech Academy and Lincoln Park.

“I know you hate Race to the Top, but I happen to like it,” Emanuel said.

Race to the Top is sponsored by the Obama administration, which holds public schools accountable via more standardized testing and mandates more charter schools.

Emanuel helped elect Obama and served as his chief of staff before rushing back to Chicago flush with corporate and Hollywood cash to take the reins of the retiring Daley machine.

Emanuel told the committee that he will have an Innovation Fund to help schools which improve by providing them with more resources.

While certain CPS public schools with the largest test score gains have received cash bonuses in the past, the twist now is the source of funding will be private and not public.

Emanuel explained that he will have a parent contract to hold the parents accountable. He called it “Jeremiah’s Contract.”

But the PAC committee argued that such a contract is unfair for the children whose parents would not sign the contract, including those facing alcohol or drug problems, homelessness, prison and any other array of problems many inner city school children face on a daily basis.

He quickly brushed off any criticism.

“We need accountability,” he said in response. “We’re going to use success. Show me your policy. I showed you my means, you give me yours.”

One committee member said it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about helping everyone. Emanuel appeared to roll his eyes at the suggestion that the capitalist method of rewarding winners will not work.

Emanuel said he thinks the TIFs should provide more money to the schools.

He said he is a big supporter of the Academy of Urban School Leadership or AUSL schools, and would like to see their number double to 20. During his campaign most of the public schools he visited were turnaround schools like Bethune Elementary, which is now run by AUSL following its closing (and the firing of almost all of its teachers) two years ago.

He said he wants a new curriculum so that Chicago will be the first city with common core standards.

“I talked to Gates about funding it,” he said.

Billionaire Bill Gates is currently funding charter schools, teacher accountability tied to test scores and pension reform that guts teachers’ defined benefits.

Many of the aldermanic candidates the CTU endorsed in the last election signed a pledge for no more charter schools in their wards.

“I told Karen charters were designed as a checkmate on vouchers in the 90s,” he said. “I’m not religious about charters. They fail, we shut them down. Take out Walter Payton and Northside College Prep, the top performing high schools are all charters. I’m opposed to vouchers, but charters I like as a choice. (But) they’re not the holy grail.”

Concerns were raised from the committee about how it is unfair that charters can select students from outside an attendance boundary, and that they do not have to service children with special needs.

“I’m more than willing to look at residency and the special education kids,” he said. “I’m willing to look at charters to take kids who are dumped out on the street.”

The fact is there are charters which are alternative schools with troubled students. However, CPS strategy is to only punish public schools with low test scores, not the charters, most of whom did not make the annual yearly progress that NCLB and Race to the Top demand.

“We have differences,” he said. “You’re president told me I’m full of shit. The only people who took a shot at me was this union.”

Emanuel said he is willing to work with the teachers union, despite the rudeness he perceives.

“We’ll be collaborative,” Emanuel said. “You can’t build legislation without working collaborative. I’m a very partisan Democrat. You’ll always have an open door … You have an opportunity with a new mayor. I bet you I surprise you more than you think.”

With that, the mayor/ former ‘relationship’ banker who made almost $20 million in less than two years in banking, got up and said the meeting was over, he had to go.

He did say on his way out that the teachers’ current pensions are safe, countering what he told the Chicago Federation of Labor earlier. He earlier told the CFL that the city would have to take a look at the city workers’ current pensions due to city budget woes.


April 10, 2011 at 12:04 AM

By: Nick


Where does Rahm get this information that says "after Payton and Northside the top performing schools are charters?" I can't stand him and his lies.

April 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM

By: Susan Ohanian

Gates, Common Core, & Chicago

Fascinating that Emanuel has asked Gates to fund Common Core in Chicago. This will follow in the tradition Chicago premiering Mastery Learning--and all those scripted lessons Chicago already has. . . except that it will be even more devastating. "Little Women" for 8th graders, "As I Laying Dying" for 11th.

April 12, 2011 at 12:50 AM

By: Jonathan

Rahm is Scott Walker in Democratic Drag

He's a republican with gay friends. There is very little daylight between his views on collective bargaining and Scott Walker's views on unions.

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