Schmidt letter the Sun-Times wouldn't print

On May 4 I sent the following letter by email to the Chicago Sun-Times after I read the silly Op Ed that the Sun-Times printed on behalf of the subsidized groups that oppose the union. To no surprise, it was never published. Here it is in full:

The May 4 Op Ed ("CTU's reckless strike talk...") by Rebecca Nieves Huffman from the recently established Illinois chapter of DFER is what is reckless and inflammatory — not the careful preparation by the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union which is following the draconian provisions of the current Illinois law to prepared its members, while negotiating, for a strike which is long overdue. I say this as a parent (two boys currently in CPS), a retired teacher, and a reporter who has covered the schools for more than 30 years.

Nieves Huffman doesn't speak for me, and her distortions of the past year (during which the Illinois version of "Democrats for Education Reform" came into existence and Ms. Nieves Huffman spoke once to the school board) are the problems with the current discussions about the schools.

Using all the inflammatory rhetoric about teachers strikes that is readily available in the talking point arsenal of the right wing, she acts as if things would be fine in Chicago's public schools if only CTU leaders would sit down, shut up, and do what they were told by the latest group of outsiders heading the school system.

It is Ms. Nieves Huffman and her well financed allies — not the leaders of the CTU — who are inflammatory. The first time I heard a Chicago teacher strikes referred to as a "nuclear option" was when the head of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club used that inflammatory phrase during the hearings more than a year ago on what became SB7 (the law requiring CTU to go through the current processes in order to hold a legal strike if necessary).

To claim that the longest school day was opposed by the CTU "bosses" is inflammatory. As a parent and a union member, I oppose and opposed it. We weren't asked, and it has become clear since the obnoxious attempts to implement it by the Brizard administration that it was a bad idea. The only parents to be found supporting the (changing) plans for the Chicago longest school day thrust are those who, like Ms. Nieves Huffman, work for or in alliance with the well-funded (by the plutocrats) "reform" groups like the infamous "Stand for Children" and her newer incarnation of the same ideas with the same funding. The majority of parents oppose the longest school day for the reasons which have been repeated over and over since Mayor Emanuel pushed the idea a year ago. A bad idea doesn't get better with age.

I was part of the strikes of the 1970s and 1980s, and there is no honest version of history in Chicago that can support the silly claims raised now by Ms. Nieves Huffman (and I am sure soon the other subsidized mouthpieces of the same plutocracy). In fact, during the year after our longest strike (which I helped organize in 1987), test scores in both Chicago's elementary and high schools rose at the highest rate in ten years! The reason for that fact is that when teachers returned to work at the end of that strike, we all worked together (in most cases, with our principals) to make it "work" at every school, and the results showed in every way.

Since Chicago teachers have been placed under the tyranny of mayoral control in 1995, the struggles of the school system have become worse and worse, just as the lies and talking points (such as those repeated by DFER, the Civic Committee, Advance Illinois, and Stand for Children — to name just four of the well subsidized echo chambers of the same talking points) are repeated over and over and over.

The years when Chicago teachers had full rights were good years for Chicago's schools, despite the Big Lie repeated every since. A strike is indeed a sad event, but if a strike is necessary to puncture, finally, the lies of the current plutocrats, then that is what has to be.


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