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CORE in Philadelphia as Chicago and Philadelphia teachers increase solidarity

[Editor's Note: A video of a recent visit by Chicago Teachers Union activists from CORE has been put into a video and comment from teachers and others in Philadelphia. The material was published in the Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook, a local publication. Philadelpha has been facing the same corporate attacks from corporate "school reform" since Paul Vallas was put in charge of the Phildelphia public schools after being ousted by former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2001. Philadelphia has since the Vallas days been facing the same corporate "school reform" attacks as Chicago has faced. Whether it is in Philadelphia facing the mayoral appointed "School Reform Commission" or in Chicago facing the mayoral appointed "Chicago Board of Education," teachers, parents, and students are facing the same corporate attacks on real public schools: irrelevant high stakes testing; school closings; charter schools attacks on real public schools; union busting (and union reactionaries...The URL for the Philadelphia video is: http://thenotebook.org/blog/135750/looking-chicago-example-philadelphia-teachers ].

As the struggle for the future of public education continues in Philadelphia, this video presents the Chicago Teachers Union as an example of how to fight and win.

In September 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union led a successful seven-day strike that gathered widespread public support and a new vision of quality public education for all students. At the heart of the successes of Chicago teachers was the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, a small group of teachers that organized with the community to build a broad base of support for public education.

Chicago is now debating massive school closings. In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission will close 23 schools this year. Despite outrage and protests, Philly’s schools could soon see even more cuts as teachers are threatened with increased class sizes, no guarantee of teaching supplies, and reduced pay in their upcoming contract.

In Chicago, teachers won because they fought for a better education for their students and fought together with the community. As Debby Pope of the Chicago Teachers Union points out in the video: "We also knew that the media, our enemies, the board of education, and the people with the big bucks… would be painting a picture of us as greedy teachers… and we knew that the best way to answer them was not us standing there saying, 'Oh no, that’s not true,' but to be standing there arm in arm with our allies, showing whose side we were on and who were our friends, who were our supporters, and who were we fighting for."

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union point to this new model as social justice unionism, and see teachers and their union playing a vital role in building the type of power needed to secure equity in our education system.

In November, Teacher Action Group worked with the Labor Working Group to bring the Chicago teachers to Philadelphia and continue to organize for equity in public education. Inspired by the model, Anissa Weinraub, a member of TAG's Philadelphia chapter, remarked, "They say a student's learning conditions are our working conditions. ... What do students in our schools and our communities deserve … and how can we push and use our numbers to make sure that everyone on my hallway is a part of this at my school?"

Watch the full video produced by Media Mobilizing Project for perspectives and lessons from the Chicago Teachers Union and CORE during their visit to Philadelphia.

Milena Velis is the media educator/organizer at Media Mobilizing Project.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.



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