Working people lost an important leader; it was right and just to have published the CASE

I write this to honor my friend and comrade, George Schmidt. I knew George from his work with Substance and CTU while I worked with FairTest (now retired as its executive director).

Monty Neill and George Schmidt present information on standardized testing in December 2001.

When he was attacked and faced the loss of his job for publishing the items from CPS’ own ludicrously awful exam (even by the low standards of standardized tests), I was eager to do my best to help George keep his job while we both made it clear it was right and just to publish those tests. But the system got its revenge for George’s years of union activism and Substance. CPS did not care that the students lost a vital classroom teacher.

I view it as a great privilege to have been able to work with and in Chicago off and on for many years because I met so many wonderful, strong people who sustained the valiant struggle for high-quality, equitable schooling and, more broadly, social and racial justice. George was among them. (I want most especially to also mention Julie Woestehoff and the late Lauren Allen.)

We certainly battled it out at times over strategy and tactics, but we never forgot we were in it together. George could be funny and we often laughed a lot. He was thoughtful and kind (a common characteristic of so many I have met in Chicago.) He was strongly grounded in knowledge of political theory and history, which he melded with his rich lode of personal experience. So I could always learn from him, both in our at-times heated debates as well as when we were working together.

I also was glad to have met Sharon and I send my condolences and best wishes to her and George’s family.

Working people lost a hero and an important leader with George’s passing. He helped make sure there are more to keep the struggles going and he left an important legacy. I miss him.


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