Mayor Rahm Emanuel went on TV after the teachers’ strike with an ad declaring victory. (Not for himself, of course. For the kids.) Here’s what he had to say.
"Like all Chicagoans, I’m glad the strike is over. These were difficult negotiations, but here’s what we achieved: a full day for our kids, so they can meet their full potential; principals will have the freedom to hire the best teachers; parents retain the right to choose the best school for their kids, and for the first time, student achievement will be part of a teacher’s evaluation. Change is never easy, and this contract certainly wasn’t, but more time in class and more accountability is the right deal for our kids."
The most interesting part of the ad, which was produced by AKPD, the media relations firm founded by David Axelrod, was the tag at the end: paid for Education Reform Now Advocacy. That’s an organization that, according to its founder -- Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform -- seeks to elect politicians “less beholden to teachers unions.”
Here’s what Progress Illinois had to say about Education Reform Now in June, when the group was attempting to influence the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike authorization vote”
The one outside group that has indisputably stepped into the collective bargaining fray is Education Reform Now, which is headquartered in New York and has seven state branch offices including Wisconsin, but none in Illinois.
Last week, the group placed automated calls to CPS parents that scolded CTU for holding a strike authorization vote. The vote, which started June 6 and ended June 8, resulted in almost 90 percent of CTU members putting their support behind a strike authorization – clearing a 75 percent threshold imposed by state law, and giving CTU the option to strike if negotiations break down.
In the “robo-call,” a woman identifying herself as a Local School Council member says that, “Teachers deserve a raise. But it bothers me that the union is taking a strike vote before an independent arbitrator offers a compromise.”
In response to questions about the robo-call and their involvement in contract talks, Jake Breymaier, advocacy director for the group, released a statement saying, “Education Reform Now is advocating for a solution that avoids a strike and does what is best for Chicago’s children.”
Education Reform Now has previously involved itself in school board races in Buffalo and Milwaukee. Its board of directors is made up of executives at the hedge funds Hawkshaw Capital, Gotham Capital, SAC Capital and Maverick Capital. According to the Milwaukee Express, “this group of pro-privatizers is made up mainly of conservative Democrats who see an enhanced role for the free market in public education in the form of vouchers, charter schools and mayor-led districts.”
Mayor Emanuel could not have invented an organization that hews more closely to his professional background or political philosophy. Obviously, it's smart for them to ally with Democrats, since Democrats run most big-city school districts. Since the Chicago Teachers Union deliberately timed its contract to coincide with the next mayoral election, thus making it a referendum on the mayor’s educational policy, expect to hear from Education Reform Now again in 2015.
This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.