I’ve speculated the American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten may be secretly dismayed by a strike that she publicly supports. Here’s Hess’s (rather similar) take
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has been careful to not embrace her Chicago chapter too closely, and to sound statesmanlike in public remarks. The difference couldn’t be starker from the incendiary language she used in attacking Gov. Scott Walker during the 2011 battle royale over collective bargaining legislation in Wisconsin.
“What’s different is that this is a bad fight for the teacher unions – most of the public, seeing the facts, will not be on their side – it comes at an awful time, and an ugly defeat could be a crushing blow.” What’s different is that this is a bad fight for the teacher unions – most of the public, seeing the facts, will not be on their side – it comes at an awful time, and an ugly defeat could be a crushing blow.
The bottom line:
The typical Chicago Public Schools teacher makes $76,000 a year for working less than 200 days. CPS teachers work the shortest school day of any city in country, in a district with a 16-to-1 student-teacher ratio and per pupil spending of more than $13,000 a year. These arrangements have yielded a 60% graduation rate, in a district where more than 97% of teachers are rated effective.
The high stakes for President Obama:
Things get especially dicey for the president. Obama probably can’t afford to undercut a major public employees’ union less than two months before the election. He needs all those union households in Ohio and Wisconsin to be energized about casting their ballots and working the phones. But neither can the president let swing voters who like his reform bona fides see him walking away from his former chief-of-staff or his own reform agenda. That would allow Romney to argue that the president is all talk on school reform.
Lacking good choices, the president has thus far tried to stay out of it. The White House is leaning on its friends in Chicago to get a deal done, fast, before the president starts getting pressed to take a side.
Finally, Hess again acknowledges that the teachers unions are making some valid points . . . but following a strategy that probably undermines their position
Lost in the furor is that the union actually has some valid points to make, on school closures and teacher evaluation. For instance: There are reasonable concerns about simple-minded teacher evaluation that relies too heavily on students’ reading and math scores, or on a handful of cookie-cutter classroom observations. In choosing to strike rather than negotiate, however, the CTU has ensured that any legitimate concerns have been swept under by politics and the passion.