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New leadership for Chicago teachers

As new and old reports at Catalyst and Gapers Block indicate, CORE’s victory in Friday’s teachers union election reflected the group’s activist orientation and commitment to grassroots organizing, in schools and with communities.

“We energized the grassroots,” said one CORE member.

CORE came on the scene two years ago and immediately provided a citywide organizational structure for a movement against Renaissance 2010 that had yet to gain much traction.

Before CORE, small community and education groups committed to the  original school reform agenda of parent empowerment and improving neighborhood schools – along with parents at separate schools scrambling desperately to oppose closings in a very short window of time – had been limited to school-by-school struggles.

CORE was crucial in forming the Grassroots Education Movement, which gave the movement against Renaissance 2010 a citywide scope and strategic vision.

Arne Duncan left for Washington and Ron Huberman took over at CPS last year as CORE and GEM’s first drive against closings crested, and in response to protests and the exposure of faulty CPS data, Huberman decided to take six schools off the closing list.  It was the first time anything like that had ever happened.

This year, another anti-closings campaign — which won the support of several aldermen — forced Huberman to admit “the process is flawed” and to take six of fourteen school closings and turnarounds off the table.

On its website CORE attributes these victories to an approach which “built partnerships with our natural allies and empowered members to stand up for their profession, their jobs and their schools.”  Activism, organizing, coalition-building.

In remarks Saturday morning at King College Prep, CTU president-elect Karen Lewis made it clear that defending against the attacks on teachers and on public education which underlie much of the current “reform” agenda is high on her agenda.

“Today marks the beginning of the end of scapegoating educators,” she said.

She railed against “corporate heads and politicians” who “have never sat one minute on this side of the teacher’s desk” and “do not have a clue about teaching and learning.”  But “they’re the ones calling the shots, and we’re supposed to accept it as ‘reform.'”

Asked if she had a message for Mayor Daley and schools chief Ron Huberman, she said, “I want them to appreciate what educators do.”

(CORE has posted Lewis’s remarks, and WBEZ has audio.)

First, though, comes discussions over Huberman’s proposals to lay off teachers and raise class size, and Lewis called on CPS to disclose “all the financial details” of how it spends its money — including vendor and consulting contracts– including how charter schools spend the taxpayer money they get, “because to date, we have not seen charter schools’ financials” – and including an estimated $250 million a year in TIF money that would otherwise be going to schools.

She called on Daley to put his political weight behind an effort to end the state’s overreliance on property tax funding for schools and the drastic inequities that result from it.  And she rejected the notion “that access to high quality education for all children is a luxury that we simply can’t afford.”

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Category: CPS, education, labor, school closings, school reform, schools

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