Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rahm-bo tactics, not school talk, is what has teachers upset about extension

In theory, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is being rational and reasonable in his talk of wanting to extend the length of the school day in the Chicago Public Schools system.
EMANUEL: Tough talk ticks off teachers

A little more class time and a few more school days isn’t an unreasonable request. The idea of a school day that starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. – about 90 minutes per day more than what is currently being offered – is not a radical concept.

YET I CAN fully appreciate why school teachers are offended these days and are talking about the need for additional compensation if they’re going to be expected to do more work.

It’s because we’re getting Rahm-bo at work. Meaning, that persona Emanuel developed as a ranking advisor in the Bill Clinton White House and as chief of staff under President Barack Obama.

The tough-talking, hard-nosed guy who would engage in hard-core politics and pressure others into accepting his way.

This is the guy who got health care reform passed despite a vocal Republican opposition that was determined to do whatever it could to thwart it (and now openly talks about the day when they can try to repeal it – no matter what benefits it provides for our society).

EMANUEL IS NO longer taking on the House Republican caucus. Now, he has the Chicago Teachers Union in his sights.

Which is why he’s spewing the rhetoric meant to make schoolteachers think they ought to be grateful to be employed in any fashion. That might get the anti-union types off his back for a bit. But it’s not going to win over those people who aren’t interested in playing partisan politics – and actually have education issues on their minds.

They are taking it poorly. Just last week, Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis was in the East Side neighborhood with a lot of those Wisconsin labor leaders who led those nationally-covered protests at the Statehouse in Madison, Wis.

Emanuel’s name got taken in vain on many an occasion – and his actions were compared negatively to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels – both of whom tried their own tactics this spring to try to take down their own teachers unions and their collective bargaining rights.

THAT’S GREAT COMPANY he’s putting himself into. And there is a touch of truth in the teacher retort that it wasn't their $40,000 pensions that put the Chicago Public Schools in financial distress.

But then again, there are those people who take an interest in immigration reform and the distinct lack of interest that the Obama Administration showed in the issue during the Emanuel years, and we start to wonder if Emanuel has some sort of hang-up against the people who theoretically are supposed to be his allies.

Because the opposition is those people who are disgusted with Emanuel because he succeeds even though he has ties to Clinton and Obama – and ought to be tainted beyond redemption if their view of the world were to prevail.

It just seems to me that Emanuel is going out of his way to tick off the people among the school teachers who ought to be his biggest supporters – and also are the ones who deal with the daily reality of what is wrong with the public schools system in this city.

IT’S NOT GOING to be pretty. It certainly wasn’t on Tuesday – which was the first day of school within the Chicago Public Schools system.

Emanuel made a point of offering “incentives” to the administration of every single public school in Chicago, provided they accepted his desire for a longer school day.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel offered schools $150,000 and individual teachers a $1,250 raise – if they shifted to a longer school day beginning now. If they make the shift in January, the schools would get $75,000, and the teacher raises would only be $800.

Realize that the $1,250 and $800 raises are for the entire school year. That ain’t much. The 2 percent boost can be seen as about an extra $40 per week.

FOR EMANUEL TO try to portray these boosts as something significant that the teachers should be thankful for is as pompous and arrogant a stance as the anti-labor activists like to think the unions themselves are making.

If this has become a fight of arrogance versus arrogance, then this is a political battle that will become incredibly ugly. Even though I don’t sense a strike anytime soon, I can’t help but wonder if this is going to be the trigger that will result in future incidents that will pile up – one on top of the other – until teachers feel they have no choice but to walk.

Would Emanuel be the type of mayor who would have his appointees who run the Chicago Public Schools try to impose scab school teachers in such an event? That would be a unique condition. I hope it never gets close to being that outrageous.

Because it already has become ridiculous enough. Like I wrote earlier, the demands themselves aren’t unreasonable.

KEEP IN MIND that Tuesday was the first day of school in the Chicago Public Schools system – which by tradition waits until after Labor Day to start classes.

Their suburban counterparts and the city’s private schools, many of whom are routinely outperforming the city public school students, have already been in class for two to three weeks – depending on which school district is involved.

It’s too bad that the mayoral arrogance covers up the truth of that statement.


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