Tag Archives: Chicago Education

Chicago Teachers: Battle Racist Education

CHICAGO, September 18 — The strike of 26,000 rank-and-file teachers who broke the bosses’ law in fighting to defend their students was suspended today after a vote of 800 delegates in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), pending a membership-wide vote over the next several weeks.

This was a strike for the students and their parents. The teachers’ fight is one which opposes the school bosses racist oppression of the students. The teachers are fighting for better learning conditions for students and better working conditions for themselves. Many were open to Progressive Labor Party’s ideas and leadership shown by over 2,000 CHALLENGES and tens of thousands of fliers were distributed, and several teachers’ agreed to work more closely and learn more about the PLP.

The strike demonstrated that workers, united can defy the bosses’ laws. When teachers strike they openly defy the state’s plan to indoctrinate the next generation of workers in the classroom.

The teachers struck against racism. More than 80 percent of Chicago students are black and Latino and the school bosses run a system founded on racist discrimination that drives students into low-wage jobs, mass unemployment or the military, to kill our sister and brother workers in imperialist wars.

During the strike, the rank and file picketed every one of the system’s 585 schools, every day. Daily rallies of tens of thousands of people, including parents, students, and workers from other unions backed the strikers. Members who had formerly been inactive learned what it means to fight back against the boss. Others stepped forward into leadership roles. A strike changes people!

Smash the Bosses’ Dictatorship

This is only one battle in a long class war of workers against bosses that can be won only when the rulers’ state apparatus is smashed by a communist revolution led a by PLP.

The bosses are pushing their agenda to indoctrinate working class students and blaming teachers for capitalist failures. The leaders of the national unions are helping them; while the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten reluctantly came out in support of the strike. The fact is the trade unions as a whole, including the AFT and the National Education Association are partners with the bosses in opening the door to “reforms”. This will break seniority by re-writing tenure and starting the process to make teacher evaluation dependent on phony test scores.

The strike has already inspired millions of workers and youth and set an example of what kind of fight-back is possible. The experience of defying the bosses’ laws must be extended to a strike against their closing of even one school.

With the national elections just weeks away, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reminds us that we live under a class dictatorship and that the state apparatus (the government) serves the ruling class of billionaires, bankers and school reformers no matter which party is in the White House. The bosses and their politicians may disagree on how to save the U.S. empire but they are united on keeping their class in power and terrorizing workers and youth into accepting a future of racist terror, poverty and war. And part of the bosses’’ purpose in cutting back school budgets is to use these resources to fight their continuing imperialist oil wars.

The legal system that attacked this strike is the same court system and ruling class government that has:

• Enacted laws in Illinois, backed by both parties and signed by a Democratic Party governor forcing teachers to have a super majority (70 percent) to call a strike but CTU members smashed that barrier with a 90 percent vote;

• Passed another law that if a teachers’ strike “presents a clear and present danger,” the Mayor and school bosses can use the courts to force them back to work;

• Created the world’s largest prison population, over 2.4 million, 70% black and Latino;

• Deported over 400,000 immigrants last year alone, with tens of thousands more sitting in immigration jails, separated from family and friends;

• Foreclosed the homes of millions of workers and their families since the economic crash of 2008;

This ruling-class dictatorship must be smashed and replaced by dictatorship of the workers, in which millions of workers and youth will serve the needs of the international working class.

The strike helped expose the Democratic Party and its revolving door between the White House and Chicago’s City Hall. This includes Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief-of Staff (who was replaced by William Daley) and now head of Obama’s political fund-raising committee; Arne Duncan, national education Czar and former Chicago school boss; and Obama himself, former Illinois Senator.

Part of this bosses’ dictatorship is the use of their election circus in which both political parties are used to divert workers from looking to revolt against the ruling class that exploit us. By continuing the fight, the teachers will continue to get the support of parents, students and workers from all industries, in Chicago and beyond. PLP can expose the bosses’ class dictatorship, point workers in another direction, off the treadmill of endless reform and onto the road to revolution, a vital lesson that educators can learn on and off the picket lines!

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Billionaires Rule the Schools, but — REAL Education Comes from Class Struggle vs. Capitalism

As the economic crisis and wars abroad deepen, the U.S. ruling class has moved toward more direct control of the schools nationwide. In New York, billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg runs the city’s school system on a corporate model, with lawyers and business people in top leadership roles while teachers and school staffers are downsized. This structure attacks the students, the working-class of the next generation.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed a new school board full of corporate “movers and shakers” like board chair David Vitale, the former vice-chairman and director of JPMorgan Chase, and Penny Pritzker of the Hyatt Hotel dynasty. John Veasy, the Los Angeles schools superintendent, worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and completed an executive training program funded by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.

In spite of rhetoric to the contrary, these billionaires and millionaires have no intention of creating policies to benefit students. Children who attend urban public schools are disproportionately black, Latino and low-income, the children of the same workers these bosses exploit. The racist segregation of housing and education in the U.S. makes poor black and Latino students the most likely victims of closed schools, empty test-prep curricula, and inexperienced teachers.

In this still-racist (not “post-racial”) country, children of the most exploited workers, including the unemployed, are the ones most likely to attend schools where rigid obedience is demanded and rote learning is the norm. The critical analysis skills that all students need are the last thing the rulers want most of them to learn.

The degraded conditions of these schools — and of an economic system that thrives on low-wage/no-wage workers — push nearly half of their students to leave without having graduated. The system needs only a handful of working-class students to be well-educated, for skills the bosses need and for use as misleaders of the mass of workers who are left behind by the school system.

Members of the ruling class are directly funding “reforms” in education through the Broad and Gates foundations, along with Walton Family Foundation and groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Educators 4 Excellence. The new Chicago schools’ CEO is Jean-Claude Brizard, who left his job as the Rochester (NY) superintendent of schools with a 95% no-confidence vote from teachers and a similar lack of support from parents and community members. Brizard is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, described by James Horn, of the blog Schools Matter, as “Eli Broad’s corporate training school … for future superintendents who… [learn] to hand over their systems to the Business Roundtable.”

This stepped-up corporate control is both about making money in the short run and trying to save capitalism over the long haul. A revolving door of new, lower-paid teachers saves public systems money, while attacks on teachers’ unions and pension funds are cutting wages and benefits for all education workers.

More fundamentally, the nationalization of education will prepare workers for increased fascism and war by defining the ideas taught to youth. Common Core State Standards and the accompanying battery of tests (now in development) will advance the centralized control of the content of education. By tying seniority, pay, and job security to teacher evaluation and student test scores, the ruling class hopes to develop a teaching force that shies away from independent thinking, both for themselves and their students. The end goal is a working class trained to be loyal to U.S. imperialism and willing to fight in wars to defend it.

All unions, including the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, work within the framework of a capitalist system that aims to destroy their members. The NEA leadership recently pledged to support President Barack Obama in spite of his implementation of Race to the Top, a policy that forces corporate-style reforms upon public schools. At its last convention, the AFT honored Bill Gates, the champion of larger class sizes — the key to massive teacher layoffs — in urban schools.

Both of these national unions have many members and local leaders who are fighting the attacks on education, like the “anti-billionaires” campaign of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Unions, however, are bound by the confines of the capitalist system. They negotiate contracts and lobby for laws that set the terms of workers’ exploitation. The CTU cuts deals with politicians when it should be organizing its militant rank-and-file to fight. Recent legislation agreed to by CTU leaders makes it harder to strike and undermines seniority protections for teachers. In reality, workers can never win in the legislative arena; any “victories” are short-term and can always be taken away by the class that rules.

The real value of class struggle doesn’t lie in the reform crumbs that workers may or may not win, but in the experience of fighting the bosses — an experience that too few workers have today. (In 2010, there were only 11 major strikes in the U.S., compared to more than 4,000 strikes in 1937.)

Communists advocate breaking the rules, and to fight back wherever we can. The mothers at Whittier School in Chicago did this last fall, when they took over a building to demand a library. In Brooklyn, students, teachers, and parents recently joined together to demand that the racist Department of Education withdraw its plan to insert an elite school into the John Jay Campus, where black and Latino students face prison-like security scanning and under-funding. Currently, students at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn are battling a trumped-up investigation of PLP teachers.

Militant fighting is insufficient; it needs to be coupled with a revolutionary communist outlook and a long-term struggle against capitalist ideology. We must understand how ideas like individualism, racism, nationalism, and class unity with the bosses are built into the schools’ curricula. To keep our students from killing and dying for capitalism, communist teachers must win other teachers and students to see through the rulers’ lies. We must learn and teach the skills of scientific analysis, the true history of workers’ struggles, and the multi-racial, international unity required for revolution. This is the role of a communist education, and the goal of PLP: to build an army of workers and students to destroy the profit system, once and for all

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