Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
A few months ago I wrote an open letter to you about why I will not teach in your schools. You, and your corporate education reform buddies, are turning our schools into testing factories. You use punishment and fear--I believe you call it "accountability"--to wield unlimited power over teachers and students. You starve schools, deny them vital services, unilaterally demand a longer school day with no new resources, write off 25% of our city's youth as disposable, allow racist and ageist hiring and firing policies to persist, and then callously sell off our schools to your venture capitalist buddies like Bruce Rauner or Juan Rangel, all while acting like you are doing something "for the children".
You, sir, do not even know the children.
Can you tell me the children's names? Their talents, their fears, their hopes and dreams? Because I, and the other teachers in Chicago, can.
But Chicago's teachers did something amazing last week. They stood up to your terrible, racist, cruel policies and said "no more".
Thanks to those teachers, I believe the Chicago Public School system is a place I would once again consider working.
Their new contract has many wonderful provisions such as adding $1.5 million dollars for more special education teachers, a promise to hire more social workers, nurses, and counselors, a guarantee to have textbooks on the first day of class, an increase from $100 to $250 given to teachers for supplies, new clauses about including parents on class size monitoring committees, $.5 million dollars for class size reductions, allowing teachers to follow their own lesson plan formats instead of using the top-down mandated one, an anti-bullying clause against workplace bullying by poor administrators, and 600 new music, art, and gym teachers. The CTU also stopped the collaborative-culture-crushing idea of merit pay, preserved steps and lanes in the salary schedule to ensure we value experience and education in our teaching workforce, and kept the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation to the legal minimum.
But more than the victories in the new contract, I would once again work in CPS because of the rank and file teachers. Chicago's teachers have remembered something this country forgot decades ago:
Power conceded nothing without a demand--Fredrick Douglas
I would be excited to join my brothers and sisters in demanding better schools for all children. I would proudly join those who fight for equality, for educational justice for all students regardless of zip code. I would gladly go back to Chicago's classrooms and help children both through my classroom practice and through the work of social justice outside the classroom.
Mr. Mayor, I would go back to Chicago's schools IN SPITE of you.
This I know: you are wrong. You know nothing about education or our students. And the battle for great schools is not over. Teachers are a hard-working bunch who know how to persevere through trying circumstances. And they have right on their side. They fight for actual precious human beings. And like the mother defending her young, they will never give up the fight to protect their students.
So Mr. Mayor, I suggest you step back and let teachers lead the way. Abandon your call to close 100 more schools. Forget the twisted logic of your corporate elitist friends.
And to any progressive, free-thinking, social-justice minded principals out there: Do you need a special education teacher?