Defending education from privatisation and corporate interests: 26,000 Chicago teachers are on strike this week, for the first time in 25 years. Chicago has the third biggest school system in the US, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union is taking action aga …

Walton Pantland

Defending education from privatisation and corporate interests: 26,000 Chicago teachers are on strike this week, for the first time in 25 years. Chicago has the third biggest school system in the US, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union is taking action against the Mayor’s broken promises. Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, reneged on an agreed 4% pay rise, though a more fundamental issue is resistance to the ‘business model‘ of education.

Chicago’s teachers say that education is being undermined by a new system that focuses entirely on test scores, and disciplines teachers whose students don’t perform well. The teachers say this approach ignores other factors, like growing class sizes, poverty and a shortage of school books, and that teaching students to pass tests is not good education.

The strike is significant because it pits Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, against the teachers’ union. Emmanuel is President Obama’s former chief of staff, and teachers have traditionally been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. In an election year, where Obama is struggling to mobilise his base, this struggle has wider consequences.

And it’s not just Chicago that is experiencing this problem: 300,000 education workers have lost their jobs since 2009, and teachers across the country complain about a lack of respect for the profession, as they are regularly attacked for poor standards in schools.

Even Hollywood, with films like Won’t back Down, has joined in the attack on teachers.

Many teachers fear that corporate interests wanting to use software to teach classes are behind the attack.

For more information, see our Snip.It page, the Chicago Teachers’ Union website and Facebook page, and the pool of strike pictures on Flickr.

You can take action here.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar

Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

Read All Articles