The teacher strike in Chicago is more than just about salaries, benefits, and collective bargaining.It is more about the struggle between the visions of two liberal personalities than anything else: Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union and Rahm Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago. The issues are indicative of the split among Democrats between those who want to strengthen the public schools and those who want to go in the Charter School direction in line with Democrats for Education Reform.
If you want to see Karen Lewis in action, there is a 35-minute video of this formidable union president speaking at a Conference for Social Justice. Pacing the stage like a stand-up comedian, she admits that she is fat and has to lose weight. She said:
I am the only black woman in the class of 1974 from Dartmouth College. Woo. People are impressed. Let me tell you, I spent those years smoking lots of weed, self-medicating. Self-medicating, thank you. Sounds like you all did it too. Oh, I’m sorry there are kids here. I wasn’t supposed to say that, right? Too late!
She is highly intelligent, strongly motivated, and determined to fight the trend away from public schools.She has called Rahm Emanuel a bully and a liar. She asked him why he wanted to add 90 minutes to the school day. Her answer: it had nothing to do with education. It was to keep the 350,000 school kids off the streets an hour and a half longer. Chicago is having a severe problem with gang violence, and keeping the kids in school longer is expected to help alleviate the problem.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)