2012-09-28 / Columnists

School Scope

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel To Remove His Children From Exclusive Lab School
By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott [Warning: Satire Alert]

Celebrating the end of the strike and embarrassed over Chicago parent Matt Farmer’s revelations of the kinds of privileges children enjoy at the Lab School, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he will remove his children from the elite school immediately and place them in schools in Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods.

Emanuel made his decision after viewing a video (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=IMUboOIQT48) of Farmer comparing the services – small class sizes, libraries, physical education, books, working bathrooms – Emanuel’s and other kids, the Obama kids included, enjoyed at the Lab School, services denied to the majority of Chicago public school students.

Emanuel was so shaken he was heard to say, “WTF.”

Emanuel is actively searching for the most under-resourced schools with the highest class sizes he can find for his children. President Obama announced if he should lose the election and have to go back to Chicago he will follow Emanuel’s lead and place Sasha and Malia in the same school Emanuel chooses for his kids.

Emanuel felt challenged to prove wrong the Chicago Teachers Union’s claims that learning in class sizes over 40 in non-air conditioned rooms with few wraparound services can be harmful to kids. “Mr. Emanuel will show how his own kids can learn in these conditions as well as they did at the Lab School,” said a spokesperson for the Mayor.

“Rahm is actively searching through a list of the most under-resourced schools with the highest class sizes he can find to make his point. His problem is that there are so many choices – and the Mayor does believe in choice – he is having trouble making up his mind from the hundreds of schools starved of resources. He has found classes over 50 but is still looking, sure he can find class sizes that will break the 60 barrier. The more the merrier,” said the spokesperson.

After Emanuel’s children get the highest scores in the school - and if they don’t he will put them up for adoption – he and Obama will make a joint announcement that the school will be closed and all the teachers fired.

Emanuel had no comment other than to say, “A GIANT F- YOU TO KAREN LEWIS.”

When I wrote this satire on my blog just as the 7-day Chicago teacher strike was ending, I was surprised at how many people took it seriously. That it was inconceivable that the elite were pushing policies they reject for their own kids down the throats of everyone else – like how could Emanuel not be against class sizes over 40 while his own kids go to a school with half that number? There is much irony in Emanuel’s push for a longer day and being praised in the partisan press for it while ignoring the fact that an extra hour a day with high class sizes is like locking the cage and throwing away the key. Imagine those 40 kids, oh, say, around 4:00 – I shudder just thinking about it.

Funny, but I’m reminded of how I pitied Yeshiva kids who had to go to school until 4 when I was a kid. I know teachers today who teach after school in Yeshivas and tell horror stories. The union was not opposing the longer day but calling for the time to be used constructively with services that would make the time a little more stimulating to kids – and teachers. Oh, and they also wanted to be paid for the time – which turns out to be a chunk of the “raise” they got. They maintained the salary steps, which Emanuel was intending to cancel (you know, a first year teacher is as good as a 10-year teacher and should get paid the same) and beat back merit pay for high test scores.

People not following the Chicago story or the battle over education reform in general and may have thought the Democrats are lined up with teachers, told me they were surprised that Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, would take such a hard line. People should follow the ball – and the money. Pretty much all politicians from both parties have jumped on the “teacher as scapegoat” party line. Chicago teachers had had it with the Obama education policies that flowed out of their city to blanket the nation, with former Chicago Superintendent Arne Duncan using his position as Education Secretary to use Race To The Top money to force states into adopting policies that have proven to be failures wherever they have been tried.

One interesting aspect of Chicago compared to the union here in NYC is that the people running the union there are straight out of the classroom, with President Karen Lewis, a chemistry teacher, being nationally board certified. They are a new brand of leadership, committed to organizing teachers from the bottom up, making all union members feel part of the process. You could see the results in the strike, where we saw massive numbers of teachers, many of them young and female, seeming to relish the battle and being proud of being part of the union. They weren’t defensive like the UFT is here. And you didn’t hear of any teachers breaking the strike – an amazing feat that I didn’t see replicated even in the 3 UFT strikes I took part in.

A group here in NYC has formed a new caucus called Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) that is committed to following the Chicago model of organizing. (Full disclosure: I am one of the organizers in MORE). MORE will be challenging the Unity Caucus leadership in the UFT elections this March. You can follow MORE at morecaucusnyc.org.

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