The Tribune’s Sunday editorial featured a scorching attack on the National Education Association based on a You Tube video in which a retiring NEA lawyer states that the union’s top priority is protecting its members.
Yes, that is what unions do, much to the dissatisfaction of the Tribune, whose editors went on to gleefully conclude that educating children is not the NEA’s top priority, though the lawyer also says that “closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality and the like…are the goals that guide the work we do.”
The Trib was clued into this “gotcha” video by the Rev. Sen. James Meeks, who recently stated at Operation PUSH that the Chicago Teachers Union is the worst gang in Chicago. So, following the old adage that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, the Trib now totally loves Meeks.
And their love is made even more perfect by the shared desire of the Trib editors and Meeks to punish and weaken teachers’ unions by promoting unlimited charters and vouchers.
“It’s all for the children”
As a veteran local school council member, I have learned that when someone complains that “you never talk about children,” they’re usually trying to shut you up because you’re getting too close to the truth, and when someone asserts that they are only doing something “for the children,” there are usually other agendas at work.
Come on, folks — we ALL want what’s best for children. Get real. Now let’s peel back the rest of the onion.
In the case of the Tribune, their union-busting, privatization-hungry, corporate-model-worshipping preferences are well-known. Their defense of charters ignores the issue of academic progress (something that is truly good for children), and instead focuses on the marketplace value of charter “waiting lists.”
The situation with Senator Meeks is a little more complicated. He’s eccentric (some might say flaky). He has gone to the mat for school funding in a state where no one else has the guts to stand up to the powers that be. Taking a page from PURE’s 1990’s playbook, he bused CPS students to the suburbs to “register” them for school.
But is he “genuinely looking out for kids,” as the Tribune claims?
If he’s genuinely looking out for kids, how can he promote more charter schools? A 2009 Stanford report clearly shows that African-American students enrolled in charter schools in Illinois do significantly worse in reading compared to their counterparts in traditional schools, and gain no benefit in math.
If he’s genuinely looking out for kids, how can he promote vouchers when the research on that strategy is equally grim? The longest-running voucher program, in Milwaukee, has shown no advantage for students in the voucher program over the traditional schools.
If he’s genuinely looking out for kids, how can he advocate what is essentially more Renaissance 2010, a failed program that has caused increased student drop-outs, push-outs, and violence without actually improving schools.
Could there be another agenda behind Rev. Meeks’ interest in vouchers? Of course. A voucher program in Illinois would directly benefit the private religious school run by Meeks’ church, the Salem Christian Academy (S. C. A.), which Rev. Meeks serves as Pastor/CEO.
A bad joke?
Well, maybe the Rev. Sen. can go on a national tour ala Duncan-Gingrich-Sharpton. Meeks can pair up with Rod Paige, George Bush’s Secretary of Education, who called the NEA a terrorist organization.
At least Paige tried to apologize for his comment, calling his statement a “bad joke.” Unfortunately, the joke will be on our children if we don’t get hold of Senator Meeks before he pushes his proposals through the legislature in January 2010.