Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CTU strike authorization: breaking the news to Mayor Rahm

Posted By on 06.13.12 at 01:30 PM

Jean-Claude Brizard
  • Jean-Claude Brizard
In the aftermath of the strike-authorization vote by Chicago's public school teachers, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard underwent a miraculous transformation: he turned into me.

He's calling off the longer school day until they find some money to do anything significant with the extra time.

Yeah, right—I wish. More like, Brizard's telling the teachers he feels their pain, having spent the last year or so creating it by applying a collective choke hold to the rank and file.

"What I see in the numbers is a level of anger and frustration of being asked to do so much without the proper dollars to support it," Brizard told Sun-Times reporters. "What I say to the union is 'I don't disagree with a lot of what you are talking about.' But we don't have the funding."

Ah, yes, funding. And meanwhile let's all look the other way while hundreds of millions of property tax dollars go right out the window to the mayor's TIFs.

For what it's worth, I don't blame Mr. Brizard for the current state of affairs—okay, well, maybe a little. It’s pretty obvious he's just following the mayor's orders. Apparently, Mayor Emanuel called him last year and essentially offered him the following deal: "I'll pay you $250,000 a year if you leave New York, come to Chicago, and do whatever I say."

Hell—I know a lot of people who'd have taken the gig for half the price.

I'm not sure Brizard even agrees with some of the half-baked educational stuff that our mayor comes up with.

Actually, I'm not sure what Brizard believes in, educationally speaking. At one point, he made an off-the-cuff remark essentially endorsing vouchers.

Vouchers is the plan where the government simply hands checks over to parents and lets them spend the money on tuition for whatever school they want for their kids—religious ones included.

For better or worse, it would be the death knell of public school systems—of which CPS is definitely one.

So basically Brizard was calling for the destruction of the system he'd traveled halfway across the country to run.

Not surprisingly, soon after Brizard made his vouchers remarks, a publicist at the central office issued a clarification that went something like this:

"The views recently expressed by the CEO are his own personal beliefs and do not in anyway represent those of the system he runs."

For the most part, Brizard's been working hard to stay on the mayor’s script. Which means . . .

Cut pay, hike hours, keep class size large, offer no music, drama, or art, and dole out millions and millions of dollars to the mayor’s nonunion charter school cronies—all in the name of the kids.

Of course. 'Cause the kids is what this is all about.

I have a feeling that the script might have to change, if only cause we're on the eve of a presidential election. We can't have President Obama ripping Mitt Romney for ripping teachers while, back in sweet home Chicago, the president's former chief of staff's hell-bent on crushing the teachers union.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I'm hoping that someone who Mayor Emanuel respects and/or fears—if such a person exists—will call him up and command him to cut a deal with the union so all this nasty strike talk goes away.

For the good of the kids, of course—not to mention the president's reelection.

Did I tell you there's a presidential election coming up?

President Obama's got to be smart enough to realize that it's not a good idea to head into an election year with a teachers strike in his hometown.

That would be almost as self-defeating as, oh, allowing Mayor Emanuel to host NATO and the G8 summits. And President Obama was too smart to let that happen.

Look, I'm not underestimating how exceedingly unpleasant it must be to tell Mayor Rahm something he doesn't want to hear. I suspect that President Obama and David Axelrod will probably pick straws, with the loser making the call.

Either that, or they'll just make education secretary Arne Duncan do the dirty work.

Hey, no one said school reform was easy.

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