In watching the battle over school reform in Dallas, it's worth keeping in mind sometimes that Dallas is far from being the Lone Ranger. Issues similar to our own are stirring strongly parallel responses in cities around the country, the best example at the moment being Chicago, where today the teacher's unions will wage a last-ditch no-holds-barred attempt to unseat an incumbent Obama Democrat mayor...
.. whom they are calling a corporate lickspittle.
From the distant perspective of Dallas, that sounds a little like Russia in 1905 when the Mensheviks were trying to overthrow the Bolsheviks -- something we'd maybe be more interested in if we were working on a doctorate in Soviet history. But in fact the Chicago story is our story. That mayoral runoff election there today is just another version of the teachers union campaign here to unseat Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles ...
... whom they are calling a corporate lickspittle.
So, wait a minute. Give us a minute here in Texas to catch our breath. The teachers unions are saying that Rahm Emmanuel, the guy who engineered the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House in 2006, who played a major role in getting Barack Hussein Obama elected president in 2008, then served as White House chief of staff, the guy who is standing today for re-election as mayor of Chicago, is a right-wing son of a bitch?
You got it. Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean and head of the liberal group Democracy for America, is telling Chicago voters: "Rahm Emanuel and his corporate cronies have awoken a massive grassroots army across the city committed to ending his agenda of privatization, public school closings and pension cuts.
"In the weeks ahead," Dean tells voters, "Democracy for America -- alongside our friends at United Working Families, MoveOn and the Chicago Teachers Union -- will go all in to defeat Rahm Emanuel in the runoff on April 7 and elect Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia as Chicago's new mayor."
So is Rahm Emmanuel a big anti-union guy? A Chicago Tribune poll published March 31 showed Emmanuel leading his opponent, Chuy Garcia, 47 percent to 39 percent in support from union households. Emmanuel came into the campaign with support from 15 major unions ...
... not including the teachers. Who say he's a corporate lickspittle.
In 2012, Chicago teachers waged an eight-day strike aimed directly at Emmanuel's program of school reforms, which tilted heavily toward teacher evaluations, accountability for principals based in part on student outcomes and merit pay for teachers. Sound familiar? It should. Those all are pillars of the school reform platform advanced here by Miles, with a major and glaring difference:
Emmanuel lost. Miles won.
When the teachers went back to work after their strike, they had forced Emmanuel to give up most of his new teacher evaluation system and every scrap of merit pay. Miles, meanwhile, has persuaded the Dallas school board to install what may well be the nation's most comprehensive merit pay system for teachers.
So, wait. Back to being in Texas and all. Let's try to add this up from our perspective. The Chicago teachers union beat Emmanuel in their strike in 2008.
Generally speaking, union members in Chicago -- with the exception of teachers and some public employees unions -- like him and intend to vote for him today.
Within national Democratic circles, there may be sort of an argument over whether he's really a Menshevik or a Bolshevik, but ... c'mon. He got Obama elected. From here, the rest of it all sort of looks like arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But the teachers unions are out to kill him anyway?
You got it. So what does it prove?
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It proves that it does not matter who is in the driver's seat if anybody goes after seniority pay for teachers. If a resurrected Che Guevara returned to become mayor of Chicago and allowed the words "merit pay" (pago por merito?) to escape his lips, the teachers would be calling him a corporate a lackey before the day was out.
To be fair, the corporate takeover of public education is a legitimate national theme and rallying cry for opponents of school reform across the country, so there should be little surprise in finding the same flag waving over our own school reform battlefield here as in Chicago, Washington, New York or anywhere else. Nor should we be surprised that the combatants are largely the same and their message boils down to a single war cry above all others -- do not touch our seniority pay.
I just think to helps to put it in context. I hear people here say they think Miles has been at the center of a lot of controversy. Yeah, no kidding. The epicenter, maybe. But he didn't create the controversy out of thin air. And he has weathered it a lot better than Mayor Emmanuel, who got his hat handed to him three years ago over the very same issues.
That's why the Chicago election is worth watching today. Let's see how they handle it. And lastly I have a test question for you: If a truly conservative Republican corporate type became superintendent of schools here, what would the teachers unions call him or her? No, I'm asking. I want you to guess. Only one rule, though: no reductio ad Hitlerum.