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Chicago Education Reform Taking Center Stage
posted by: Alix | February 27, 2012, 08:01 PM   

Chicago has been an education reform epicenter ever since newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the reins in January 2011. Everything from length of school day to teacher pay have been hot topics of late; however, last week the issue hit critical mass as teacher union leaders called on educators throughout the city to ditch their classes in favor of blocking Mayer Emanuel's reforms.

Blasting education reform as "education apartheid," controversial and outspoken Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has become a master of dangerous and offensive double speak. In the ongoing debate Lewis has exclusively championed smaller classes and a massive pay raise, all while ignoring the push to overhaul schools in favor of commonsense reforms.

While her plan will no doubt staff classrooms to the brim with new CTU dues-paying members, Lewis has worked tirelessly to convince teachers, the media and the city of Chicago, that it is in fact Mayor Emanuel, and Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard who are behind a culture of failure, not Lewis, who has preserved the status quo education machine in Chicago for years.

In the 46-page manifesto called "The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve," Lewis argues endlessly that more teachers are the only solution. Absolutely nowhere does the CTU propaganda mention improving classroom instruction or expanding the school day or year to bring Chicago up to the national average.

Other than non-negotiable issues including fixing leaky roofs, ensuring all schools have recess and addressing the needs of special-needs students, the proposal is little more than adding 1,500 additional new employees. In real numbers, at an astonishing $1,000.24 per employee, the proposed increase translates into a whopping $1,500,360 increase in dues revenue for the CTU per year. While an additional $1.5 million is good news for the CTU's bottom line, it's safe to say more money for more of the same will not help Chicago's struggling students.

Clearly, as with all changes, education reforms can be met with controversy and debate. When you factor in the divisive political climate of a city like Chicago, it's like adding fuel to the fire. Still, despite the war of words between union leaders and politicians, Director of the Illinois chapter of Democrats for Education Reform Rebeca Nieves-Huffman called the issue a fight worth fighting.

"Reform means change. Change can be bumpy. Despite all the noise, Chicago is seeing real results from some of its most controversial reform efforts," she mentioned. "Test scores in schools that underwent dramatic reform efforts such as turnaround are on the rise. It's getting very hard to argue that serious intervention in these struggling schools isn't in the best interests of school children."

While these issues are yielding interesting headlines, hopefully this controversy won't rattle Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. Despite the tough-talk, change is critically needed for the struggling students of Chicago.

What do you think about Chicago's education reform battles?
Comment below.

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