In a Chicago Tonight interview with Carol Marin a few minutes ago, mostly about the CPS teacher’s planned wildcat strike this Friday, CPS CEO Forrest “Les” Claypool had a bit about the budget negotiations with Governor Bruce Rauner, who must be livid he can’t get the same state-wrecking applause that Governors Walker, Snyder, Scott, et al get. I wasn’t taking notes, so this isn’t exact, but Claypool said more than once that Rauner was “standing in the schoolhouse door” blocking student’s education. Considering that African-American students make up 40% of the CPS student body, and Hispanics another 45%, the direct George Wallace reference is an atomic bomb.
(Marin asked if Messers. Cullerton and Madigan were also standing in that door, but Claypool skillfully demurred.)
I don’t know if a wildcat strike with the intention of forcing Governor Rauner’s hand is the best tactic. Claypool argued with some success that despite contract issues, teachers and the board should present a unified front against Rauner, but that’s a line that is always used, especially against teachers. A strike is never right, because of the children. Activism hurts the children. Never mind that CPS teachers are striking to help the children (and yes, themselves, but better-paid teachers and better-funded schools do just that): the bosses can always use the same cudgel.
So yes, while I think Friday’s movement will be ineffective at best, and make the teachers look like the agents of chaos, the truth is they will be blamed no matter what. They’ll be blamed if they sit like docile daffodils, and they’ll be blamed if they stand up and speak. Scott Walker helped break the dam in terms making teachers the vicious and greedy outsiders, but the pressure had been building behind that dam for decades. Once urban areas became schools largely for minorities, the idea of teachers agitating on behalf of their students was lumped into the rest of the culture wars. In this sense, Claypool’s allusion to George Wallace was closer than it initially appeared.