Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chicago Mayor Between a Rock and a Hard Place ... He Could Use a "Little Help From His Friends" ... Please Do the Right Thing, President Obama

{NOTE: I believe the "fix" is in for the Chicago teachers strike and that the deal will be announced before the weekend begins for kids to return to school Monday.

That's just an educated guess on my part, of course, but it sure smells that way to me.

Read on for why I believe that to be the case, although I'm hopeful I'm wrong in my assessment of the situation. Stay tuned. 

Thanks. Bob.}


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a tough cookie by all accounts. As the former White House chief of staff for President Obama, he's also known as an astute deal maker.

So what went wrong in Chicago? Well, my take is he doesn't have the leverage or power that Chicago teachers union President Karen Lewis does. Neither does he have the strong backing of Chicago's citizens and parents. Nor that of President Barack Obama and Education secretary Arne Duncan.

Why he doesn't have that support is a most interesting question. So why aren't most Chicagoans,  President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Duncan supporting all-out the Mayor's serious efforts to reform Chicago's schools and address its financial deficits as well?

Unfortunately, the answer appears to be quite similar to why President Obama has a very good chance to win reelection in November. It's a political question, and the CTU knows its politics. What a great time to strike if you're a union leader like Karen Lewis in a Democratic stronghold like Chicago with a Democratic President in office like Barack Obama.

And on top of that, consider the timing. It's the beginning of the school year and we're weeks away from a Presidential election. What leverage she has!!!

It's obvious that not all of We the People fully accept the need for dramatic change in our cities' public schools. Neither do enough of us fully accept the need to behave in a financially responsible, live within our means manner. Chicago is teaching us that lesson again this week.

If we did, we wouldn't have President Obama, U.S. Education Secretary and former head of Chicago schools Arne Duncan and even Illinois Governor Pat Quinn remaining on the sidelines in the current teachers strike. They would be, as they should be, front and center advocating the policies and programs put forth by Mayor Emanuel and siding with him against the teachers union (CTU).

But the politicians don't want to get on the wrong side of a large percentage of voters, even if lots of voters are on the wrong side of the labor dispute. So the pols stay "neutral" and "lead from behind."

In the end, our politicians aren't acting as dedicated public servants and worthy stewards of the taxpayers' trust and money. They're merely politicians seeking office. It's an OPM game all the way. MOM behavior is MIA.

And that, my friends, is another great example of why politics sucks. And why the teachers have the leverage and will prevail shortly in the resolution of the teachers strike. As a result, kids and their parents will suffer from a lack of serious educational reform and taxpayers will suffer from a lack of a MOM approach to the public purse. As will the city iof Chicago, state of Illinois and the nation as a whole. In large measure, the status quo will prevail.

I sincerely hope Mayor Emanuel sticks to his guns, and that he receives the vocal support of President Obama and the rest of the"progressives," as well as conservatives, independents and all other Americans. That said, I'm in no way optimistic that will be the case.

The short term stakes are too high for Barack Obama, and he's lacking the guts to support doing the right thing in promoting the right outcome In Chicago. The fact that the long term stakes for the kids, city of Chicago, state of Illinois, our nation and taxpayers everywhere all argue for supporting reform and Rahm Emanuel staying the course  won't trump his reelection efforts. To repeat, politics sucks.

Teachers Test Mayor's Mettle is subtitled 'Chicago Strike Gives Renowned Democratic Dealmaker Little Room to Maneuver' says this in part:

"CHICAGO—For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the teachers strike that has thrown his city into turmoil is proving a test of the two identities that have defined his career: the pugilist and the dealmaker.

Over the 30 years Mr. Emanuel has been in the public arena—including stints in the Clinton and Obama White Houses and in Congress—he has cultivated a reputation as an aggressive, and sometimes profane, political combatant. But he also has shown a deft hand at making compromises, which have let him claim victory and move on.

The strike by 26,000 teachers and other personnel in the nation's third-biggest school district disrupted classes for a third day on Wednesday, and leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union have shown little inclination to back down. Mr. Emanuel has said that fixing the city's ailing school system is critical to its economic prosperity, and that improving the quality of classroom teaching is the linchpin of that effort.

The mayor wants an evaluation system that helps weed out the worst-performing teachers, and he wants to maintain principals' right to choose staff. The union wants laid-off teachers to have first dibs on job openings, and it disagrees with Mr. Emanuel's proposals to rate teachers on student test scores and fire those who fall short.

Any settlement might require Mr. Emanuel, whose administration has already made numerous concessions, to compromise further on an issue that the mayor has made central to his tenure—how to overhaul public education. . . .


Contract talks on Wednesday didn't start until the afternoon, as the union considered a new proposal the district delivered late Tuesday night. Mr. Emanuel implored teachers on Wednesday to return to the classroom while negotiations continued, and he reiterated his position that the two sides aren't that far apart. Also, the Rev. Jesse Jackson offered to act as a mediator.

The fight over teacher layoffs is key because the city plans to close low-performing and under-enrolled schools. City officials won't say how many, but union leaders have said it could be as high as 100 of the current 681 campuses.

The mayor's ability to give more ground is constrained by a grim financial picture. The Chicago Board of Education is considering a $5.3 billion budget for 2012-13, which would raise property taxes by 1.5% and drain its reserves to plug a $665 million hole. The board delayed adopting the plan until contract talks are settled, but Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded the district's bond rating after the budget was announced. District officials predict the system will face a $1 billion deficit in the 2014-15 school year.

Mr. Emanuel also must guard against setting a dangerous precedent for other city workers in his handling of the teachers strike—either by alienating their unions or by encouraging them to push for more. The city is currently in contract talks with fire and police unions. A second strike could be disastrous for the mayor and for Chicago, whose motto is: "The city that works." Other unions representing city workers joined in a demonstration Tuesday to show solidarity with the teachers. . . .

Some signs suggest that public opinion in the first days of the strike has largely sided with teachers. A poll of 500 registered voters in the city, conducted for the Chicago Sun-Times and released Tuesday, showed that 47% support the strike, while 39% oppose it."

Summing Up

The long term best interests of the kids, good teachers, taxpayers, the city, the state and our nation's well being are all on the side, or should be, of Rahm Emanuel as he fights to make things better for Americans in general and Chicagoans in particular.

He deserves the complete and vocal support of his political friends and allies.

My bet, however, is that he's not going to get it. He's going under the bus.

Politics sucks. Teachers unions suck. Big spending government sucks.

And most of all, short term oriented politicans willing to do whatever's necessary to win reelection and the support of big unions suck.

Thanks. Bob.

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