Rahm Emanuel versus Chicago Teachers Union is new breed versus extinct breed (Video)

The Chicago teacher strike pits the old breed union against the new breed mayor. Photo: Peter V. Bella

“What Emanuel represents is a new breed of urban mayors, pushing for a whole system of school improvements … responding to public demand,” said Kenneth Wong, director of the Urban Education Policy Program at Brown University. (Reuters) 

CHICAGO, September 11, 2012 — This new breed of politician defies party labels. It is not about Democratic or Republican politics or ideology. This breed only cares about doing things efficiently and intelligently. They are results driven. If it is broken they fix it. If it’s not broken they improve it. They are giving the public what they want, better government, less costly government, more efficient government. If toes have to get stepped on so be it. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is responding to public demand, the only demand that matters. He is not responding to union demands. No one elected the Chicago teachers Union or its president Karen Lewis to fix the broken school system. Karen Lewis does not care about the public. She is an old breed of firebrand union leader, all tough talk and bluster. Her breed is antediluvian. 

Karen Lewis does not care about the taxpayers, voters, or the children. She only cares about obtaining as much power as she can. The goal of the teachers’ strike was to put her in the national spotlight. It worked. All eyes are on Chicago and on Lewis. She finally got the attention she craved. 

The clash between Chicago Teachers Union president and Mayor Emanuel was inevitable. Lewis has been looking for a fight with the city since she was elected president of the union. She led a rebel faction in the union and rode it to the presidency. Since then she has been a carnival barker shilling the past. She is brash, outspoken, controversial, and painfully outdated. 

There was no way she was not going to strike. From various reports the union was preparing for this strike a year ago. Karen Lewis wanted this strike, needed this strike, and planned this strike. If the city gave in to all her demands she would just create more. This strike is not about the teachers or the children. This strike is about Karen Lewis. 

Chicago is now Ground Zero in the public education labor movement. If Lewis wins, and when the strike is settled she will loudly proclaim victory over Emanuel, it will have national implications. Perception is reality. Lewis will give the perception she beat the new breed of politicians. If she could do it anyone can. Lewis is appallingly good at shock and attack rhetoric. 

Rahm Emanuel is a formidable enemy. She is drastically underestimating him. 

Karen Lewis is a feuder. Her feud with Emanuel is just a continuation of the running blood feud she had with former mayor Richard M. Daley. Lewis wants a seat at the political power table that has been denied to her. In Chicago everything is about power. You have it or you don’t. Until this strike no one took her seriously. The strike made the powers that be stand up and take notice. 

Karen Lewis and her union have resisted every effort to reform education in Chicago. They are the problem instead of the solution. The Chicago Teachers Union should now be locked out of any and all discussions concerning education reform unless there are contractual conflicts. Lewis demonstrated she and her union are not worthy to participate. 

The people of Chicago elected Emanuel to change things. The people did not elect Lewis to do anything. Emanuel represents the people. It will be up to them to judge his performance, not Karen Lewis. The public does not care about Lewis. 

Lewis thinks she won the first round in striking. She is sadly mistaken if she thinks Emanuel will just fold and walk away with his tail between his legs. 

Emanuel is a long time political infighter. The political landscape is littered with symbolic bodies of those who thought they could best him. Lewis may have won round one but this is a fifteen round match and she is outclassed. By the time Emanuel gets done doing the rope a dope she will be down for the count. 

The Chicago public school system is a mess. It is a drain on the taxpayers in its current configuration. The taxpayers have given more than enough. It is also not benefitting the ultimate consumer, the children it is supposed to educate. 

For the almost six billion dollars a year spent on the Chicago public school system, it should be number one in the nation. How that money is spent must change. The system is facing over a one billion dollar deficit next year. 

The Chicago Public School system’s problems are decades old. They are system wide, from the maddening massive bureaucracy and crumbling old schools, to the high drop out and low literacy rates of its children. There is plenty of blame to go around, including parents and voters who just sat by idly and apathetically. 

Changes, some very painful, must be made. There can be no sacred cows. Change is doing something new. Change is not taking dog food changing the label and calling it cat food. 

Rahm Emanuel wants to try his method of reform and change. At the very least he should get that opportunity. Reforming anything is a risky experiment, but experimentation fuels innovation. Chicago’s school system is still stuck and mired in the past. It is time to bring it up to date and look towards the future. 

Karen Lewis only response is to just say no. No to reform. No to change. No to better schools. No to rewarding good teachers with merit pay. No to firing incompetent teachers. No to anything and everything. She doesn’t offer solutions because she has none. Her plan is to continue the failure and soak the taxpayer. It is in her personal benefit to do so. 

Karen Lewis declared war on Chicago. She declared war on the children. She declared war on the taxpayers. It is time Chicago voters tell Mayor Emanuel to just say no to Karen Lewis. 

Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur.  He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys.  His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. 

pvbella@gmail.com 

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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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