Chicago Teachers demonstrating last Week
Teachers in Chicago have voted overwhelmingly for strike action if contract talks fail
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has won an overwhleming vote in favour of taking strike action if Chicago Public Schools (CPS) management continue with their plans for longer hours, more private charter schools as public school budgets are cut and merit pay.
For teachers in Chicago the legal bar for taking strike action is very high - 75% of the membership has to vote in favour. This resounding vote shows that members there are determined to continue fighting for public education.
Chicago teachers have been in the front line of the fight against neo-liberal reform ever since Paul Vallas was appointed as CEO of CPS in 1995. He ushered in high stakes tesing and rapid privatisation of services, which resulted in a widening of the gap between students. Above all he attacked the CTU. Since that time Vallas has left to re-organise the school sytem in New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane disaster - destroying public schools there, sacking all the public school teachers and setting up a system of charter schools. He went on to re-organise the Haiti
school system after the hurricane in a typical neo-liberal trajectory of adminstering neo-liberal 'solutions' after disaster strikes - in what Naomi Klein describes as the shock doctrine.
Paul Vallas was succeeded by Arne Duncan who carried on the same policies and is now Obama's education supremo. Ironically it was Chicago university which first spawned the dominant neo-liberal theory and the first job of the Chicago boys - led by Milton Friedman was to impose their reforms in Chile after the brutal coup in 1973.
The CTU, their leadership and the public school teachers in Chicago are still holding the line.