Pauline Lipman is professor of educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of "The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race and the Right to the City.''
Chicago was the birthplace of neoliberal education reform — high-stakes testing, closing neighborhood public schools and turning them over to private operators, expanding charter schools, running schools like businesses, test-based teacher evaluation, prescribed standards, and mayoral control of schools.
Over the past 15 years, these policies were promoted nationally by corporate philanthropies, conservative think tanks, and recently by billionaire-initiated education reform organizations like Stand for Children and Education Reform Now. The Chicago agenda became the official national agenda when President Obama appointed Chicago’s chief executive schools, Arne Duncan, to be his Secretary of Education.
Educators have fought a national corporate agenda for 15 years and have had enough.
The first thing Duncan did was fly to Detroit and tell that financially devastated school system that they would have an infusion of federal funds, but only if they did things very differently – that is, implement the Chicago model. That model became the criteria for awarding $4.3 billion in federal funds to states, known as Race to the Top
Yet, closing schools has destabilized students and communities and had little positive effect on achievement. Test-based merit pay has been shown to have little validity as a measure of teacher effectiveness. And charter schools are doing no better, and sometimes worse, than regular public schools and are more racially segregated.
But more deeply, at the school level, there is plenty of research showing that these policies have reduced the curriculum to what is tested, demoralized teachers and degraded the teaching force, and left parents and students with no public school options in their communities.
These are not education policies, but rather business policies applied to schools with business goals: promoting top-down management, weakening unions, shifting the purpose of education to labor force preparation, and opening up the $2 trillion dollar global education sector to the market.
Despite efforts by educators, researchers, and parents nationally to contest this agenda, it has become the new status quo. This is why Chicago teachers are on strike.
After absorbing 15 punishing years of these policies, they have had enough. Compensation is not their biggest concern. They are fighting for respect and for a vision of public education that is grounded in equity, respect for teachers, a rich well-rounded education for all students, and the financing priorities to realize it.
Source - The New York Times