Commentary by Glen Ford:
The nation's unionized public school teachers are in a race for survival, whether they know it or not. Their worst enemy - the one that can do them and the public the most harm - was not George Bush, the white Republican, who called teachers' unions "terrorists." It is Barack Obama, the Black Democrat, who has taken the corporate education agenda farther than Bush could ever dream of.
By all rights, the nation's five million unionized teachers should be in the forefront of resistance to the corporate money bags that dominate the Republican and Democratic parties. Teachers are the best-equipped for the job, in raw numbers, in depth of union penetration and, especially on the moral front: most people like and admire teachers. George Bush's Republicans were made to look like ogres when they tried to vilify teachers as a class. Yet that is precisely what Barack Obama is doing: making teachers the scapegoats and villains for all the ills that have been inflicted on the inner cities of America for the past five or six decades. Obama is having considerably more success than Bush in his offensive against teachers, mostly because teachers' unions cannot seem to recognize their enemy when he is a Democrat, and Black.
That lesson has finally been learned in Chicago, hometown of Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Chicago's teachers, students and neighborhoods were the guinea pigs for Arne Duncan's campaign to hand over public education to corporations, when Duncan was CEO of the city's schools. Mass firings were the order of the day, decimating the ranks of Black teachers, especially. Whole communities were destabilized.
"Barack Obama, the Black Democrat, who has taken the corporate education agenda farther than Bush could ever dream of."
Last week, reformers finally won control of the Chicago Teachers Union, in what will hopefully set an example for teachers, nationwide. Karen Lewis, co-chair of the victorious Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, told the truth that so many teachers' union hacks have been avoiding: "This so-called school reform is not an education plan," she said. "It's a business plan." Lewis continued:
"Fifteen years ago, this city purposely began starving our lowest-income neighborhood schools of greatly needed resources and personnel. Class sizes rose, schools were closed. Then standardized tests, which in this town alone is a $60 million business, measured that slow death by starvation. These tests labeled our students, families and educators failures, because standardized tests reveal more about a student's zip code than it does about academic growth," said the union reformer.
And that is the heart of the matter. Public and private policies have devastated inner city America, with totally predictable results in terms of inner city student performance. And yet, what do both the Obama's and the Bush's propose? They demand more privatization, more so-called "public-private" initiatives that outsource Black and brown schools to corporations, for profit. Barack Obama and Arne Duncan learned the privatization game in Chicago. Hopefully, Chicago teachers can awaken five million union members and millions more inner city residents to the clear and present danger posed by Obama's corporate school agenda. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.