Slowly but Surely, Teachers Unions are Losing the Democratic Party

The current teachers’ strike in Chicago is the perfect encapsulation of a clash between the old guard and the new in the Democratic Party. On one side, a public sector union which thinks a 16% raise for the average teacher is insufficient, facing off against evil big city Republican mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Wait, I got that wrong. Rahm Emanuel’s deal isn’t good enough for the teachers’ unions? Wow. Well, that should tell you something. And that something is that teachers’ unions are slowly but surely losing their grip on the Democratic Party. Molly Ball writes at The Atlantic:

Liberals, the reformers say, are realizing that they can’t in good conscience support the reality of the nation’s floundering and unequal education system. “I had a simple world view: teachers are good, unions are good, therefore teachers unions are good,” says Ben Austin, executive director of a group called Parent Revolution. “But progressives are waking up to the fact that the status quo is not a progressive position.”

Reforming schools, Austin says, empowers low-income parents and makes public education more truly public. “A growing group of voters are ideological liberals but don’t believe their money is going to serve children in public education. They think it gets stuck in a bureaucratic black hole and gets wasted,” he said. “If we’re going to be big-government liberals, which I am, we have to be for big government that works, or we’re going to lose to the right-wingers who want to devolve everything.”

Chicago is the site of a death rattle. And I say: good riddance.

  1. Trace

    Losing their grip on the Democratic Party and losing their grip on reality.

  2. Diane Ellis
    C

    What do you make of this argument?  Do you buy it?

    [The Chicago teachers union strike] is equally bad news, if not worse, for Emanuel and, by extension, the Obama administration.

    Emanuel was Chief of Staff for President Obama, who lived in Chicago before moving to the White House. Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, was chief executive officer of the public schools in Chicago for more than seven years before being tapped by Obama.

    Obama is hoping that labor organizations will help get out the vote for him in November and members will support him at the ballot box. A strike by teachers who oppose his education policies right now could well affect how some of them vote.

    Chaos in Duncan’s former school system is hardly a strong endorsement of his leadership there, either, as many of the issues that teachers are grappling with go back to his tenure, and even before.

  3. Chris Johnson

    “…Republican mayor…”?

    I assume your cheek is sore from tongue protrusion.  Otherwise, your headline kinda loses it’s punch.

    But yeah, as Waiting For Superman showed, Democrats are starting to have problems with their heros in the teachers unions.

  4. ConservativeWanderer

    The biggest problem that the lefties have with public schools is that little Fidel can’t read The Communist Manifesto.

  5. Sandy

    Two issues:  the money has dried up and the Chicago schools are lousy, and have been since I went through them in the 40′s and 50′s.  That’s a long time for progressive notions of education and the union to become entrenched, and though Chicago started down that road early on, it’s typical, I think, of urban public schools.   Eventually the union may be forced to accept economic reality, and it’s a very good thing that the Democratic party is having to be the tough guys here, but Emanuel offered a 16% raise over the next five years.  16%  in this economy and the contract was rejected, because  the union wants complete control and there is a lot of union money at stake here. 

     I’m not an expert on this, but the best  I attempt I know of to get around the unions to improve schools was Michelle Rhee’s in D.C., and his boldness in backing her cost former Mayor Fenty the election.  We’ll have to wait to see how Emanuel does, but I wouldn’t place a bet yet.

  6. Frozen Chosen

    I wonder if Rahn has had his people call Gov Walker yet?

  7. Trace

    @Diane — The Obama administration has been at odds with the teacher’s unions for some time, most notably over pay for performance initiatives which Arne Duncan and the President support. The truth is there is little difference between what Mitch Daniels enacted in Indiana and what the Obama administration would like to see nationwide — except of course the role of the Federal government. The screaming fringe (Diana Ravitch)  has been railing against the administration for years. More lately the administration has begun to pivot toward the teachers unions in its bid for support. 

    But to answer your question — no. I think this helps Obama. If he decides to butt into the strike, it will most likely be to chastise the unions, which will make him seem more centrist. It hurts turnout, but it’s not as though the unionists are actually going to vote for Romney.

  8. Sandy
    Diane Ellis, Ed.: What do you make of this argument?  Do you buy it?

    [The Chicago teachers union strike] is equally bad news, if not worse, for Emanuel and, by extension, the Obama administration.

    13 minutes ago

    It will  be an embarrassment, but the CTU is going to support Obama–what choice do they have?  However it would not  surprise me if they tried to make a deal of some sort with Obama’s people, since the embarrassment is to their advantage.  

    Their support for the mayor is another matter.  If the enmity is not resolved, they will certainly fight him if he runs again.

  9. flownover

    It could be a setup.  Imagine this happening in October …. no way . 

    They are dusting off the white hats and white horses right now for Obama and Rahm to saddle up and save the kids ! 

    As with all our problems under this admin, it will continue to fester. 

    The disparity is clear. Teachers make up to $ 76,000 before benefits in Chicago , while regular citizens work for their $ 45,000 average and benefits are rapidly fading .

  10. Stuart Creque

    This strike is not about economic issues – those demands are a smokescreen to keep the world from observing the teachers’ abject terror of performance standards that would tie their pay and very employment to student performance. They don’t want any kind of accountability for their work outcomes.

  11. Joan of Ark La Tex

    Union on one side, Democrats on the other. Very likely a set up for Obama to glide in to save the day. 

  12. Umbra Fractus
    Joan Greathouse: Union on one side, Democrats on the other. Very likely a set up for Obama to glide in to save the day.  · 17 minutes ago

    A manufactured Sista Solja (or however you spell it) moment. My squishy but center-right father said essentially the same thing.

  13. ConservativeWanderer
    Umbra Fractus

    Joan Greathouse: Union on one side, Democrats on the other. Very likely a set up for Obama to glide in to save the day.  · 17 minutes ago

    A manufactured Sista Solja (or however you spell it) moment. My squishy but center-right father said essentially the same thing. · 1 minute ago

    And if your squishy father can see it, so can a lot of other squishes.

    Such a White Horse moment would reek of political calculation, and might even hurt Obama more than it helped.

  14. paulebe

    The charade by the teachers will go on – until it can’t. Then they really will sit amongst the rubble of their decrepit buildings and argue who is to blame, the government or the taxpayers. Never, EVER, themselves. 

    Public education was always doomed to fail. That it has taken as long as it has is significant testimony to just how wealthy the USA has been.

  15. No Caesar

    It seems that liberals are slowly being shamed into seeing the truth of the Big Ed unions.  Waiting for Superman was a crossing of the Rubicon by the left.  It seems that in the next decade we may see something comparable in public education to what happened with Civil Rights in the late 50s and early 60s, where finally enough Democrats see the light and join the long-standing Republican support for reforms.  I just hope that we don’t see a repeat of the Democrats getting all the credit for what the Republicans had been doing right all along.  The Democrat party needs to own their bad history: unions over kids, KKK, soft national socialism, etc. 

  16. ConservativeWanderer

    Jim Geraghty on the set-up theory:

    True enough, but I’ll cite Robert Heinlein on this: “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” We know from Wisconsin that unions are capable of taking enormously unpopular, short-sighted, self-destructive actions that disregard the advice of their allies. Some leader within the Chicago unions probably calculated that Rahm Emanuel and every other Democrat in public life would never defy the will of a major union two months before a presidential election. Ordinarily, they would be right.

    Here’s the problem with the “Obama swoops in to save the day” theory: Everyone involved already has egg on their faces, most of it on the metaphorical visages of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the teachers’ unions. Under the conspiracy theory, all of these groups would have to be willing to take a tough PR hit from a multi-day strike. A bit of a hurdle, though still possible.

    [snip]

    This is going to stir up a lot of bad blood between parents and teachers, and that seems like a high long-term cost for the Chicago parties to play in order to help Obama play hero.

  17. No Caesar
    Essgee: I also fear that this is a set-up for Barack to handle.  Time will tell but this is Chicago and nothing is as it appears when power and control  is involved in this city. · 10 hours ago

    That’s my suspicion too.  But while I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the genesis, I think events may be spinning out of control of the Chicago crowd and taking on a life of their own.  This is quickly moving beyond where Obama can painlessly ride in on a red horse to the “rescue.”

  18. Essgee

    I also fear that this is a set-up for Barack to handle.  Time will tell but this is Chicago and nothing is as it appears when power and control  is involved in this city.

  19. Astonishing

    Are the teachers losing The Party?

    Or is The Party losing the teachers?

    Neither!

    That’s all a buncha wishful thinking.

    The Party without teachers unions would be like pickles without vinegar. (For you city folk, that’s sliced cucumbers.)

    Before long, Rahm will capitulate. He has no choice. The teachers union will get what it wants.

    Then Rahm, and the teachers union, and The Party will announce how all sides have compromised “for the good of the children.”

    Chicago public schools will get worse. Chicago public school teachers will get worse. Chicago public school students will get stupider. The Detroitification of Chicago will continue apace . . .  until . . . ordinary life becomes unsustainable, and then . . .

    What Chicago can’t afford and can’t borrow, it will steal from the rest of Illinois. What Illinois can’t afford and can’t borrow, it will steal from the rest of the country. What the rest of the country can’t afford and can’t borrow (from China), it will try to steal from Texas.

    Near the end of this story, Texas secedes.

    (N.B. We have lots of guns here in Texas. We cling to them. We also have lots of pickup trucks.)