The Superbus's Thoughtpad

Educatin’ On The Mind

Posted by Chris Bowen on September 11, 2012

As anyone who knows my dealings in local politics can attest, education is my cause celebre, an ironic statement considering the fact I was a poor student in school myself. Today, education news and tidbits hit me across the bow throughout my day.

The first one was an interview I was listening to on WICC in my never-ending quest to try to avoid the endless meandering about the NFL that comes from every Monday in the autumn. It was Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, once again making his point for an appointed Board of Education in Bridgeport during an interview by Mike Bellamy, something he attempted this year until the State’s Supreme Court ruled it was illegal to do that. I didn’t hear the whole interview, but the gist of Finch’s point: democracy is hard! To summarize: the minority party system (read: you can’t just have a bunch of Democrats. Derby has the same setup, you can’t have, I believe, more than two Democrats than Republicans, meaning 5-3 is good but 6-3 is bad) is bad because it’s not-democratic, but that’s OK because democracy doesn’t work anyway as Bridgeport’s voters are too stupid to know quite what the Board of Ed does, only voting for them every four years. And hell, if Finch appoints focused (read: Democrat) people to get politics out of the way, the CHILDREN~~~ benefit! If not for those evil Republicans, who the voters spoke about! Why not just be like Chicago! If the people don’t like how the schools are doing, just vote the Mayor out!

Yes, it honestly came off that way.

First off. The minority system is a 100% necessity in any town, when it comes to serving on boards and the like. There are checks and balances in every level of government to prevent the rights of the minority being trampeled by the majority, and this is one of those cases. Like it or not, Republicans do live in Bridgeport, though you wouldn’t know it by the voter rolls (imagine that… a heavily unionized city is heavily democrat), and their rights are just as important as those of the majority. For those of you stating that the voters have spoken and need to be listened to, if we had that mindset, Jim Crow laws would still be in place. Sometimes, an adult has to step in against those who are brandishing torches and pitchforks, which they were literally doing in the Jim Crow south. If the Democrats were able to get full majority voting on every board in Bridgeport, there would be no reason for anyone not a Democrat to live in Bridgeport short of being forced.

What’s most offensive about Mr. Finch’s statements are the utter contempt he has for the democratic process he claims to be saving. Let’s call it what it is: a naked power grab by someone in an exceptional position of strength, who was elected to his position with 74% of the vote despite the fact that he was following a mayor, from the same party, who was LITERALLY DOING COKE WHILE IN THE MAYOR’S CHAIR! That kind of guilt-by-association has destroyed political careers in different circumstances. I am confident in saying that a Republican will never, ever serve as the Mayor of Bridgeport in my lifetime, so naturally Finch is going to reach for the stars. As for the flippant line about throwing him out if the schools are failing, elections aren’t only about the schools; if that was the case, Derby’s Anthony Staffieri would be out on his ass by now. Instead, largely because of the lack of trust that could be given to Dan Foley’s lieutenants, not only is Staffieri still in office, but I – a stark opponent of his ideas on education – voted for him! It’s a way to hide behind the fact that, again, Finch will never, ever be voted out of office unless he’s primaried.

As for his line about emulating Chicago… yeah. About that.

I get MSNBC notifications on the same phone ancient iPhone 3G that I use as an alarm, so one could be forgiven for me reading “negotiations failed… Chicago teachers on strike” as if it was some kind of fever dream before smashing the snooze bar and immediately going back to sleep, but once I read the news proper, I learned it wasn’t a joke. The Chicago Teachers’ Union, unimpressed with their piddly 16% pay raise and with Mayor Rahm Emanuel DARING to demand that teachers be graded and accounted for like almost every other professional in history, have gone on strike, leaving 400,000 or so students in Chicago’s awful inner cities – where literacy numbers are, frankly, insultingly poor – without anything to do on a Monday morning right after Labour Day. Naturally, charter school students were unaffected.

It is, without a doubt, the most brazen political ploy I’ve seen in education in my lifetime.

What’s stunning to me is that Chicago’s teachers make an average of $76,000 a year. Obviously, that number has to include some form of what can best be described as combat pay – they are teaching in inner city Chicago, after all – it’s still well into the top half of earners in Chicago. Asking for that much more money would only further disenfranchise already poor students, but I don’t think that’s crossed the mind of union’s leadership, or its members, who – judging by their own, stated plank – are only looking to protect tenure and not having to be accountable for their system’s poor performance, two hallmarks that have eroded confidence in public education.

When Republican troglodytes in Derby talk about throwing money at a system that doesn’t work and holding teachers accountable, they’re talking about this very issue. They don’t know enough – or care enough – that the situations aren’t similar at all, but Fox News said it so it must be true. This is the kind of crap liberals have to stamp out if they don’t want education to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Catholic church.

It’s strange that for someone who is so liberal, and who usually goes with Democrats in terms of education, my reactions to these two separate but really similar episodes are so “Republican”. For Mr. Finch, I am wholly opposed to Democrats running the school system with a blank chequebook, which I fear little of would go back to the kids who so desparately need it. As for the Chicago system that Finch himself pointed out as a role model, for someone who has defended “the teachers” in the abstract so often, my response couldn’t be more confusing: I want Mayor Emanuel to proverbially punch the union right in the mouth, fire all their teachers, hire scabs, and basically start anew. I’m not looking for a bloody lip, I’m looking for a knockout. I will never support banning unions for public employees (another “fuck you, I got mine” answer by lazy conservatives), nor am I willing to take away their rights to strike (which just accomplishes the same thing). But I know the difference between right and wrong, and what Chicago teachers are doing to their students is beyond the pale.