Chicago teachers are set to rally today in Union Park while the final details are negotiated in the new contract.
Meanwhile, Stand for Children has been operating behind the scenes, with Rahm Emanuel and the Illinois legislature, to weaken teachers’ unions and push forward its own well-financed education reform agenda.
Stand for Children is a non-profit education reform group advocating for the inclusion of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, charter schools and decreased teacher union power. Over the past three years, the group’s political action committee has raised more than $4 million and doled out more than $1 million to politicians, political parties and other political committees in Chicago and around Illinois. That’s more than double the $460,000 the Chicago Teachers Union PAC has given to political campaigns and other committees over the same period of time. While contributions from the Illinois Federation of Teachers bring the two sides into closer competition, much of IFT’s contributions went to a Supreme Court race in 2010.
All of that money — raised from billionaires in hedge funds, private equity and real estate — has been used to push Stand for Children’s aggressive, hard-charging agenda, which assumes unionization often runs counter to the interest of education. Part of that agenda was attempting make it impossible for the Chicago Teachers Union to strike, though it only made the union more defiant.
The biggest victory for this new monied coalition came in 2011 when Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 7, which made teacher tenure and layoffs contingent on achievement and rearranged teachers’ salary schedules to align with evaluations instead of seniority. The bill also took certain topics, such as class size, off the table in collective bargaining negotiations. The bill actually had the support of the Chicago Teacher’s Union until the last second, when its president, Karen Lewis, realized that the bill also made it harder for the union to call a strike. Previously, the CTU only needed a simple majority of assent from its members to walk out; it now needs 75 percent.
In the following video, billionaire James Crown and Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman outline their political agenda in Illinois and their victory in getting Senate Bill 7 passed. Note in particular, around the 26:40 mark, Edelman’s boast that, as a result of that legislation, the “unions cannot strike.”