To the editors:
I agree 1,000 percent with Peter Scheirer and Gary Orfield [Neighborhood News, October 18] that society must change before our schools improve. One doesn’t have to be a Marxist to realize we have a two-tiered system of education, for the very rich and the very poor. We have a class-based society hardened by racism.
As a member of the Chicago Teachers Union I find it inexplicable that our local union and the national union, the American Federation of Teachers, have never attacked the “savage inequalities” of education recently documented by Jonathan Kozol. My national president, Albert Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers, has never criticized the military budget and how it denies funds for education. He has been a loyal Cold War supporter and his “reward” is to be allowed to address business leaders on the “need for partnership between business and the teachers.” Better let them pay their taxes instead.
In Chicago, our union endorsed Richard Daley for Mayor, over Danny Davis, a former teacher and union member. This despite the fact that Daley at the endorsement meeting opposed a commuter’s tax on all who work in Chicago. He said it “would drive out business.” Is that why blue-collar cities are suffering? Is it from a “bad business climate” (read low taxes) or because of corporate greed?
The only reason to explain why the Chicago Teachers Union does not endorse a city income tax for the schools is because they do not want to embarrass their alleged Democratic allies who have delivered little. Downstate treats the city schools like a Third World Country, and school reform was partly imposed so the Legislature could “buy time” and avoid proper funding of the schools. Because the schools are segregated, middle class liberals, like those in my home of Evanston, could care less about Chicago schools. School Reform is like the International Monetary Fund telling poor countries to cut social programs and wages before we give you loans. Chicago schools are told to “cut the fat, cut teachers, cut administrators” and we may think about aid to the schools. By continuing to cry “cut the fat,” the teachers’ union gives an excuse to downstate to hesitate giving more funds for Chicago.
The demand for national testing will be unaccompanied by any money for poor schools which do well. By that time, Bush-League members of Congress will be appropriating money for the Soviet Union to enjoy the alleged “joys of capitalism.” (Good luck comrades; you are in for a surprise; it’s not all Big Macs under capitalism.)
The American Federation of Teachers, united for more education funding with the National Education Association, could be a major force to improve education. To those who say “we can’t throw money at the problem,” what have we been doing but “throw money at the military” for 45 years?
Frankly, the biggest indictment of education is that the very rich and well educated voted for Reagan and Bush. What the poor need is to be taught more class consciousness and not the lie that “education will open all doors.” Clarence Thomas’s education did not open doors for him, but the doors were opened because he “sucked up” to white sponsors, the very ones crucifying the poor.