By Will Johnson
"On September 10, nearly 30,000 Chicago teachers went on strike for the first time in 25 years. This was no mere breakdown in negotiations over wages or healthcare contributions. At issue, as many have noted, was the fundamental direction of public education. The Chicago teachers asserted themselves as the first institutional force to combat what’s often called the “business model” of education reform.
"Meanwhile, in Detroit, students and teachers returned to dramatically altered schools. Over the summer, Roy Roberts, the schools’ “emergency financial manager,” had unilaterally imposed a contract on the city’s teacher union allowing elementary school class sizes to jump from 25 to 40 students and high school classes to 61 students. These class size reforms were coupled with a ten percent pay cut for Detroit teachers.
"While Detroit’s example is extreme, increased workloads for decreased pay are what teachers around the country — including in Chicago— are experiencing to varying degrees as the business model of education reform gains traction with policy-makers. But stretching workers past their breaking point and increasing hours while gutting compensation is nothing new. The business model of education reform is an extension of a process called lean production that transformed the U.S. private sector in the 1980s and 90s. In education, just as in heavy manufacturing, the greatest damage done by lean production is not done at the bargaining table, but in the destruction of teachers’ working (and students’ learning) conditions."