Sunday, January 27, 2008

Schmidt on Obama and Education

Hello Everyone,

Given Barack Obama's stated enthusiasm for merit pay, I thought there might be things we needed to know about his relationship to renaissance 2010 in Chicago. Therefore, I e-mailed George Schmidt, since he would be in a position to know. Below is his response.

Michael Fiorillo

Subject: Re: Obama/Renaissance2010


Here are the facts:

1. The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate was a blow against white supremacy and all of us should cheer. The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. Presidency would be the same, on the world scale. I don't think we can overestimate its importance. The man is qualified – or more qualified - than about half the politicians who have been elected to that office during the past 140 years, and certainly better by far than any of the last four Republicans. (My family always told me to consider Dwight Eisenhower in a different way, since both my parents served in World War II).

Having struggled against white supremacy, racism, and racial segregation all my adult life, I'm in wonderment about how this is developing.


2. There has been no difference between Barack Obama and Mayor Richard M. Daley on any of the corporate "school reform" plans foisted on Chicago since Daley pioneered the "mayor control" dictatorial model of school governance (thanks to a vote of a Republican dominated Illinois General Assembly, a la the Gingrich Congress) in 1995.

3. Despite the fact that many community leaders and even some public
officials have challenged Mayor Daley on "Renaissance 2010" -- especially the wholesale relocation of children as schools were closed and often flipped for charter school use, Barack Obama was not public with any criticism of "Renaissance 2010." In fact, his positions are indistinguishable from Mayor Daley's or those of his Hyde Park neighbors and the people pushing privatization, charterization, and corporate "school reform" out of the University of Chicago and elsewhere in corporate Chicago. Rumor locally has been that Barack Obama has included Arne Duncan [the Joel Klein of Chicago] and others of that ilk in his informal educational brain trust.

Needless to say, he has no interest in hearing from critics of "Renaissance 2010" or from those of us who maintain that No Child Left Behind has to be abolished.

4. Barack Obama has close ties with a large number of corporate types who are happy with the Daley dictatorship. Most important of these is John Rodgers of Ariel Capital Management, which has placed Arne Duncan and one member of our seven member Board of Education at the "top" of the school system, despite the fact that Duncan had absolutely no experience, training, knowledge or credentials to head up a public school system. Obama's allies, in fact, were partly responsible for Duncan's quick rise to the top of the executive heap.

Ideologically, he seems to share the economic philosophy of the majority of his colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School -- and that is, ultimately, a very reactionary conservatism.

We may go further than this for Substance as we discuss our positions.

5. On the many occasions when I met Barack Obama while I was working for the Chicago Teachers Union, I found him amazingly charming, intelligent, and all of the other things that have brought him this far. He was a superior candidate for the Illinois Senate and for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. He was also, and always, a Chicago politicians, with all the deals that entails.

In those days during the early 2000s -- prior to Renaissance 2010 and prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama was a regular at Chicago Teachers Union events. He even came to the union offices to thank us all after he was elected to the U.S. Senate and prior to his national debut with that speech at the Democratic Convention. I have shaken his hand more times than I have shaken the hand of any politician, ever, and find him immensely likable.

We also have dozens of photographs of Barack Obama at various Democratic Party and union functions. As we've reported, one of the reasons Barack Obama is where he is today is that the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2003 broke with the labor unions, via the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and endorsed Obama for the U.S. Senate nomination over Dan Hynes, a regular organization guy.

I personally had heated arguments about this with "regular" Democratic Party types (many of them friends) in the CTU during those months, and always countered the opposition to Obama with something like "Will you listen to the guy for a minute..."

6. I oppose Barack Obama's plans for health insurance, which in my opinion will continue the ruin of the American health care system that's developed since the "market" took over and greed ruled over the hypocratic oath. If "Sicko" were made today, there could be a very interesting piece devoted to an interview with Barack Obama.

7. I'm disappointed that his education policies will be in the same
neo-liberal vein, and I don't expect much from him on No Child Left Behind. Our position is that it must be abolished.

8. On February 6, in the Democratic Party Primary here, I will be voting for John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich. With rare exceptions, for the past 40 years I have voted as a Democrat, although sometimes holding my nose. Were there a viable socialist party contending for power in U.S. elections, I'd probably investigate that option deeply.

While I will doubtless vote for the candidate of the party who is running against the Republicans, it will be with a heavy heart, since I think the Presidential election will prove an even bigger disappointment than the Congressional election of November 2006. I worked the streets and all day election day in the Sixth Illinois Congressional District on that transformation on November 6, 2006, and we were not working for a compromise on the war in Irag. As you know if you read Substance closely, we covered the Obama speech against the Iraq war in Substance, both then and since. Most recently, we reprinted the actual text of that speech in Substance.

My one regret about that event is that we didn't take photographs of the speakers, foremost (now) among whom was Barack Obama.


Even in as strong a Republican district as the Sixth Illinois (where Henry Hyde had vacated his seat after decades of reactionary leadership in the U.S. House), the people we were dealing with were focused on many issues, most notably the war. Although our candidate (Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Afghan War vet) lost narrowly to the Republican, the intent of the voters was clear, and it was not to continue to compromise with Bush.

You may share this widely and freely with colleagues, comrades, friends, and anyone else who is asking about Obama's education stands.

Anyone who stands with Richard M. Daley is an enemy of public schools and public employee unions.


George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance


Anonymous said...

Thaks for posting Norm. very informative.

Under Assault said...

I provided some more background material from Substance and other places at "Homework Time" at Under Assault.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same line of thinking with this post as it concerns education.