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Making a federal issue out of Chicago

After taking out Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary, the conservative Club for Growth PAC is dedicating tremendous sums of money to electing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Its latest attack on Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly attempts to tie the South Bend congressman to the striking teachers inChicago.

"Does Joe Donnelly stand with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, or with his allies in big labor?" asks Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a news release. "It wouldn't surprise us if Joe Donnelly stands with the teachers unions -- he stood with big labor on the anti-growth Card Check bill and against school choice for DC schools. So which is it Joe? Will you stand with your allies in big labor, or the schoolchildren of Chicago?"

I'm not sure why an Indiana congressman's views on the CPS strike are an issue, other than serving as a way to tie Donnelly to organized labor.

And as for standing for the schoolchildren of Chicago, the Club for Growth shouldn't be so quick to paint the dispute as evil labor versus the interests of children, or even as a Democratic versus Republican issue. Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel certainly isn't backing the teachers. Is the Club for Growth supporting Emanuel?

For some perspective on what drove the teachers to the picket line, here's a response from a teacher, directed at a comment made by CPS Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard:

I wanted to educate Mr. Brizard about what it means to "help or hurt our kids".

When you make me cram 30-50 kids in my classroom with no air conditioning so that temperatures hit 96 degrees, that hurts our kids.

When you lock down our schools with metal detectors and arrest brothers for play fighting in the halls, that hurts our kids.

When you take 18-25 days out of the school year for high stakes testing that is not even scientifically applicable for many of our students, that hurts our kids.

When you spend millions on your pet programs, but there's no money for school level repairs, so the roof leaks on my students at their desks when it rains, that hurts our kids.

When you unilaterally institute a longer school day, insult us by calling it a "full school day" and then provide no implementation support, throwing our schools into chaos, that hurts our kids.

When you support Mayor Emanuel's TIF program in diverting hundreds of millions of dollars of school funds into to the pockets of wealthy developers like billionaire member of your school board, Penny Pritzker so she can build more hotels, that not only hurts kids, but somebody should be going to jail.

When you close and turnaround schools disrupting thousands of kids' lives and educations and often plunging them into violence and have no data to support your practice, that hurts our kids.

When you leave thousands of kids in classrooms with no teacher for weeks and months on end due to central office bureaucracy trumping basic needs of students, that not only hurts our kids, it basically ruins the whole idea of why we have a district at all.

When you, rather than bargain on any of this stuff set up fake school centers staffed by positively motived Central Office staff, many of whom are terribly pissed to be pressed into veritable scabitude when they know you are wrong, and you equip them with a manual that tells them things like, "communicate with words", that not only hurts our kids, but it suggests you have no idea how to run a system with their welfare in mind.

When you do enough of this, it makes me wonder if you really see our students as "our kids" or "other people's children".

And at that moment, I am willing to sacrifice an awful lot to protect the students I serve every day. I am not hurting our kids by striking, I'm striking to restore some semblance of reasonable care for students to this system. I'm doing to tell you, "No, YOU are the one hurting our children, and you need to STOP because what you are doing is wrong, and you are robbing students of their educational opportunities.

I ask anyone who does remotely care about the kids we teach and learn from and triumph and cheer and cry and grow with, to stand with us and fight for a better future for our kids.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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