The Corner

Chicago Teachers Union Head Karen Lewis: Teach for America Kills Students

New York University professor and liberal education-policy scholar Diane Ravitch wrote yesterday a rather execrable blog post about the Newtown shooting, discussing the heroic teachers who defended students at risk to their own lives, but then explaining that the important takeaway from the deaths of 20 children and six staff, in fact, is that we can’t criticize teachers’ unions or support charter schools:

Every one of the teachers was a career educator. Every one was doing exactly what she wanted to do. They’ve worked in a school that was not obsessed with testing but with the needs of children. This we know: the staff at Sandy Hook loved their students. They put their students first, even before their own lives.

Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure, despite the fact that “reformers” (led by ConnCAN, StudentsFirst, and hedge fund managers) did their best last spring to diminish their tenure and to tie their evaluations to test scores. Governor Malloy said, memorably, to his shame, that teachers get tenure just for showing up. No one at Sandy Hook was just “showing up.” . . .

Let us hope Governor Malloy learned something these past few days about the role of public schools in their communities.

Newtown does not need a charter school. What it needs now is healing. Not competition, not division, but a community coming together to help one another. Together. Not competing.

A TFA vice president, David Rosenberg, then criticized Ravitch’s comments on Twitter, blaming her for politicizing the tragedy in favor of her unrelated political views. Ravitch then received an e-mail from Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis in response, and posted it on her blog:

On the other, the educrats who do not agree with her, read her posts, too so as to keep abreast of her thoughts and are ready to pounce if they see an opening. There might have been a time where “politicizing” tragic events, especially mass shootings was thought to be in poor taste. That has changed with the 24/7 news cycle that continues to focus far too much time and energy on the perpetrator of the massacre than that of our precious victims. Rosenberg’s “false outrage” needs to be checked. That same false outrage should show itself when policies [Rosenberg’s] colleagues [at TFA] support kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation. We in Chicago have been the victims of their experiments on our children since the current secretary of Education “ran” CPS.

Rosenberg’s colleagues, of course, are the thousands of American teachers who are educating and serving our nation’s students via Teach for America. But in the eyes of union partisans such as Lewis and Ravitch, not only does the tragedy at Newtown suggest that any kind of education reform is a deeply evil enterprise, worthy of connecting to a school shooting, but the people working to implement reform are also apparently actually callous killers.

This is hardly the first time Lewis, top union representative for one of the largest public-school systems in America, has made some controversial comments. At a 2011 union conference, she boasted having “spent [her college] years smoking lots of weed,” derided education secretary Arne Duncan for having a “lisp,” accused the Chicago Tribune of running a racist caricature of her, and explained how her husband, an “old-school brotha” often expresses a desire to “beat up” union opponents, but “can’t go to jail” because she’s “too fat to go” join him there.

Lewis came to particular prominence this September, when Chicago teachers held a seven-day strike to dispute various reforms pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Patrick BrennanPatrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...


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