Age of Aquarius meets the Age of Austerity
Since his election as Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel has pushed hard on several education-policy fronts—including lengthening the city’s inexcusably short school day and expanding all-day kindergarten access. It’s not just what he’s fighting for that’s exciting (though lengthening the school day is long overdue). Nor is it whom he is fighting against (though it does always tickle Gadfly when Democrats buck the unions). What makes Rahm so promising is the refreshingly pragmatic manner in which he is waging these battles. Noting that “the cost of putting political choices ahead of practical solutions has become too expensive,” Emanuel has exerted concerted campaigns to deflate bloated departments and reroute the recouped dollars to targeted initiatives. To pay for that all-day kindergarten, for example, he lopped $400 million off the city’s schools’ bureaucracy. Best of all is his refreshing rhetoric. About the 2003 teacher-union contract (signed by Arne Duncan, by the way), he said: “Chicago teachers got a double-digit pay raise and a shortened school week. The result was that politicians did not get a teachers’ strike and teachers did get better pay. But can anyone tell me what the kids got? We are going to design a system where the kids get something.” Yes, yes, yes!
“A Progressive in the Age of Austerity,” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, October 15, 2011.
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