Age of Aquarius meets the Age of Austerity



pennies in hand photo

This is the dawning of the Age of Austerity.
(Photo by Dottie Mae)

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.