Chicago's teachers are on the streets -- instead of the classroom -- today, and it's important the country understands why they strike. It's not just because they want a wage increase next year reported at 19%, atop the 19-46% wage increase in their last five-year contract. It's also not simply that they want teacher promotion and retention to be tied to seniority, not test results.Ultimately, this imminent strike represents a challenge to the wave of school reforms imposed first by President Bush's No Child Left Behind and then - even more aggressively - by President Obama's Race to the Top. Both tie federal aid, and thus ultimately school revenues and teacher compensation, to measured results.
These efforts are paying off in small but sustained improvements in test scores nationwide.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proved himself an especially forceful advocate of school reform.
If he prevails, and brings positive change to one the worst public school systems in the country, then forget Martin O'Malley and Andrew Cuomo in 2016. The cause of education reform will have found its new champion. Of course at that point, we'll hear that this new ultra-confrontational Democratic flag-bearer is a sad decline from the inclusive, conciliatory style of Barack Obama, by then promoted almost to an honorary Republican.