by Cassandra Solis, Digital Communications Intern
This past May, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) took to the streets to protest Governor Rauner’s delay in passing a budget for the 2016-2017 school year affecting the financial resources needed for Chicago Public schools (CPS) to start on time. Public officials may not be too happy about the demonstrations, but they have preserved the CTU’s right to protest; allowing them to assemble and organize a peaceful agenda.
Similarly, across the U.S./Mexico border – in the southernmost state of Oaxaca, Mexico— teachers took to the streets to protest the government’s education reforms. Sadly, the Oaxaca teachers experienced a very different outcome.
Here’s the breakdown…
In 2013, Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, proposed an education reform plan that included a provision that would have teacher evaluations dictate compensation and subsequently, terminate teachers who would not meet federal standards. In May of 2013, the CTNE issued a statement making the suggestion that testing occur with a ‘bottom-up’ approach and have the community and school administration work together to craft teacher evaluations.
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This June, Mexico’s federal government opened fire on CTNE teachers and union activists who were protesting the education reforms. The Mexican government attacked protesting teachers anywhere from publicly shaming them in the streets through nonconsensual head shavings in the public plazas to imprisoning union leaders among other human rights violations. The results of this are heinous; nine killed and brutally murdered, twenty imprisoned, and many injured.
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Mayor Rahm Emmanuel may not necessarily support the CTU strike, however, his opposition is not faced with immediate life threatening consequences like that of Mayor Adolfo Gomez Hernandez, Mayor of Oaxaca, who has openly stated his support of the teachers’ demonstrations. This, he believes prompted the delivery of a homemade bomb to his office. Karen Lewis can champion the CTU views and clearly use her First Amendment right to freedom of speech and assembly. Lewis does not have to fear imprisonment for disagreeing with the state and protesting like Ruben Nunez, who heads CTNE.
The disjuncture between the federal, state, and local government in Oaxaca is astonishing, but illustrates why our Founding Father created the Bill of Rights. Where would we be without it? One just has to look at Oaxaca, Mexico and the protest that happened there.
by David Hiller, President and CEO
After the terrible events last week in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, our country is shocked, saddened and deeply worried about where we are and where we are going as a nation. As a foundation in Chicagoland committed to strengthening our communities, we are reflecting on what we can do to help our community heal, build trust, and move forward.
The center of our problem is the failure of community itself, with the perception and fact that we are divided along racial lines, and that police and other institutions do not treat communities of color equitably, sometimes with violent and lethal consequences. This problem is as old as our nation, and is rooted in our long history of slavery, racism, and segregation, a legacy we have not fully confronted and certainly not solved.
At the McCormick Foundation we have over the past year begun exploring more intentionally how race and racial equity impact our communities, and our own mission to help make our communities better. We are benefitting on this journey from our work with community-based organizations and individuals who are living these issues daily. It is a journey we all need to travel together.
Even early on, we can see a number of related needs that must be addressed.
- Police accountability and community relations. We should support the public process of reconciliation, trust building, along with changes to improve police accountability and police community relations. Along with other foundations, we helped fund the Police Accountability Task Force that has made a very strong set of recommendations to deal with racism and bias in policing, improve accountability and transparency, and improve police community relations. We now need to develop and implement a process to make these changes in ways that build trust and confidence between the police and the people they serve and protect.
- Public safety and violence reduction. Heightened shootings and killings in our communities of color is the setting in which police and community interactions occur. This rising violence places greater demands on law enforcement at the same time that trust and confidence have been diminished. We should continue our support for violence reduction efforts in the neighborhoods, including measures that will build trust and support for the police.
- Strengthening Families in low-income communities of color. Deep poverty in our segregated communities on the south and west sides contributes in myriad ways to the racial divisions and disparities in education, employment, health, homelessness, and experiencing violence. We need to deepen city-wide efforts to help families and children in these communities, with an increasing emphasis on systemic level change that can have bigger long term impact. Creating jobs is especially important in these communities, where nearly half of African American young men between 16 and 24 are not in school and not employed.
- Democracy and Civics. The challenges we are facing are fundamentally about the effectiveness – and short-comings – of our civic and community institutions. Solutions will require active democratic participation, vigorous journalistic reporting, and more accountable and transparent government. Implementing the Police Accountability Task Force recommendations, in a process genuinely embraced and informed by our communities, will be critical.
Much of what our country confronts is part of our painful history of race and prejudice, and needs to be addressed in those terms. Our own work on racial equity is helping us build our capacity to work with others in the community to deal with these issues in open, honest and constructive ways. This is something we all need to do together, in the prayer that terrible events as we have seen in the past week do not happen again.
by Jennifer Choi, Program Officer
In May, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation partnered with Bloomberg Media and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to host a private in-person “Platforms + Publishers Roundtable” of influential platform representatives (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Medium, YouTube, LinkedIn) and large, medium and small news publishers to increase transparency, open lines of communication and build trust for more collaboration.
Key takeaways from the event:
- Social media platforms want to collaborate better with news organizations. But they are also quite thinly staffed and struggle with operating in silos. The platforms will require improved coordination and communication to solve some of the consistency issues surfaced by news organizations.
- Social media platform participants shared that one of the challenges to the transparency issue raised by news organizations was that at times the media coverage of social media platforms didn’t allow for social media platforms to more safely experiment and iterate without also having to address a PR crisis that might detrimentally affect their business. Social media platforms want publishers to also be more nuanced and offer more sophisticated reporting on their industry.
- Many participants expressed appreciation for this convening by describing it as having a more problem-solving disposition than other similar convenings and even created a Facebook group for the cohort to continue to keep in touch.