Remote learning is just the beginning

Nearly every educator I’ve spoken with since our governor closed the schools, has experienced huge mood swings ranging from guilt, for not seeing and serving students every day, to elation, when we get to connect over a video feed and realize that many of our students and colleagues are alive and well. However, dangers lurk. We know that Goldman Sachs is already seeking to take advantage of the moment to advance e-learning and cut school budgets while profiting from peddling the digital tools they hope will replace live in the flesh instruction. Also, Koch brother affiliates like the Illinois Policy Institute are hankering to use this crisis to cut pension benefits and reduce investment in social services. In this moment, we need our union family more than ever. Our union, the Chicago Teachers Union, has ensured that all educators are receiving our salary and benefits, that our days are counted as meeting state requirements for instructional minutes, and that the district is addressing the digital divide to reduce educational inequities. Nonetheless, our primary task in this moment is to expand our social power for the storm ahead and to advance tackle the racial and economic inequities that have been exacerbated by this crisis. It’s a rare historical moment where if we don’t fight for the entire working class we will be targeted for vicious austerity.  Nothing short of a massive redistribution of wealth in the order of magnitude that occurred after WWI or during and after WWII will suffice. Educators nationally can use this opportunity of digital learning to use the new tools to connect with students and parents around mutual aid and support. Instead of asking questions solely about the academic performance of our students, we will increasingly need to inquire about unemployment insurance, rental assistance, food insecurity and access to housing. If past is prologue, the crisis that ensues will eclipse the one we currently face. The levels of unemployment, eviction, foreclosure, and bankruptcy are destined to rise and with it so must a people’s movement to transform an already cruel economic landscape to one that meets the needs of the many. Imagine if we can fight and win internet as a public utility, a green government jobs program for the unemployed, housing for all our homeless students, free public university access for all our graduates, Medicare for all. Now is the moment to demand and win these transformational changes.

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