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Chicago Teachers Union officially opposes the Common Core. Will it spread?

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The Chicago Teachers Union voted Wednesday to oppose the Common Core state standards and fight to stop their use in Illinois.

The full resolution is here, but here's the union's argument:

  • The standards reflect the priorities of groups like the Gates Foundation rather than those of teachers and students.
  • They hurt poor students, students of color, and students with disabilities and other disadvantages.
  • The standards have been implemented too quickly, and test scores will be used to judge teachers and close schools.
Conservative activists' case against the Common Core — that it represents federal overreach into the schools — gets more attention, but the union's argument represents the case against the standards from the other end of the political spectrum.

The Chicago Teachers Union is a fierce opponent of the education reform movement and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. And its tactics have spread, says Andy Rotherham, the founder of Bellwether Education Partners.

The Chicago union's confrontational style "has really energized the teachers' union base and basically allowed people to make the case that, 'Why should you compromise?' " he said. "The options are not have a seat at the table or get run over. There's a third option, which is stand and fight."

The influence has been most evident on the union's national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers. That group still supports the Common Core standards — for now. (Its website includes a "debunking myths" section that refutes parts of the Chicago resolution.)

The Chicago union will introduce its resolution to the AFT at this summer's convention, Education Week has reported.

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