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Chicago public school educators to Emanuel and Rauner: Do your jobs

CHICAGO—State legislators will return to Springfield today for a special session called by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The governor has vowed to “amend" SB1, the bill to channel funds to schools across the state, by eliminating money earmarked for Chicago and increasing funding for other school districts. His divide-and-conquer strategy would punish one-third of Illinois’ low-income students—Chicago’s overwhelmingly Black and Brown students—to curry favor with the parents of students who don’t have a 606-- zip code.

For someone who claims that zip code shouldn’t be destiny, Gov. Rauner’s actions speak louder than words. His political interests come ahead of students’ and families’ educational needs every time. He is fanning the flames of a funding shortfall that hurts hundreds of thousands of Chicago students counting on Springfield to finally put the needs of ordinary people ahead of political posturing.

It’s time for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step up as well. Mayor Emanuel first brought Gov. Rauner, his former boss, to prominence as his education advisor, but it’s now time for the mayor to firmly reject the governor’s hostility to public education and support responsible sources of city revenue to fund Chicago’s public schools. When the mayor claims he can’t show his hand in negotiations with the Illinois state legislature, we already see his cards: more borrowing at payday loan interest rates and even deeper cuts to our classrooms.

Chicago Public Schools forks out approximately $70,000 a day in loan interest at rates as high as 9 percent. That money is funding banker bonuses instead of trauma counselors, smaller classes for kindergartners, and more librarians and social workers.

Only new revenue from both the city and the state will solve CPS’ funding challenges, and Chicago should lead by example by passing real tax increment financing (TIF) reform and reinstating the corporate head tax. Sadly, Mayor Emanuel instead competes with the governor for headlines on who’s to blame while their Wall Street banker friends profit from loan shark interest rates.

Chicago’s most vulnerable students suffer from such posturing by being denied access to a full and rich curriculum, wraparound supports to address trauma and violence, and counseling support for the transition to life after high school. These students deserve the same educational resources that the children of the mayor and the governor receive, and that requires revenue from those who are most able to pay—including the wealthy, who profit from their shared policies.

Chicago Teachers Union