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CTU: City must fight imposition of Puerto Rico model of austerity

CHICAGO—Chicago educators, community groups and Puerto Rican community activists will gather at Yates Elementary School this Thursday to raise the alarm about the debt threat to public education in Chicago outlined in a new report on right-wing austerity strategies now being tested and deployed in Puerto Rico’s public education system.

The Puerto Rican austerity model has been shaped around the island’s debt crisis, and has done deep harm to students and communities on the island. Thursday’s gathering, which is being coordinated with parallel events in New York and San Juan to showcase the release of the new report, Broken Promises, is designed to outline both solutions to these kinds of debt crises and to push back against growing calls for similar strategies to be deployed in Chicago.

Broken Promises details fiscal policies that rely on mass school closings, budget cuts and attacks on public workers to the benefit of Wall Street investors who profit off of public debt. The report warns of efforts by major financial interests and their political allies to use these devastating policies in Puerto Rico as a model for Chicago and other cities across the U.S. Like children across Puerto Rico, Chicago Public Schools students have seen budgets cuts, mass layoffs of teachers and support staff, and waves of school closings while a growing amount of increasingly costly debt payments continues to flow to Wall Street.

Billionaire investors and hedge fund executives with ties to both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and right-wing Illinois governor Bruce Rauner have called for even more sacrifice from Puerto Rican and Chicago communities, and talk has been raised in both Chicago and Springfield about Puerto Rico-modeled takeovers of CPS by a "School Finance Authority."

“The disaster unfolding for Puerto Rican students and educators serves as a warning of what’s in store for our schools, should Rahm and Rauner hand control of CPS finances to yet another unelected authority,” Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. “These austerity policies in Puerto Rico are driven by exactly the same kind of unaccountable finance authority being discussed for Chicago—one beholden to bankers and their profit margins first and foremost, rather than to the students and families we serve.”

Chicago Teachers Union