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CTU to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: “Stop the reckless borrowing and fund our schools”

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis, public school educators and parents told Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education today that without short-term, responsible revenue sources to address the budget shortfall in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the mayor will allow Gov. Bruce Rauner to irreparably damage every school community in the city—risking the education of hundreds of thousands of public school students.

“The Civic Federation and Wall Street finally admit to what we’ve known for years: The solution to the CPS budget crisis is revenue, not cuts,” CTU President Karen Lewis said. “Yet Rahm is tone deaf and committed to prioritizing bankers over our school communities.”

“The mayor cannot continue to cut and borrow his way out of this crisis and simply shift the costs to the shoulders of the very children whose education the district is shortchanging,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

“Chicago has real alternatives to the payday loan terms that bond buyers are currently offering,” Sharkey added. “If the mayor instead reinstates the corporate head tax and invests TIF funds in our students’ futures, it offers Chicago residents two practical, immediate and responsible revenue streams that will help stem the fiscal bloodletting and start to right CPS’ path to a stable financial future.”

Mayor Emanuel’s latest borrowing schemes will rob school communities of $350,000 a week in interest payments. These same funds could be used to:

  • Hire three college counselors for the mayor’s new obstacle course of graduation requirements
  • Hire six special education assistants
  • Add three restorative justice coordinators to schools
  • Add three pre-kindergarten teachers to increase early childhood education outcomes for children in low-income neighborhoods, instead of lining the pockets of voracious bankers

In published reports, Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics, said that taxing downtown because of its large business and corporate base is a viable alternative to costly borrowing schemes, in addition to the city borrowing the money on the district's behalf. The CTU and its allies have proposed for well over a year that the city reinstate the corporate head tax, which has cost Chicago tens of millions of dollars since Mayor Emanuel began phasing it out in 2011.

This, and redirecting tens of millions of dollars in TIF surpluses—tax revenue that is steered to the mayor’s slush fund for wealthy developers instead of our school communities—are two strategies alone that will help close the district’s budget gap and restore hundreds of millions of dollars already cut from schools as the Illinois legislature seeks ways to work around Gov. Rauner’s refusal to address the state-wide crisis in public education funding.

“While the state of Illinois has the primary responsibility to fund public schools in Chicago and throughout the state, it’s too risky to wait on the governor’s cold heart to thaw and see the error in his ways,” CTU Legislative and Political Director Stacy Davis Gates said. “The governor has either vetoed or threatened to veto nearly every bill impacting funding for Chicago’s school communities.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, $51 million in mid-year budget cuts hit low-income schools serving Black and brown students the hardest, while educators absorbed another $35 million in cuts in lost instruction time. At the same time, Mayor Emanuel is paying $60 million in interest costs on costly bank deals while school communities hobble along without much-needed special education and trauma support.

The $60 million in fees already paid to banks could have placed 250 social workers and 350 special education educators—areas of school budgets cut dramatically over the last year—in school communities dealing with the trauma of the city’s unprecedented violence. And instead of creating a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the third-largest school district in the country, the mayor recently fired 38 Black and Latina Head Start assistants.

“The firing of nearly 40 Black and brown women only exacerbates the Depression-era levels of unemployment on the South and West sides of the city after the mayor has already closed 50 schools in these communities and refuses to appropriately deal with the bloodshed that has visited our school yards and neighborhoods,” President Lewis said. “His latest assault will only accelerate the forced removal of Black residents from the city.”

ILLUSTRATION: Karen at Board on June 28
(President Lewis asks how can the mayor and his handpicked CPS CEO value pre-school
when they lay off essential support personnel?)

Chicago Teachers Union