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Teachers union slams Emanuel budget proposal

Mayor’s proposal built on fiction and spin; Union demands accountability, fair revenue sources to fund basic city services.

CHICAGO, October 18, 2017—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in response to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget address, saying that the mayor’s “fiction and spin” seeks to conceal the reality that working class families are being asked to shoulder the burden of revenue, while essential needs such as public education and affordable housing are neglected:

Once again, Mayor Emanuel’s budget address is built on fiction and spin instead of the hard facts. First, it’s fiction that Chicago’s public schools do better under this budget. In fact, Emanuel’s school budgets have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from neighborhood schools and angled to enact policies that short-change students—especially Black and Latino schools. The result has been extreme shortages of guidance counselors, school librarians, teacher assistants and school social workers at a time of record violence and ever-increasing demands on teachers and school staff. Emanuel’s school bosses, for example, worked secretly to rob special education students of support, deny them a federally guaranteed equal education and use bogus statistics as the basis for harsh attacks on our most vulnerable students.

The mayor regularly moves the entire city apparatus to shower money on projects backed by bankers, attorneys and corporate CEOs. Yet he’s slow-walked efforts to win new state revenue for schools, agreed to shovel money to private and parochial schools at the expense of public schools, and claimed victory for a bill that provided a fraction of the $2 billion our schools need. Emanuel’s TIF ‘gift’ to public schools in this budget proposal is less than 20 percent of what our schools need just to make up for his deep cuts since 2015 alone, despite a record TIF haul that is $100 million larger than last year’s. At the same time, Emanuel's education policy ignores the state's new—and more fair—evidence-based model for school funding, and perpetuates instead the spectacularly unfair 'student-based budgeting' scheme that undercuts the vitality and sustainability of neighborhood public schools.

Instead of supporting civic and economic development in blighted communities, this budget perpetuates Emanuel’s ability to plunder TIF funds for special interests—including some of the wealthiest companies in the nation—with virtually no oversight.

Nothing in this budget puts the burden of government service on those most able to pay: the Fortune 500 corporations and wealthy campaign donors who, with Emanuel’s protection and blessing, continue to evade paying their fair share of taxes, fees and fines. This budget shows no path forward in addressing the Depression-era unemployment that afflicts our communities on the city's south and west sides; does nothing to set the city on a path to supporting living wage work for the residents who live here today; does nothing to secure and stabilize affordable housing for our residents who confront escalating rents and displacement; does nothing to address the need for comprehensive summer employment for our youth, who desperately need alternatives to the desolate hopelessness of the streets; does nothing to tackle the root causes of violence in our city’s struggling neighborhoods; and continues to drown ordinary residents with the burden of new or growing flat taxes on essential services, from water and garbage pick-up to street plowing and phone service.

There is no school funding fairness unless the money is there. It’s time for Emanuel to put real revenue into our public schools in the short term to address his deep cuts—cuts about which the mayor continues to be silent. And it’s time for Emanuel to advocate in Springfield for new money from progressive revenue sources.

What this city needs—and what our residents deserve—are more fair, equitable forms of revenue, including a reinstated corporate head tax and an end to diversions of TIF funds to wealthy developers. This city needs a budget that puts the needs of ordinary, working class residents first. This city needs an end to pinstripe patronage and contract payoffs to politically connected players who privatize public services for profit and bleed our public coffers of desperately needed funds. This city needs real transparency and real accountability in fiscal and public policy. There is none of that in this budget—and it's time for us all to draw a line in the sand and demand better.

Chicago Teachers Union