Rahm Emanuel To Chicago Teachers: To Get Your Pension Payment, 1,400 Of You Must Lose Your Jobs (VIDEO)
As Reverb Press reported June 12th, Chicago Public Schools are facing a municipal ‘fiscal cliff’ due to a $1.1 billion city budget gap including $634 million owed to the Chicago teachers’ pension fund. Chicago Public School teachers were asked to take a 7% pay cut and increased health insurance costs in their new contract, which they rightly called ‘insulting’ and replied ‘This means war!’ In a tactic that mirrors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo’s policies in New Jersey and New York, Illinois state and Chicago local officials are demanding a pound of flesh from teachers in exchange for those teachers getting what they are already legally entitled to. In this case, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is demanding 1,400 layoffs and calling for more borrowing to fund the pension payment.
Mayor Emanuel’s heavy handed approach (see video below of him walking out of an interview) favoring school closings and cuts resulted in a 2012 teacher’s strike that deeply divided the city and mass protests since. Governor Bruce Rauner, once considered a fringe candidate with little chance of winning the general election, is now making severe cuts at the state level that the Tea Party would approve of. Rauner’s solution to the Chicago school crisis was to ask Chicago Public Schools to declare bankruptcy rather than meet its financial commitment to teachers and students. All of this has been disastrous for a system that despite closings and cuts still serves nearly 400,000 students.
This news is part of a disturbing trend in municipal and state management of public schools in this country. Politicians make cuts that increase class size, reduce available supplies and materials and eliminate after school programs including tutoring. When educational outcomes inevitably decline, they blame teachers and call for more draconian budget cuts. It’s like the “I’m not dead” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only there’s nothing funny about it and school children nationwide are harmed as a result.
The contract covering 28,000 teachers and paraprofessionals expires at midnight tonight, July 1st, as the new fiscal year begins. So far, the Chicago Teacher’s Union has complained that these cuts will impact the classroom but has offered to accept a pay freeze and not called for serious action to protest the impending layoffs. This is also a story repeated too often in the United States today: cities and states give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, then claim there’s “no money” and cut education. At the present time it appears that Illinois and Chicago officials will get away with this, but hopefully an already frustrated Chicago community won’t take this for long. We all deserve better than politicians who balance the budget on the backs of teachers and our most vulnerable students.
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