Rep. Soto Showing her True Colors

To truly understand how politics works, one needs to take a closer look at our so-called “friendly” legislators. I wrote an article two years ago in which I outed the former state rep and current Cook County commissioner John Fritchey who supported progressive causes and walked picket lines. Upon further inspection, the so-called ‘progressive’ turned out to be a well-paid lobbyist representing corporate interests opposed to workers and voted in favor of privatizing public education by supporting vouchers and charter schools.

Everyone was smiling at the signing of the Chicago Facilities Bill on August 20, 2011 (above). Rep. Cynthia Soto (right) and Valencia Rias (of the Facilities Task Force) are unable to explain, three years after the "Soto Bill" began its trail through the Illinois legislature, how the legislation failed to bring a moratorium on school closings and turnarounds in Chicago, as promised. Soto recently joined forces with the anti-union privatization charter schools owners in Chicago. And the legislation was so powerless that current CPS officials are laughing at those who spend months promoting the bill as a way to stop school closings, turnarounds, and the charterization and privatization of the public schools of Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Boy, did that infuriate several readers who get really upset when their hero is made fun of.

Let’s fast forward today to Illinois state rep Cynthia Soto. Soto put herself in the limelight a few years ago by taking a courageous stand against the closing of Carpenter school and the Chicago Public Schools privatization plan.

Soto sponsored the facilities bill, otherwise known as the Soto bill, that would put a moratorium on any further school closings and mandate that CPS follow democratic procedures before altering any school buildings — including closures, phase-outs, consolidations or sharing space with private charter management companies.

The moratorium was removed from the final bill that unanimously passed the house and senate and was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn. Soto received a legislator of the year award from the Chicago Teachers Union for her work two years ago.

However, Soto recently decided to support charter schools and privatization by sponsoring a "full funding" charter bill that would have taken funding for public schools and passed it on to mostly anti-union charter schools, the darlings of corporate funders.

Soto clearly voted in the interests of a few Noble Street Charter schools in her district, against the vast majority of public neighborhood schools which would be hurt by this bill.

The bill went down in defeat, thanks largely to downstate Republicans who said they ain’t gonna pay for Chicago’s privatization mania.

The CTU explained to Soto that sponsoring the charter school funding bill would go against the spirit of her facilities bill because charter schools help to destabilize the public schools when they share space and expand inside.

What has been Soto’s response?

She has ignored her constituents, and members of the CTU’s political action committee, to explain why she voted to support charter schools. (full disclosure – I am a member of the CTU political action committee.)

I called Soto three times and left messages in which her office promised she would call back. She never did.

Another member of the PAC committee who lives in her district also called three times, and is still waiting for Soto to respond.

The fact of the matter is, Soto, like any politician — no matter on which side of the aisle they hail from — answers to the money interests, the one percent, just like Mr. Fritchey.

The United Neighborhood Organization or UNO told her and others surrounding the Hispanic political machine in Chicago to vote in favor of the charter bill.

And she did.

A few years ago she told a bunch of us CTU members before she reintroduced her bill for full CPS transparency that she listens to her constituents. When the Carpenter people called to ask for her support, she said of course I support you.

And like any great actor, she shed tears when she found out her bill could not save Carpenter.

And now she’s not returning those constituents' calls concerned about her vote this session on charter schools.

And that folks is how our political system really works. They smile, they make you laugh, they put their arms around you and support you, then go ahead and do what they are supposed to do. 


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