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Union leads protest at Bank of America... 'CPS is robbing our schools to give to the banks...'

Protesters on August 26, 2015 pointed out that the financial problems facing Chicago's public schools were caused by the fact that CPS officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel favor the banks over the people. Substance photo by David Vance.As one sign read: Robbing Our Schools to Give to the Banks On the morning of Wednesday, August 26, 2015, as the Chicago Board of Educations monthly meeting took place inside, a march of approximately 100-150 protesters against the proposed budget temporarily moved from the front of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters at 42 W. Madison to the nearby Bank of America located at 33 N. Dearborn.

A giant, symbolic, Bank of America check lead the way. Date: 2015-2016 School Year. Withdrawal: Pay to Students and Families of Chicago, Illinois. Amount: $274,000,000. Signed: Tim Maloney, Illinois President. There were specific breakdowns for the checks amount:

$120M for State of Illinois swap losses

$65M for City of Chicago swap losses

$32M for CPS swap losses

$57M for Termination fees (Chicago and CPS)

The crowd circled on the sidewalk in front of Bank of America as speakers positioned themselves in front of the doors, giant check held up behind them.

Amisha Patel, Executive Director, Grassroots Collaborative, said that this was about the future of our country. It was an outrage that Wall Street was squeezing school districts. When the banks were about to fall off a cliff, the taxpayers lent a helping hand. But now? Give us back our money! The usual chant is: They say cutback! We say fight back! This crowd chanted: They say cutback! Give us our money back!

Sarah Chambers, special education teacher from Saucedo Academy and co-chairman of CORE (the Caucus Of Rank-and-file Educators), claimed that CPS was cutting 1400 positions. Was that okay? [The crowd yelled, NO!] Chambers said that this included 625 special education positions. Was that okay? [NO!] This was distressing out students.

But not everyone was suffering. Banks and hedge funds were profiting off our students. $274 million in toxic swaps needed to be given back to CPS for our schools and students. Georgia Waller, from Beard Elementary School, spoke of the full-time clinician positions that could be hired with that money: nurses, social workers

Teacher Gabriel Sheridan said we were here for the $274 million, but they would not let us in the bank to talk with them. Claypool, Emmanuel, and Tim Maloney needed to stop the attacks on the most vulnerable people in our city. We would not stop until we got back the $274 million.

Another speaker spoke in support of the hunger strikers for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. Invest in our community!

A representative contingent attempted to enter the bank with the giant check. The crowd chanted: Give it back! Give it back! The contingent was refused entry. CPS students, parents, teachers and community members were refused the $274 million. The crowd headed back to CPS headquarters.

On August 26, the CTU website (www.ctunet.com) had posted the following call to action by Jackson Potter, CTU staff coordinator:

How Bank of America busted the schools budget and what we can do about it.

BY JACKSON POTTER - CTU STAFF COORDINATOR | 08/26/2015

Despite the claimed financial expertise of the appointed Chicago Board of Education bankers, we are in the midst of a full-blown financial catastrophe. One major driver of the crisis is exotic financial instruments known as toxic swaps. In fact, the Board of Education just borrowed more money to pay off swap termination fees for up to $300 million, roughly the same amount that was recently cut from special education programs and school budgets.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's banker friends, like Jim Reynolds of Loop Capital and Bank of America, misrepresented the danger of interest rate swaps even as they peddled their benefits. These deals were supposed to save the district money on its bonds, but when the banks crashed the economy in 2008, interest rates plummeted and these deals became a windfall for the banks. The district and the mayor had, and still have, a chance to recoup those funds but they refuse to take action.

Since 2011, the Chicago Teachers Union, Grassroots Collaborative and others have asked Emanuel to use legal and economic leverage to push the banks to renegotiate these deals. Cities like Houston have recouped millions by taking legal action against these predatory financial deals, whereas Chicago, which has the most swap exposure of any school district in the country, has bent over backwards to please the banks. That is why the CTU and our allies are taking matters into our own hands. We are asking all of Chicago to boycott Bank of America. Close your credit cards and switch your accounts to get BOA to renegotiate these dirty deals. Ask Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to protect Chicagoans against the malfeasance of the banks and hold public hearings to lay the groundwork for litigation. We hope that citizen action will inspire the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools to recoup up to $1.2 billion in swap payments that Bank of America and other Wall Street firms have taken from them. Even a fraction of the money could restore vital school programs, taxpayer confidence and fairness to a system that for too long has rewarded Bank of America to our collective disadvantage.



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