CTU leadership is caught agreeing with Rahm Emanuel's lies about the latest CPS 'financial crisis' and the 'Springfield problem' facing Chicago public schools' finances and the city's public schools pensioners...

Prior to her election as president of the Chicago Teachers Union (in June 2010), Karen Lewis regularly testified at the annual budget hearings held by the Board of Education. Until 2009 (above), CPS official held three budget hearings on three successive nights, so that a great deal of testimony was given about the "Proposed Budget" (being held by Lewis, above) each year. Since the inauguration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2011, the Board of Education has refused to issues its proposed budget in June of each year, as required by law. The Board has also refused to hold its budget hearings on successive nights, as it had for decades. Finally, claiming financial problems, the Board has been refusing to print copies of the annual budgets, claiming that the budgets were available on line -- even though CPS officials have regularly deleted and adjusted materials in the budgets that were put on line. For the three years since the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, however, the CTU has become less and less likely to challenge either the procedures of CPS's annual budget hearings of the claims about the actual financial realities facing the schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Without even a traditional smirk of irony, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the press, on October 6, 2015, that he basically agreed with students who had walked out of at least four northside high schools. Emanuel repeated his talking point -- that in order to solve the "crisis" facing the finances of the nation's third largest school system, Chicago's schools were going to need about a half billion dollars from the State of Illinois. CPS officials have already told the press that if the additional money wasn't committed by Thanksgiving, CPS would be "forced" to begin issuing another round of layoff notices -- to as many as 5,000 teachers and other school workers.

But had anyone examined the claims, by CPS officials and repeated by the city's mayor, that the school system's finances were in "crisis"? And by how much? And because the State of Illinois was "underfunding" its public schools.

To give just two examples of the complexity of the issue of CPS finances:

-- Since Rahm Emanuel appointed Forrest Claypool as the fourth "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS in July, certain expenses have exploded, without any public discussion. And since Emanuel's administration began in May 2011 (the others were Jean Claude Brizard, Barbara Byrd Bennett, and as interim, Jesse Ruiz, who remains as Board of Education Vice President), CPS has spent tens of millions of dollars on patronage, with a large amount going to the pinstripe patronage that goes to lawyers and consultants. During two months (July and August 2015), the members of the Chicago Board of Education voted to spend more than $2 million on outside lawyers, even though CPS continues to pay for one of the largest law departments of any major school system.

-- CPS propagandists routinely report that the Emanuel administration has "cut" central office bureaucracy by $700 million. But that claim, repeated recently and put into print in the school system's annual financial reports, is simply a lie. At no time in history has the nation's third largest school system had more than $150 million in administrative and executive expenses, most of them a necessity. The claim to have cut $700 million is based on a lie: CPS combines both central administration and "citywide" personnel to come up with the claim (which has never been itemized). But the so-called "citywide" people are mostly based in the schools and have to provide essential services, including nursing, psychological, and social work services.

And so, by the end of the first month of school, in October 2015, there were more cuts in the schools, more protests. But there has also been a clandestine basic agreement between the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago's mayor on the extent of the problem (a half billion dollar "deficit" or "shortfall") and the precise nature of the solution (more money from "Springfield" without a careful and transparent public examination of the CPS budget, proposed budget, and final audited finances).

And so, the irony grew as the 2015 - 2016 school year continued:

For the first time since they had taken power in the union in July 2010, Karen Lewis and the leaders of the CTU found themselves in basic agreement with the boss: Chicago's schools had a "deficit" of a certain amount, that "deficit" had been caused by the "pension crisis," and the only solution to the "crises" (actually, "crises") was in "Springfield." Although union officials have also talked about other financial solutions, the main target has been the Illinois General Assembly, while the overall situation of CPS finances is being ignored in a way that reminds some observers of the decades-old policies of the ousted United Progressive Caucus (UPC), which was ousted by the CORE caucus in the union's 2010 election (the CORE slates were re-elected in May 2013 by an overwhelming majority -- 80 percent -- of the votes).

And as a result, had someone suggested that the students who walked out of their schools board buses for protests, the protests would not be at Chicago's City Hall, the Board of Education, or even the site of many protests, the State of Illinois building -- but in the State Capitol.

But the fact is that the leadership of the union that led the much-praised strike in September 2012 had decided, without consulting its membership, that the union would not examine the Board of Education's budget and financial claims. Specifically, the CTU President has refused for more than a year to re-activate the union's "School Finance and Taxation Committee," a standing committee required by the union's Constitution and By-Laws. And so, for more than a year, no one inside the CTU has been meeting regularly with members according to the procedures of the union's 75 year history to examine whether the official version of financial realities were truth or fiction.

The Roosevelt High School students' walkout on October 5, 2015 was a success, although at other schools massive security intimidation reduced student participation. But immediately after the walkout, Rahm Emanuel said he agreed with the students and recommended that they go to Springfield since "everyone knows" that the real problem is in the Illinois support for local schools' budgets. The refusal by leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union to continue the tradition of independent budget analysis of CPS finances has been feeding into Rahm's clever narrative. DNA Info photo. One of the ironies of that decision was that the union has been flying blind for more than a year, without a serious and systematic analysis of CPS finances. [Disclosure: this reporter has repeatedly requested that he be assigned to the School Finance and Taxation Committee and has been denied that appointment by union president Karen Lewis for more than a year. This has taken place even though for four years I served as a member of that committee and prior to that, beginning in 2008, led the systematic study of CPS budget claims as part of a group of union members and outside experts who examined the CPS financial situation -- and regularly debunked the claims of CPS and City of Chicago officials].

This is the beginning of the examination of CPS finances from an independent point of view, and also of how and why the leadership of the union decided, without consulting the union's own Executive Board and House of Delegates, to fly blind into the storms of the current "financial crisis"].


Roosevelt High School Students Stage Walkout to Protest Budget Cuts

By Patty Wetli | October 5, 2015 12:16pm | Updated on October 5, 2015 3:07pm



Students from Roosevelt High School, 3436 W. Wilson Ave., walked out of school Monday to protest cuts. Students from Roosevelt High School, 3436 W. Wilson Ave., walked out of school Monday to protest cuts. View Full Caption DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

ALBANY PARK � Hundreds of students walked out of Roosevelt High School Monday to protest district budget and staff cuts.

Chanting "save our teachers" and "cut it with the budget cuts," students were reacting to news that, in the wake of lower than projected enrollment, more than $650,000 had been slashed from Roosevelt's budget, resulting in the anticipated loss of 10 teachers.

"These are teachers we've grown up with and love," said senior Kimoni Gaston, among those taking part in the walkout.

The school has taken a number of financial hits in recent years, which left Gaston "afraid they're going to shut down Roosevelt."

Students said they began organizing the walkout via text and social media after Roosevelt Principal Pilar Vazquez-Vialva shared news of the staff cuts at an assembly last week. Teachers were reportedly learning Monday whether or not they were being pink-slipped.

Patty Wetli � DNAinfo Reporter

How should the city avoid further cuts to schools?

1 14



"I want our voices to be heard," said senior Talia Cinteron, one of the walkout's leaders. "This is for our teachers to keep their jobs."

Vazquez-Vialva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Patty Wetli says the students seemed genuinely concerned:

The mostly orderly and spirited protest began at 10 a.m. Several Chicago Police officers were on hand to keep an eye on the proceedings but had little interaction with the students other than to prevent them from spilling into traffic on Kimball and Wilson avenues.

Roosevelt, 3436 W. Wilson Ave., is a neighborhood school that enrolls approximately 1,200 students, according to the Chicago Public Schools website.

Tenth-day enrollment figures released by CPS showed Roosevelt's head count was 100 fewer students than projected for the 2015-16 school year. Under CPS' per-pupil budget formula, a loss of students translates directly to a loss of funds.

The new cuts came on top of $872,000 slashed from the school's budget in July.

Some 96 percent of Roosevelt's student body is classified as low income. Approximately 75 percent of students are Hispanic, according to CPS.

Though Roosevelt had been on probation for several years, students said the school was on an upswing.

"Everything is improving," said junior Gabriel Virella. "It's worth fighting for."

Senior Katya Borja, who participated in the walkout, said she and her classmates collectively achieved the highest ACT score Roosevelt had received in six years.

"We're showing support for our teachers," said Borja. "They don't deserve this."

The students also had another audience in mind when they staged their walkout: the mayor.

"This is more for Rahm [Emanuel] to see what he's doing to the schools," said student protester Erik Hernandez.

Senior Norma Rodriguez said officials from CPS arrived at the school early Monday morning to meet with administrators and students in the hopes of staving off the walkout. The officials said nothing could be done about the budget cuts, according to Rodriguez.

"They were telling us b.s. It was useless," she said. "What we need is our education."

Student Aaron McCarthy said, "The city can finance stuff like new Ferris wheels and tourist sites. What about the schools? Aren't schools important?" (The new $26.5 million Ferris wheel at Navy Pier will not be covered by public funds, pier officials have said.)

An emergency Local School Council meeting had been scheduled for last Friday in order to hold a public discussion about the cuts. The meeting was canceled but approximately 30 Roosevelt teachers and staff members, along with a handful of LSC members, still gathered to prepare for Monday.

Civics teacher Tim Meegan, who recently ran for 33rd Ward alderman and nearly forced Deb Mell into a run-off, led the conversation.

Roosevelt had already lost 16 teaching positions in August, he noted. With 10 more, "class size will balloon and our electives will be reduced," he said.

"I see Roosevelt caught in this vicious vice grip. They're slashing all of the things that make our school great," Meegan said. "We can't compete [for students] when they cut, but if we don't get more students, they'll cut more."

Joining the protest line Monday, Meegan expressed pride and admiration in his students.

"Teens have real civic values. They're willing to fight to save their school," he said. "This is what we're supposed to teach in the public schools. This is real democracy. All the learning is taking place out here."

The question left hanging in the air both at the conclusion of Friday's staff conclave and on Monday as the protest gradually dissipated: What happens Tuesday?



Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 3 =