Militarization of CPS questioned at budget hearing

August 17, 2009

To the public hearing on the 2009-2010 Chicago Board of Education budget--

My name is Neal Resnikoff, from the Albany Park, North Park, North Park Neighbors for Peace and Justice.

Neal Resnikoff, above at the August 17, 2009 Chicago Board of Education budget hearings at Amundsen High School, asked the Board why the "Military Area Office" had been expanded greatly while CPS officials were cutting instructional areas, claiming a huge deficit. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.We need a Board of Education which uncovers the source of budget deficits and calls on itself and the public to fight for full funding of public education. To do this, we the public need to have a proposed budget in advance so we can analyze it and comment on it in the most useful way. Why was this huge budget document issued only a few days before this hearing?

I want to congratulate the contributions of the earlier speakers who spoke about how the Board of Education has not fought to have monies from the special Tax Increment Financing districts taken away from the rich special interests and made available to the general public and its schools. And the reference to the lack of information about how much money has been lost by investments in highly speculative and risky derivatives, including in the now bankrupt Lehmann firm? And the drive to have precious money spent on getting the Olympics for Chicago while students have classes of 30 and 40, often without teachers for the first four weeks of each semester?

It is not enough for the representatives of the Board of Education to say we should go and fight in City Council or somewhere else. They should stand up in struggle for needed monies and encourage the public to do the same, including addressing struggle to the federal government.

The Board of Education and we the general public need to all demand that the federal government change its budget so school budgets are not in crisis.

After all, well over 50% of each federal tax dollar is now spent on the military and its illegal and unjust wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and on U.S.occupation forces in some 800 military bases spread all around the globe. The demand of the U.S. corporations for profits and power is at the expense of the education of our children. We need to demand-- Money for education, not for warfare.

Further, we need to oppose the Obama Administration’s attempt to deny children educational money through the stimulus package if they do not accept the bogus educational programs he is pushing

Just this month, Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, announced that states will not get any of the billions he set aside if they do not (1) carry out the policy to increase the fallacious measurement of so-called standardized testing and use the test scores to rate and pay teachers, and (2) increase the various forms of privatized schools, such as charter schools, which siphon off education money from regular school budgets.

But, even within the Chicago proposed school budget, there can and should be cuts to non-productive programs. For example, Chicago has a huge budget for recruiting youth into the active military services for illegal and unjust wars.

Above, in September 2007 during a media event with Arne Duncan at Kelly High School, retired Army Colonel Rick Mills was the first Area Instructional Officer (AIO) in Chicago who was not a veteran teacher and certified (Type 75 Illinois certificate) Illinois public schools administrator. Nevertheless, during the administrative cuts in the Spring of 2009, Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman kept both Mills (at a salary of more than $130,000 per year) and the so-called "Military Area Office" in the budget while eliminating dozens of veteran CPS administrators. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

The budget for the military office (newly renamed Area Office 26) is to double for this coming year over last year’s, from $455,000 to over a million (page 268). What kind of priority is shown when the head of that office, Colonel Rick Mills, makes $120,000, and the heads of the International Baccalaureate Program and Advanced Placement programs each make less than half of that? And when the military office administration has a bigger budget than the administration of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Performing and Creative Arts, Dropout Prevention, and Safe Schools Project, combined?

In this time of huge state budget shortfalls, it is the duty of Board of Education members and staff to let the people know the truth about where the riches of this country are, and urge everyone to take the steps needed to defend children’s right to quality education. 


August 18, 2009 at 10:42 PM

By: Jim Vail

Good stuff

Great analysis on the military part of the CPS budget which mirrors the federal government. President Obama likewise is increasing the military budget while more Americans continue to lose their jobs during this great economic crisis that is only getting worse. Their priorities are on wars and hegemony - we the people must fight this!

August 19, 2009 at 8:11 PM

By: Jim Vail

Obama's war now!

This is the problem I have with some of the "leftist" groups out there: "The election of Obama and the rejection of the right on a whole number of social questions showed concretely how mass consciousness has moved to the left." (Socialist Worker)

Does one really, truely believe this? That the election of Barack Obama represented this? Certainly Obama's election was a rejection of the Bush years - but by a thin margain (and don't forget Bush was elected twice). The people always want better, but their masters have other ideas. The puppets they put up every 4 yrs. is proof in the pudding.

Doesn't the fact that Obama was backed by more corporate money than his Republican opponent not tell the true story? Or the fact the corporate health industry has given more to his campaign than the Republicans paint the true picture about his agenda. Is one really disappointed and surprised about Obama?

Shame on anyone on the left for fueling false hopes.

What about Obama's voting record during his brief time in the US Senate? Tort reform - ie. give corporations more and those harmed less, more funding for imperialist wars, etc.

Shame on those on the "left" for not being more diligent and realistic. Obama is the other side of the coin that rules this empire and destroys the people every day. Nader said it. Counterpunch has said it. There was never a doubt.

The fact that more people voted for Obama than McCain says more about the political machine and how utterly hopeless this political system is, than the people's leftist aspirations.

From day one he has surrounded himself with the thieves who are destroying this country -the sad fact is the people keep getting screwed as their lives keep getting worse and Mr. Obama plays a very big role in this.

And where are the massive protests today against the wars that continue or the bailout of the destructive banks and investment houses that continue to rob the people? If the leftist aspirations of the people amount to voting for a Democrat - no wonder things are so bad and only getting worse!

Jim Vail

August 19, 2009 at 11:55 PM

By: Nate Goldbaum

The differences between Obama and his voters

Wow, Jim. If you can't see that political consciousness has shifted to the left in the last year, then you aren't paying attention. And making a statement about how that shift in consciousness is reflected in the elections is by no means an endorsement of (or fostering illusions in) Obama or his party.

Socialist Worker has NEVER argued that Obama's politics were anything different from the standard Democrat (although his policies represent a move away from monetarism and triumphant capitalism toward a more Keynesian interventionist style of capitalism). While we (rightly) recognized that the excitement of the Obama campaign reflected a shift in consciousness, we never supported Obama or indicated that he would deliver on his major promises.

In fact, during the campaign, we published a new book and multiple articles exposing the Democratic Party. The past several issues of our magazine The International Socialist Review ( have also been devoted to demonstrating the disconnect between the image and reality of the Obama administration.

So, to accuse us of fueling false hopes in Obama either demonstrates poor reading ability or disingenuousness. One quote taken out of context cannot adequately represent our efforts to ANALYZE OUR POLITICAL CONTEXT!

The truth is that grassroots organizing efforts are benefiting from that shift in consciousness. Recognize that a new, vibrant movement has arisen and made strides in the fight for gay marriage in the wake of the election. That is, instead of retreating after a defeat (as we've seen people do for the past 20 years) the passage of Proposition 8 in California prompted gays, lesbians and their supporters to fight back. A movement has formed and seen considerable success in this city to oppose the Olympics and its skewed priorities. The movement for single-payer health care in this country has grown in the grassroots. And, frankly, the success of CORE in reaching teachers who are ready to fight for their union represents more than just the hard work of its members.

The very fact that we have a solid group of activists in CORE represents a shift in our political climate. There is hope for change. There was NO HOPE before. That actually translates into more action.

There is a problem if your analysis of political consciousness is based solely on the actions of the political elites. We've spoken, Jim, about your experiences as a reporter but not much about your experience in grassroots organizing. Having organized, sold Socialist Worker newspapers, and built coalitions in this city since the US intervention in Yugoslavia I can tell you that there is MUCH MORE openness to left-wing ideas in the general public in this city. I have heard much the same from socialists in other parts of the country, as well.

A Rasmussen poll taken in April shows that 33% of people under 30 now favor socialism over capitalism. Only 37% of them said they favored capitalism -- in the belly of the capitalist beast, no less!

Why then, you ask, is there no mass movement demanding an end to the wars? Why do we not see our society rocked by revolt (yet)? For one thing, while CONSCIOUSNESS has shifted POLITICAL ORGANIZATION has not caught up with it. The Left in this country has been practically nonexistent for the past 30 years. It is just beginning to grow now. We do not yet have the organizational size or strength to force our way into the OFFICIAL political discourse. That will take more time and energy.

No historical correlation is perfect, but we should bear in mind that the election of Franklin Roosevelt saw very similar tepid Keynesian measures in the early phase of the New Deal. Yet, Leftists used the small shift in politics at the top as an opportunity to operate below. Leftists (and there were many more organized leftists at the time) recognized the political shift represented by the election and seized the opportunities it presented. Nonetheless, it was three years before we saw a significant rise in strikes. The wave of strikes and union organizing that took place during the Depression and the New Deal era caused a seismic shift in the political landscape of this country. The capitalists STILL have not rolled back all the gains made during that era.

Does that mean that FDR was something different from other Democrat politicians? Not at all. But did his election represent a shift in political consciousness? Certainly. This is the difference between analyzing only elite politicians and reading the tea leaves of an election. It's not about Obama. It's about the Obama phenomenon. That phenomenon is still unfolding. Disillusionment is growing with the Obama administration. That can be a positive development -- assuming the Left recognizes the opening. The opening is there. We need to build the leadership that can take advantage of it. For that we need more than will, we need size and resources.

Jim, saying that the Obama election is just more of the same is not only bad analysis but a prescription for passivity. If politics were just the same now as they were under Bush then people would continue to be hopeless and apathetic. The hope unleashed by the Obama campaign can be used to our advantage, but not if we simply dismiss it.

August 19, 2009 at 11:57 PM

By: Nate Goldbaum

Formatting problem

Sorry it all somehow came out in one big block. Where it says "\r\r" there should be a double break. Not sure why that happened. Sorry it's not very readable.

August 20, 2009 at 4:21 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Editing problems. and solutions

Some browsers, word processing programs, and e-mail programs result in quirky display at

I just spent five minutes editing so the display doesn't look as difficult as it did.

I'm laughing enjoying how much range the discussions now have at SubstanceNews. Remember, though: We're a news service that likes to blog around. Have fun.

August 20, 2009 at 8:00 AM

By: Nate Goldbaum

Thanks, George!

Thanks, George. We both should probably have been getting sleep at those hours, instead of dealing with this exchange. The things we do...

August 21, 2009 at 12:03 AM

By: Jim Vail

Thanks all

Nate - As always, you make eloquent arguments and most importantly, you make sense. The Socialist Worker in my opinion is an excellent source of information and yes, your group is very critical of Obama.

I guess my frustration grows out of this embracing Obamamania - reading the tea bags as you state. But whether it's Bush or Obama - both ruthless in their own right to be leading the No. 1 imperialist power on this planet - the people must organize and fight big time.

Obama is very bad for this country. Do the people who voted for him see this enough when they read the corporate media - probably not when I get emails saying to support poor Obama from the vicious right wing attacks, rather than the people getting screwed by his poliicies in this time of crisis.

I'm totally with you in keeping hope alive, the fight with Core, Single Payer, gay rights, etc. That's all great.

I still, though, question the country turning more left. Perhaps it is logical for more people to be critical of our government as their economic situation deteriorates, that's the crisis we see as a positive step toward educating the public better. But we at Substance, CORE, and other fighters for the people in this country can't sit back and think Mr. Obama represents anything real for the people while being backed by big-time capitalists responsible for this disaster.

As you pointed out and Lance Selfa told me, it's up to us the people to fight. And CORE with Substance is at the forefront and can be a beacon of light to perhaps the silent majority out there. Let's hope so!

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