CTU responds to Rauner's 'State of the State' address...

The Chicago Teachers Union responded to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's "State of the State" address with a forceful reply early on January 28, 2016. One of the things the union is challenging is the false claim that because Illinois has public worker unions the state is "poorer" and is "losing business" to other states. A well financed propaganda entity called the "Illinois Policy Institute" has been providing local newspapers (including almost weekly the Chicago Sun-Times) with Op Ed pieces that appear to be "researched based" but are in fact propaganda for a reactionary "Atlas Shrugged" version of political and economic reality.

Chicago Teachers Union Financial Secretary Michael Brunson (above) detailed some of the union's criticisms of the financial practices of the Chicago Board of Education when he spoke during the January 27, 2016 meeting of the Board of the nation's third largest school system. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The CTU press release follows:

Chicago Teachers Union Response to the 2016 State of the State Address

CHICAGO—Governor Bruce Rauner’s so-called “Turnaround Agenda” is merely a harsher version of the present, as he reiterated his continued protection of the status quo in today’s State of the State address—more austerity for the vast majority of Illinoisans, and more power and influence for the privileged few.

Gov. Rauner’s vision is neither a turnaround nor a path forward to a more equitable economy. The platitudes about competitiveness, efficiency, and bureaucracy were all present in his address, but the real value drivers of substance were lacking. The real challenges facing Illinois, like those facing Chicago’s public schools, are tied to revenue, finance and racial justice. We heard nothing from the governor about the progressive revenue measures that are needed to address Illinois’ budget shortfalls—measures like a graduated income tax, a millionaires’ tax for education and an end to corporate subsidies to companies that slash jobs. Nor did the governor do anything to fight sweetheart bank deals like toxic interest rate swaps that drain hundreds of millions from state, city and Chicago Public Schools coffers.

“If the governor really cared about property taxes for working people, he would ensure that his biggest backers—those select few in his tax bracket—paid what they really owe, but his proposals are instead more job cuts that drain our residents’ ability to support their families,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “If we really want to improve our state’s competitiveness, we need to support our public universities and ensure that low-income students have access to MAP grants, rather than hold our higher education centers hostage.”

Despite being unwilling to pass a state budget without extorting the General Assembly, and despite preaching the gospel of local control, the governor last week proposed a Flint, Michigan-style emergency management for Chicago Public Schools—a district that that overwhelmingly serves low-income African-American and Latino students and families. This and other attacks on working people are hardly examples of a turnaround, but evidence of another year of no state budget and little governing.

The governor’s education proposals are the clearest evidence of his continued support for the status quo. His proposal to spread the Chicago mayoral control model across the state is the same model that enabled Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked Chicago Board of Education to go broke on purpose. This is also the school governance model that led to a decade of pension holidays, 15 years of unchecked charter school proliferation and a massive expansion of the district’s debt. As such, the governor’s model for cost control actually explodes costs and prevents parents from having a real voice in class size, curriculum and school governance. His proposals to “streamline bureaucracy” really mean things like enacting deep cuts to special education positions, which were handed down in CPS last week.

Chicago’s public schools need more counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses, and not additional “school choice.” Students need their existing schools to be well-resourced and supported, not forced to compete under the continued threat of greater budget cuts. Educators and school staff need real freedom to teach and guide through massive reductions in standardized testing and changes to the flawed teacher evaluation system. Chicago needs an elected representative school board now that empowers parents and communities.

If the governor wants to share a path forward, he should look north to the state of Minnesota, which has a $2 billion surplus—the result of much higher tax rates on the state’s wealthiest residents. Minnesota funds its schools at a higher level and much more fairly than Illinois, with job growth that has outpaced Gov. Rauner’s blueprint states such as Wisconsin, Indiana and Kansas. Minnesota’s economy has also grown faster than other states in the Midwest. This is an example of a true turnaround and a real change to the status quo, and not just some fever dream vision that the General Assembly, and Illinois voters, have soundly rejected.


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