Chicago’s public school teachers have walked out in a one day strike. Some are picketing at their schools. Some are just staying home. There’s more than one way of looking at this action. Here’s the press release from the Chicago Teachers’ Union:
The strike is a call for increased revenue for Chicago Public Schools and its students, and a direct response to continued attacks and efforts toward union-busting from Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the mayor’s handpicked CPS CEO, Forrest Claypool. For the past year, the district has stalled contract negotiations with the CTU, threatened and mandated furlough days, cuts and layoffs, and removed step and lane increases for educators—the latter of which is the legal basis for the April 1 strike. Gov. Rauner, while unable to pass a state budget and putting the welfare of thousands of his constituents at risk, is on record in his desire to break unions and is currently starving city and state schools—at elementary, high school and university levels—unless downstate legislators accept his “turnaround” agenda.
April 1 will highlight proposals from the CTU and its education and community partners for winning school funding and funding for other important services. The only solution that doesn’t involve a complete downgrade of the teaching profession and teachers’ standard of living, and that protects quality public education, requires new revenue sources in the form of progressive tax reform that would get the super wealthy (top 5 percent) to pay their fair share in state taxes. This could generate up to $6 billion in new revenue for education and other social needs. In addition to progressive tax reform, the Union continues its demands about toxic swaps and tax increment financing (TIF)—swap terminations cost the district $240 million this year alone, and the TIFs could put enough money into the schools to completely reverse this year’s cuts. The Union’s calls for increased revenue for the district are now an issue on the national stage, and there is legislation pending in Springfield that would take TIF control out of the mayor’s hands and force the release of these funds to our schools.
Here’s what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to say as reported by the Associated Press:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he agrees with Chicago teachers that more money is needed for education.
But he says the Chicago Teachers Union should join with him and Chicago Public Schools to lobby state lawmakers, rather than go on strike.
Thousands of teachers are protesting cuts in school funding Friday. Their one-day strike shut down schools for nearly 400,000 students.
Emanuel says for many of those students, school is the only place they get two meals each day or other services. He says the “kids are paying a price that” he doesn’t “think is right.”
and here’s what Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:
Rauner issued a statement Friday in response to the strike, saying: “It’s shameful that Chicago’s children are the victims in this raw display of political power. Walking out on kids in the classroom, leaving parents in the lurch and thumbing their nose at taxpayers — it’s the height of arrogance from those we’ve entrusted with our children’s futures.”
Elsewhere the Trib is referring to the strike as “Tantrum Day”.
I’m of mixed minds on this. I think that something should be done to end the budget impasse in Springfield. I’d prefer it if both sides gave in a little. Waiting for the governor to cave isn’t much of a plan but it seems to be the only plan that the Democratic leadership of the state legislature has. Illinois needs a budget but it needs a lot more than a budget. It needs a plan to foster economic growth. Without that we’re just bickering over the dead bones.
However, I don’t see a straight line connection between the budget battle and more funding for the schools. So far what I’ve seen strongly suggests that the strike is unlawful and immoral (since it’s a secondary boycott).