“Stubborn”. That’s what my mom calls it.
My cousin says it’s “petty”.
“Unreasonable”, if you ask my education policy friends.
But no matter how many ways I hear it; I can’t get beyond the fact that after every other stakeholder in funding and support of Chicago Public Schools has carried a share of the burden, the Chicago Teachers Union still refuses to accept any pain.
A few months ago, we weren’t sure if Chicago Public Schools would open on time. There was no way that the district would be able to make the budget work without a significant contribution from Springfield above what the existing (unfair) school funding formula would call for. But a budget standoff between an extremely wealthy and often incalcitrant governor and a deeply entrenched and seemingly immutable speaker of the house seemed that it would never get resolved. Without a budget, the appropriation for the district was impossible.
But, somehow Mr. Oil and Mr. Water were able to come together and get a deal done that sent the needed funds to the city schools. Each of them gave up something in that negotiation. Each man was able to claim a little victory and insinuate that it was the other guy that blinked first. But, they got it done and in very large part it was because of the immediate impact that not getting done would have had on children.
Part of that negotiated truce (temporary though it may be) was a special permission for the City of Chicago to raise property taxes to help take up the teacher pensions. That special permission was on top of the special levy that the city issued to help pay the pension for police and firefighters unions (solidarity forever). In fact, the city has raised local taxes more than $1.1 billion in the last year to cover these types of cost. That, of course, is on top of the fact that the Chicago Board of Education once again issued the maximum levy.
As a Chicago property owner, I can confidently say that we have contributed our fair share.
The Chicago Board of Education has also been downsizing the central office in an attempt to make sure that the operations are as efficient as possible. In 2016, only 1,200 of nearly 40,000 staff position in Chicago Public Schools worked in Network Offices and Central Office. The rest of the positions worked in the schools.
So…the leaders in Springfield bit the bullet.
…And local taxpayers have ponied up.
…Even the district is making efficiencies.
So what about the Chicago Teachers Union?
They essentially argue that being a teacher in Chicago is sacrifice enough. The union insists that money be found to meet their salary, pension and health care demands no matter what. And if somebody doesn’t find more money, guess who pays next? Students and their families.
The union has used the $25 million they collect in dues each year to mobilize a massive communications and organizing campaign of distraction. But, make no mistake. All the talk about after school programs, counseling service and tutors is smoke and mirrors.
Just ask the next pro-strike CTU member you encounter this one simple question: If the district agreed today to meet all of the financial demands from the Chicago Teachers Union would you still go on strike?
The answer will be a shameful, “no.”
Because with everyone else shouldering a portion of the load, the Chicago Teachers Union must be prepared to do the same.
As I said, a lot people have different ways of describing the union’s insistence that they should not share in the pain. My mom calls it stubborn…my cousin, petty. But, the union position on this point is sheer nonsense, no matter what you call it.
Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago.
Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.