In advance of the Chicago Teachers Union rally downtown on Wednesday, May 23, the Illinois Green Party has issued the following statement:
The Illinois Green Party is proud to stand in support of the Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU is on the front line of bipartisan attacks against the public sector. The committed teachers in the City of Chicago deserve widespread support, not just in Chicago but across Illinois, for refusing to back down in the face of this unprecedented campaign to destroy public sector unions.
What group of people worked their way through college and took on a career track dedicated to educating and uplifting America’s youth? It’s not business leaders or politicians. It’s teachers. Teachers are the ones who know best how schools can be better serving our children. They are hard-working, highly-educated professionals who deserve to be treated as such. The people who attack them, of course, know this. They feign contempt because they are upset that they cannot make money by busting unions, depressing wages, and generally treating children like exploitable commodities.
The war against teachers and other public sector employees is not new, and it is hardly limited to Illinois. The shameful actions of Scott Walker in Wisconsin have helped bring these attacks against the public sector to the front page across the country. But in Wisconsin, as in other places, the attacks have been portrayed as merely the actions of right-wing anti-government extremists. Those of us in Illinois know better. Here it is Democrats, the supposed champions of labor, who are leading the attacks.
In Chicago, it is the Mayor himself who has waged open warfare against the teachers. He slams teachers for blocking “reforms”, but his reforms involve things like slashing library hours, attacking pensions, and padding corporate pockets through a vague “infrastructure trust”. He is also an extreme champion of charter schools, which serve to bust unions and depress teacher wages. “Reform” is just a code word for rerouting public dollars to corporate interests. For Rahm Emanuel, Chicago is just a gigantic video game, and his primary concern is in scoring more points and beating the game. If the interests of the people are served along the way, that’s just a collateral benefit. But in the rules of his game, he doesn’t lose any points when he screws over teachers, librarians, and the majority of children in the city.
In Springfield, Michael Madigan, de facto ruler of Illinois for 30 years, has overseen the steady collapse of the state’s finances. He and his cronies nevertheless maintain power through a complicated maze of gerrymandering, pay-to-play, nepotism, and more. Nobody is more responsible for the gigantic pension debt in Illinois than Madigan, but he and others are happy to let public sector workers and retirees take the fall. “Pension reform” is ultimately nothing more than a series of broken promises, but in Madigan’s thinking, the people he’s helping to screw over have nobody else to vote for anyway, so he has no particular reason to care.
Reform, to be sure, is badly needed in Illinois, and especially in Chicago – but the reform which is most sorely needed in electoral reform. Chicago is the only city in the state without an elected school board. The school, park, library, and community college boards are all appointed by the mayor. All of these bodies therefore wind up supporting the expansion and maintenance of TIF districts, even though the effective result of TIF districts is to take money away from schools, parks, and libraries. Similarly, incomplete campaign finance reform, combined with escalating difficulty for candidates seeking to run for office, have served to strengthen the hold incumbents have on their seats. There is little to no accountability for the city, county, and state failing to meet pension fund obligations.
The Illinois Green Party calls for elected school, community college, park, and library boards in the City of Chicago.
The Illinois Green Party calls for a collaborative solution to state and local pension debt, with unions fully at the table and politicians no longer employing scare tactics and making workers and retirees out to be the problem.
The Illinois Green Party calls upon the State of Illinois to live up to its constitutional obligation to fund at least 50% of the cost of public schools, instead of forcing districts to rely heavily on regressive property taxes.
The Illinois Green Party calls for urgent TIF reform, including the release of all TIF funds to local taxing bodies from districts which are clearly not “blighted” such as the Central Loop and LaSalle TIF districts in Chicago.
The Illinois Green Party demands the end of Rahm Emanuel’s war against teachers in Chicago, and pledges to stand with the Chicago Teachers Union and all other teachers in Illinois whose livelihoods are threatened.
Illinois Green Party: www.ilgp.org
Chicago Teachers Union: www.ctunet.com