Right here in Chicago, while the Chicago Teacher’s Union steps to the plate bargaining to not become victims of cataclysmically underfunded education budget… that’s right our $5.3 billion dollar education budget is not adequate to provide the adequate minimum number of teachers, school nurses, social workers, counselors, janitors, ESL specialists and I could go on and on. That same budget does not have enough money in it provide textbooks, materials and equipment for every student, in every classroom, in every school in the Chicago Public School system. That budget, the present, existing budget does not have the fiscal capacity to heat, cool, clean or keep the ceilings from collapsing on the heads of children in every building, for every school and in every classroom, washroom or office in the Chicago Public School system. That’s right; the present budget is too small to meet those needs. The contextual question is not how much money can we cut from the budget to make ends meet because where those ends meet is already not adequate to meet the needs the system already has. The question instead is; where will find enough money to meet those needs so that we can have an educational system functional enough to see where or even if we are wasting resources?
For those who are unaware of the current political situation in Chicago, there is a level of backstory to understand. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat, and many of the aldermen across Chicago are also Democrats, they have embraced the politics of austerity and privitization to a degree that is harming the very fabric of our city. The poor and middle class have been disproportionately affected by Rahm’s cuts to education, public health care, public sector jobs: shutting down schools
, criminalizing mental health by closing 6 of 12 city mental health clinics
, and hurting libraries
, while the tax-payer funds that were promised to our schools and communities have been lavished upon real estate moguls
and tax breaks for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange
, and over $120 million in preparation for the NATO summit (after which he refused to pay the police their overtime and started going after their pensions).
In addition, Mayor Rahm has threatened and bullied the unions, and in January of this year, he strong-armed the city council into signing off on the "Sit Down Shut Up Ordinance" which permanently codifies the suppression of peaceful protest.
Now, Chicagoans know that Rahm Emanuel is not President Obama, and this city has for a long time been a city with blue running through its veins, but the teachers here are under attack, and it is the same union-busting tactics that we have seen used by Scott Walker in Wisconsin, or Rick Snyder in Michigan, but Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat and he should be ashamed of himself. Now would be a time, more than any that the President could prove to those of us who voted for him in 2008, to those of us who are hesitating about the future of our country four years later, that he was serious about his support for the workers, that the Democratic Party is serious about their support for the poor and middle class, that these are not just empty campaign promises, and that he will stand with the people when their rights to organize and collectively bargain are being threatened.
More information about the Chicago Teacher's Union fight is available on their website at http://www.ctunet.com/
Updates and picket locations here.
Rally to support the Chicago Teacher's Union, Monday, September 10, at 3:30pm at CPS Headquarters 125 S. Clark Street