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  • Chicago Teachers Take To the Streets, Vow to Strike If Schools Are Cut
    Posted On: Jun 22, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, June 22, 2016

    The Chicago Teacher’s Union Wednesday tuned an unpaid “furlough” day into a “fightback day” with protests across the city.  The highlight of yesterday’s events was a convergence on City Hall to demand appropriate city and state funding for public education.  Five separate feeder marches from different parts of the city each highlighted one of the actors who’ve profited from cozy tax relationships with the schools and the city.  Jesse Sharkey is Vice President of the Chicago Teachers’ Union:

    [Jesse Sharkey]: “At the same time they’re threatening massive cuts in the schools, we see people like Dave Vitale, the former president f the Board of Ed with a sweetheart tax-break deal, as he’s the president of United Airlines, which is an extremely profitable corporation, etcetera.  So we’re doing protests that highlight those relationships.”

    For more than a year the Union has been floating the idea of funding schools through a financial transaction tax on Chicago’s equivalent to Wall Street:

    [Jesse Sharkey]: “The big trading firms on LaSalle Street make literally billions of dollars on speculative trades at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and those guys no taxes on those exchanges.  You make a transaction, it might be worth a quarter of a million dollars.  You or I would pay more taxes on a bag of potato chips, than they pay on that incredibly lucrative trading.”

    The union has also been pressing for progressive revenue, where those who have the greatest ability to pay will pay more.  Again, this was ignored by the leadership of the schools and the city.  Sharkey says it’s a matter of political will:

     [Jesse Sharkey]: “The leadership of the schools and the city have barely lifted a finger at all to find any revenue.  They’re not willing to look at local revenue sources either.  What they’re talking about is if the state doesn’t divide up an already too-small budget pie for the schools in Chicago’s favor, they’re then threatening to make massive cuts to the schools.”

    They union says the city won’t be able to cut their way out of this crisis.  In 2013, Chicago tried it by closing fifty public elementary schools:

    [Jesse Sharkey]: “…the neighborhoods around those schools hollowed out, people left the city and, in fact, it had a net negative impact on the utilization rates of the surrounding schools…”

    Next Thursday will be the one-year anniversary of the teachers working without a contract.  The Board of Education has threatened very deep cuts to the schools, but not carried those out.  Sharkey says it’s because the administration is afraid of the prospect of a strike:

    [Jesse Sharkey]: “We’ve been very clear: deep cuts in the educational program are unacceptable to the teachers union, and to the public. We’ve fought very hard for revenue; we’ve demanded it, and we’ll continue to do that.  If they try to come to us with cuts, we’ll strike against those cuts.  We’ll strike to defend the schools…at which point they’re gonna have a difficult choice.  If they want the schools to open, they want the city to function with public schools, they’re going to have to figure out how to fund it.  And if they don’t like our suggestions about how to do it, they can come up with their own.  We’re all ears. We’re not going to sit idly by and watch them cut the public schools to ribbons.”


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