Chicago, Illinois (NED).– Continuing with the financial disagreements within the Chicago educational system and the Teachers Union, CTU President Karen Lewis unveiled the disagreement with Mayor Emanuel's plans by saying "Our school communities are under siege, plunged into a structural deficit that has forced nearly $4 trillion in cuts and a growing debt load untenable since 2011. " Instead of tackling the system's chronic funding shortfall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has baked these deadly cuts in the school's current budget and is invoking "underutilization" and "student-based budgeting" to continue to defund schools in our most needy neighborhoods, increasing the push for students and creating the pretext for funding more cuts.
If Emanuel really cared about public schools, he would utilize the strengths of the new school funding formula, which is designed to channel a greater percentage of dollars to districts like Chicago with a high level of students who live in concentrated poverty. The new formula prioritizes smaller class sizes, wrap-around services and the concrete financial support it takes to give poor students a leg up to better lives.
The mayor has instead siphoned funds from public education to fat cat projects like River Point and the South Loop Marriott, whose owners neither need nor deserve a dime in public dollars. These distorted priorities drive families out of the South and West sides, where neighborhoods grapple with Great Depression-era unemployment rates, a dire lack of affordable housing and the violence that despair and chronic disinvestment generate.
Chicago’s public schools deserve better. We need smaller class sizes; librarians for schools fortunate enough to have libraries; trauma services; art, music and physical education; and special education services for students with special needs. We need an end to the mass firing of Black teachers who have educated generations of children and been economic anchors in their own neighborhoods.
Emanuel would not tolerate the lack of these services or this kind of inequity in the schools that have educated his own children, and the rest of the youth of this city deserve no less.