Taking on the Chicago schools budget
CHICAGO PUBLIC Schools (CPS) hearings about the 2013 budget took place in three locations across the city July 11. Hundreds of concerned parents, teachers and activists participated, challenging the school district's efforts to balance the budget on the backs of teachers and kids.
At the hearing at Malcolm X College, CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley provoked boos and hisses from the crowd on several occasions during his presentation on the $5.73 billion budget, with a $665 million deficit.
When Cawley called for investing in charter schools and asserted that, "we are standing tall behind this strategy," someone from the crowd yelled, "strategy for the 1 percent!"
Teachers and activists had angry comments about the insulting proposal for a 2 percent "raise" for teachers--given that CPS took away a previously negotiated 4 percent increase last year and plans to lengthen the teachers' workday by 20 percent in the next school year.
When the topic was brought up, Cawley said with a shrug, "I would just get over that one," adding, "because that is not going to change." Cawley's other condescending comments included, "Sometimes people are upset about the budget, but the reason is that they just don't understand it."
As the discussion continued, it was obvious that Cawley's assessment of the people in the audience was quite inaccurate. One community activist made a comment against the zero-tolerance policy that has resulted in skyrocketing rates of discipline and suspensions. A student from Senn High School said, "Senn might look like a high school from the outside, but the inside looks like a prison."
Cawley announced that CPS's request to raise property taxes to help curb the deficit has been granted. This reflects the fact that the CPS strategy is, in fact, for the 1 percent, as most of the money will be collected from the working class.
There was a great show of solidarity for the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) from other unions. Among them were members of National Nurses United, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Continued CPS support for charter schools has added to the number of dissenting voices like the ones heard in these hearings. We must stand behind the CTU in its fight for better schools, more resources and the pay that teachers deserve.