Subject: [SocialistWorker.org] Rahm's school budget assault
View original article here:
Analysis: Lee Sustar
======== RAHM'S SCHOOL BUDGET ASSAULT ========================================
Facing a contract showdown with teachers, Chicago school officials announced
a budget that targets the CTU while draining schools of resources, reports
July 11, 2012
FACED WITH demands for a pay increase for teachers and a call to fully fund
its planned longer school day, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials
responded with a budget  that calls for educators to work longer for less,
funnels money from neighborhood schools to charters, and includes no money
for the major increase in the school day.
"It's a war budget," one official at the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said of
Claiming it is facing a $665 million deficit, CPS has budgeted for a 2
percent pay raise for teachers who will be forced to work 20 percent longer
with the extended school day --even as the teachers union calls for
restoration of a canceled 4 percent raise plus additional compensation for
more time in the classroom. The budget also cancels scheduled individual
teacher raises tied to seniority and educational attainment.
With 90 percent of CTU members having voted to authorize a strike, CPS and
Mayor Rahm Emanuel are trying to set a political trap for the union. Their
claim is implicit but unmistakable: any raises for teachers must come at the
expense of students--through larger class sizes, for example, or the
elimination of key programs.
As Erica Clark of the organization Parents 4 Teachers  put it, the CPS
budget "seems designed to lock in the board's insulting initial contract
offer to teachers, which was basically a pay cut disguised as a pay raise.
But CPS knows the teachers will not--nor should they--accept it. So this
budget moves us one step closer to a strike in the fall."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WHAT'S MORE, a closer look at the budget shows that CPS is continuing to
divert funds away from neighborhood schools towards politically connected
charter schools, almost all of which are nonunion. In a statement , the
CTU noted that the budget:
>increases charter school spending by 17 percent, but does not address the
>rampant inequality in education programs across the district. In 2002,
>charter school spending was about $30 million; now, CPS proposes a whopping
>half-a-billion dollars to a failed reform program that has been shown to
>provide its students with no better education outcomes.
The CTU emphasizes that Chicago's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) system drains
$250 million each year from CPS--money that could go a long way to closing
the schools' budget deficit. Then there's the $100 million tax break for the
Chicago Mercantile Exchange operator CME approved by state legislators--funds
that could also be used for education. Meanwhile, the big banks that received
massive taxpayer bailouts drain $35.9 million from CPS each year due to fixed
interest rate agreements made before rates fell to near zero.
At the same time, despite claims of making deep cuts at the central office,
CPS has boosted funding for its latest bureaucratic initiatives. George
Schmidt, publisher of the rank-and-file Chicago teachers' newspaper
/Substance/  and a researcher for the CTU, pointed out that CPS's Office
of Communications will get a budget increase from $1.6 million in fiscal year
2012 to $2.3 million in 2013, with staff increasing from nine to 20.
"I have been analyzing the budgets for the past 25 years and have been
studying them for the past 35 years," Schmidt said in an e-mail. "Every
administration has announced that they have 'cut administration,' and it's
been and is a lie."
Schmidt observed, for example, that CPS is also dramatically increasing
funding for its so-called Portfolio Office, created last year in a merger of
three departments  in a bid to provide a common administration for both
charter and traditional schools. The office will see its budget soar from $23
million to $104 million, with an increase in staff from about 43 to 68.
The budget also creates new bureaucracies--a Department of Knowledge
Management and Quality Practices, with a $1.4 million budget; an Office of
Strategy Management, with an allocation of $1.2 million; and an Office of
Student Health and Wellness with a budget of $6 million.
"They always do sleight of hands stuff like this," Schmidt wrote. "Last
summer, Rahm actually went around town saying that his CPS team had cut '$400
million' from the schools bureaucracy, which was crazy. But in the 'he said,
but she said' form of journalism, that's what becomes 'news.'"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WHILE THE CPS budget is partly geared to its contract talks with the CTU, it
also highlights the school district's agenda of turning over 100 schools to
That plan was put forward nearly a decade ago , not by education
professionals at CPS, but by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of
Chicago. "Competition--which is the engine of American productivity
generally--is the key to improved performance of our public schools," the
Civic Committee declared in calling for a sweeping expansion of charters.
To date, the district's 675 schools include 110 charters, along with another
27 traditional schools run by private organizations. But CPS CEO Jean-Claude
Brizard is pushing to create another 60 charters over the next five years
This long march to privatization is reflected in this year's CPS budget, in
which all but a few charter operators will receive an increase in funding,
while traditional public schools face big cuts.
CPS Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley last year admitted to reporters 
that academically struggling schools are routinely starved of urgently needed
money for upkeep of their buildings. "If we think there's a chance that a
building is going to be closed in the next five to 10 years, if we think it's
unlikely it's going to continue to be a school, we're not going to invest in
that building," Cawley said.
There are signs that Emanuel and Brizard are preparing for an even bigger
transition to charters as they float plans to close dozens of schools in
addition to the 17 slated for shutdown or "turnaround" in the past school
year. They may use next year's budget as a pretext: by draining reserves to
pay for the 2012-2013 school year, they're engineering an even bigger crisis
in the coming year.
"This approach virtually guarantees school closures in the future," said
Lorraine Chavez, an education researcher at the University of Chicago and
member of the newly formed Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign , formed
to support educators in their contract battle with CPS and Emanuel.
A total budget wipeout at CPS may in fact be what Emanuel wants. As White
House Chief of Staff, Emanuel famously said , "You never want a serious
crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things
you think you could not do before."
School officials in Philadelphia are doing exactly that , using a tight
budget as a pretext to essentially abolish the public school system and
replace it with a series of "achievement networks" run by nonprofits,
academic institutions and charters, carving up the teachers' union collective
bargaining agreement in the process.
Is it just a coincidence that one of Jean-Claude Brizard's initiatives since
coming to Chicago was to reorganize CPS into "networks" , linking high
schools to their feeder schools? Perhaps. But the decentralized approach,
coupled with the push towards charters and an aggressive program of school
closures, raises the specter of a Philadelphia-style breakup of the
traditional school system.
And if CPS reserves are drained, Emanuel and the school district will likely
demand massive health care concessions from the union and ask the state
legislature to radically cut teachers' pensions, following up on a failed
proposal made earlier this year . The /Chicago Tribune/ editorial board
was openly enthusiastic about how the budget shortfall could be used  as
a pretext to extract concessions from the CTU.
Because Chicago is a wealthier city than Philadelphia, the crisis-driven
program may not be as crude here. But the objectives are similar: the
dismantling of traditional public education and its replacement with a system
in which private charter operators skim taxpayer dollars with little
accountability, selective enrollment and magnet schools receive priority
funding to appeal to the middle class, and underfunded traditional
neighborhood schools are constantly threatened with closure or "turnaround."
The CPS budget proposal has vindicated the CTU's view of its contract talks
as part of a wider fight to save Chicago's schools, as outlined in its
document "The Schools Chicago's Children Deserve."  At stake in this
fight is far more than pay and benefits for teachers, crucial though that is
to quality education for our children. The battle in Chicago is crucial in
the fight to defend public education, not just in this city, but across the
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Published by the International Socialist Organization. Material on this Web
site is licensed by SocialistWorker.org, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd
3.0) license, except for articles that are republished with permission.
Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for
non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and
Sign up for e-mail alerts from SocialistWorker.org.
Published by the International Socialist Organization