Ben Joravsky in the Reader:
Now that the cuts are official, Emanuel is blaming them on the teachers—or at least the $400 million contribution he has to make to the teachers’ dastardly pension system. Speaking of cynicism.
As pretty much everyone concedes, the major cause of the so-called pension crisis is that neither Mayor Emanuel nor Mayor Daley before him made payments to the pension fund that they’re contractually bound to make.
Only Dr. Freud himself can tell us why Mayor Emanuel is so eager to crush the Chicago Teachers Union.
In the good old days, state law required CPS to make its annual contribution by directly depositing property taxes into the pension fund. As part of the school reform law of 1995, though, Mayor Daley convinced the General Assembly to get rid of that requirement. He began spending money that was supposed to go to the pensions for basic obligations.
I’m telling you, we really have to stop using the word “reform” quite so much around here.
Thanks to that version of school reform, Mayor Daley was freed to use pension fund money to “balance” the budget while building new schools and winning praise from civic leaders and editorial writers as a fiduciary wizard.
As you can see, TIFs were not the only scam Mayor Daley got away with.
At some point, to rectify the pension crisis—as opposed to using it as a justification to fire teachers and close schools—Mayor Emanuel is going to have to start negotiating with Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.
That would be the same Karen Lewis the mayor hasn’t talked to since 2011, when he told her “Fuck you.” It’s the same Karen Lewis he’s tried to intimidate with school closings, teacher firings, charter school investments, and various threats and bluster since he walked into office.
Only Dr. Freud himself can tell us why Mayor Emanuel is so eager to fight Lewis and crush her union. Whatever his motives, it’s not only disastrous for public education—it’s also bad politics. Unless he wants to alienate every parent in every school—or send the middle class off to the suburbs—he’s got to hire back some teachers and restore the classroom cuts.