Jersey Jazzman. Inequality in Chicago.

While on the road I will posting from other bloggers.

-By Jersey Jazzman

How much more abuse can Chicago’s schools take?

Chicago Public Schools students protested Monday the “racist and discriminatory” firing of district teachers and staff, which they said disproportionately affect low-income schools.
At a rally held outside the Thompson Center, about a dozen young protesters called for quality education and funding to be provided in all schools. The district fired 508 teachers and 521 support staff earlier this month. [emphasis mine]

Before we take a data dive, let’s acknowledge something important: every number in a staff cut represents an actual person. As Xian Barrett writes in The Progressive, the students who have developed personal connections to their teachers suffer the most when a teacher is laid off. So while I think there’s value in the analysis I present below, let’s not forget that we are talking about children and educators — real people who are going through real hell.

The layoffs took place in an atmosphere of continuing friction between the Chicago Teachers Union and district leadership, who can count on the editorial board of theChicago Tribune, among others, to lay the blame for the district’s continuing fiscal problems at the feet of the union:

The district is a candidate for bankruptcy. Chicago taxes already are rising, but CTU wants more. A CPS contract offer on the table since January is a sweet deal for educators; district CEO Forrest Claypool tells us it won’t — can’t — get sweeter.

CPS’ proposal offers teachers a generous raise and keeps paying them for added seniority and education. It does make a significant ask: Teachers would have to pay a 7 percent pension tab that CPS now pays but no longer can afford. CPS still would pick up the employer’s share of pension costs but asks employees to pay their share. Most Chicagoans, most Americans, understand that, since they too have to save for their own retirement.

Note the framing here: the funding of Chicago’s schools is an issue of teacher compensation, which is negotiated by the CTU. And the union just doesn’t understand how “sweet” of a deal they’ve been offered (of course, that “sweet” deal only apples to the teachers who haven’t been laid off). Sure, the teachers have to take a pay cut to fund their own pensions… but The Trib knows there really isn’t any other choice:

“Reality can’t be altered,” [Chicago schools CEO Forrest] Claypool tells us. “The reality is we do not have more to give than was offered in January. … There is not a dollar surplus to this budget.” Unless, he adds, the union wants to “cut classrooms and jeopardize not only teacher jobs but more important, the academic progress of our kids.”
Teachers who strike wouldn’t only jeopardize the education of their students, they would set a lousy example for the children: When what you want is impossible, toss a tantrum. [emphasis mine]

See, more money for Chicago’s schools is “impossible” — I mean, everyone knows that, right? Clearly, Chicago’s schools have all they could ever need to provide an adequate and equitable education for the city’s children! Everybody just needs to sacrifice a bit more — and by “everyone,” The Trib means Chicago’s teachers — and only the teachers — who have to understand the gravy train just can’t keep chugging along…

When you look at the issue of school funding through the lens of teacher pay, it’s easy to ignore some inconvenient facts. Here’s one: when Bruce Baker* and the good folks at the Education Law Center put together a list of America’s most fiscally disadvantaged school districts, they found: “Chicago and Philadelphia are, year after year, the two most fiscally disadvantaged large urban districts in the nation.

This is the story that The Trib, and everyone else who tut-tuts at the CTU, will not tell you:Chicago’s schools, which serve proportionally many more at-risk students than their neighboring districts, are chronically underfunded. This reality, more than any perceived greed on behalf of Chicago’s teachers, is what drives the fiscal “crisis” the district faces today.

Let’s go to the data.

One thought on “Jersey Jazzman. Inequality in Chicago.

  1. From the Tribune folks, those arbiters of fairness:

    “CPS still would pick up the employer’s share of pension costs but asks employees to pay their share. Most Chicagoans, most Americans, understand that, since they too have to save for their own retirement.”

    Ooooh, all that concern by the Trib for those “Chicagoans” and “most Americans who have to save for their own retirement(s)!” How touching!!! Whenever the Trib wants to stick it to uppity, unionized teachers, other public employees, or working people in general, this local rag of rags that calls itself “the world’s greatest newspaper,” trots out a specialty from the bottom of its bag of dirty tricks known as “divide and conquer.” Hey, guys and girls at the Trib, you’ve done it so often. How many Chicagoans and others still fall for your crap?

    The one thing that the Trib never does is to ask, no, to demand that the Ken Griffins and Bruce Rauners of this world contribute their fair share to the well-being of our society. No, no, the burden of building and maintaining civilization must always fall on those with the least ability to pay, while the wealthy gluttons like Griffin and Rauner, enjoy the fruits of civilization, drink their $100,000 bottles of wine, bask in the sunshine on the decks of their yachts, and have difficulty in choosing which of their many mega-mansions they’ll occupy today, tomorrow, or next week.

    Hey, guys and girls at the Chicago Trib, I get it… Yes, I know. You have such concerns for “most Chicagoans, most Americans” who have to save for their own retirement(s).” Touching!!!

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