This Chicago teachers union and accompanying political story just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. That said, it's just another example of 'old school' Chicago politics in action.
The government run schools are failing to educate the kids and the city is broke. Meanwhile, the teachers union extracted from the city's politicians generous and unaffordable benefits for its members during last year's strike. All to be paid for by the taxpayers, of course.
Now the city is making a minimal effort to rein in expenses, and the teachers union is crying foul, racism and anything else that will divert attention from the real problems --- a failing educational system and an unaffordable and unaccountable one at that.
Rahm's Latest Union Beating has the story:
"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have thought he bought labor peace when he agreed to a fat increase in teacher pay to settle a strike last year. Instead the Chicago Teachers Union is throwing massive resistance against his plan to close 54 under-used public schools.
The closings are part of the city's attempt to address a budget gap projected to be $1 billion next year thanks to years of fiscal mismanagement. Annual pension payments for Chicago teachers will rise to $593.3 million from $218.6 million by 2016, and the city has to finance that 16% teacher pay raise over four years. Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says closing the 54 schools that are operating at less than 69% capacity will save some $43 million in operating costs next year and $560 million in capital costs over 10 years.
Critics claim the closings break up neighborhood schools, but most of the 14,000 affected kids won't need to travel more than a few blocks. Many of the schools are on the city's minority-dominated South and West sides, leading CTU President Karen Lewis to call the plan "racist," adding that it "sets an example that low-income, African-American children are disposable."
The real racial offense is leaving another generation of black children to languish in some of the nation's worst schools, with a high school graduation rate near 60%. Chicago's black population dropped by 181,000 between 2000 and 2010, and much of that decline is on the South and West sides. The Chicago Public School system now has only about 400,000 students despite a capacity for 500,000.
Ms. Lewis's real fear is that closing those schools will expedite student migration to non-union charter schools. There are currently 119 charters operating in the city and serving some 40,000 Chicago students. Last year the charter waiting list was more than 19,000, one of the longest in the country.
In Chicago, two-thirds of charter schools perform better on state assessment tests and at charter high schools three-quarters of graduates go to college. A recent poll by the Joyce Foundation and Chicago Tribune found that about two-thirds of Chicagoans support new charters opening in neighborhoods where kids are on the waiting list and 67.9% say it should be easier for charters to expand.
Charters also save the city money. State law says charters may get between 75% and 125% of per pupil spending in the district. But in practice most get an average of 78% what Chicago spends per pupil on traditional public schools, according to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
Mayor Emanuel campaigned on his support for charters and Chicago has approved 11 new charters for this fall. But to assuage the unions, Ms. Bennett says she won't let charter schools use the empty buildings left from the 54 closing schools. Never mind that the buildings were paid for by Chicago taxpayers, and they'll go unused or be sold for very little otherwise.
Closing under-used and failing schools is among the remedies proposed by President Obama's Race to the Top program, and failing businesses are closed every day. Only in American public education do people argue with a straight face that failing schools need to be kept open "for the children.""
Chicago is a great example of the hypocrisy surrounding American politics, fiscal responsibility, public education, teachers unions and individual freedom of choice.
Charter schools provide better educational opportunities to parents and students at a lower cost to taxpayers.
And they're attended by students of parents who voluntarily choose for their children to attend them. The charter schools are so popular that there is a waiting list to get in, so what does the city of Chicago do?
Incredibly, the head of Chicago's schools has decided that charter schools can't use the buildings being closed by the public school system. That's total lunacy and total capitulation to the teachers union. Now we know who's really in charge of the Chicago schools, and it's not the city.
But that's what happens when politics and teachers unions combine to "help the children" and fight off "racism," while continuing to fleece the taxpayers and do great harm to the future prospects of the very children they're 'helping.'