Today’s Sun-Times reports that Chicago Public Schools is facing a $975 million deficit. The article lists several reasons for this shortcoming. The solution is something we have seen again and again over the past few months – make the workers pay, especially if they belong to unions.
Why is union protection important? School management has already cut the jobs of 500 non-teaching employees and is making non-union workers take three weeks of furlough days. Three weeks breaks down to almost 6% of annual income. School Chief Ron Huberman claims that it would be a “worst case scenario” if teachers don’t make concessions. Huberman was head of the city’s transit agency when it start crying “doomsday” every time it wanted to cut employees, raise fares, and wring more money from the state legislature. Before we focus on teachers (who have a contract) maybe the people of Chicago should look at Mr. Huberman’s skill as a manager.
Sadly the Sun-Times does not look at the man leading, only the easy target, unionized workers. The newspaper’s editorial headline declares, “No Way Around CPS Teacher Pay Freeze.” It concludes, “No one wants to deny hard-working teachers a raise. But we see no other way. Without union concessions – one of CPS’ only guaranteed ways to save money – CPS is looking at devastating cuts in every corner of the school system.”
Beware when someone in power declares there is only one solution. Could there be a short-term tax increase to solve this problem (a fast-food tax? A tax on tickets to movies and sporting events?). Could Mayor Daley dip into his TIF fund pool that diverts money from the schools? Could we use some of the money from privatizing parking meters or the Skyway? What could be done other than making working people pay?
That’s the question.