- Sue Kwong
With Mayor Rahm and Governor Rauner both swinging wrecking balls, it's hard to keep track of who's done what damage to Chicago's public schools over the past few days and weeks . . . and months and years. So much damage has already been done.
OK, we all know it was Emanuel who recently cut about $100 million in school spending because the teachers wouldn't fall to the ground and say "Thank you, boss" after seeing his recent contract offer.
Just as we know it's Rauner who's eager to bankrupt CPS so he can turn the system over to a consultant. Maybe the guy who ran Flint's waterworks is available.
But which politician showed his utter contempt for Chicago's schoolchildren, allegedly saying 25 percent of them wouldn't amount to anything, so why bother wasting money on them?
Got you with that one—didn't I?
On that note, I think it's time I give you a guide to who's said and done what to destroy public education in Chicago. Let's take a little quiz, shall we?
Who declared war on the Chicago Teachers Union by taking advantage of the fine print in their contract to snatch away a 4 percent wage hike—on the grounds that greedy teachers gave children "the shaft"?
That was Mayor Rahm, in one of his first interactions with the schools back in 2011.
If you got that one wrong, it might be you were thinking of Rauner, who accused CTU of "routinely bribing our politicians with their union dues to get themselves outrageously generous pensions."
Without of course mentioning that his private equity firm made millions managing teachers' pension funds.
And you wonder why so many teachers can't stand these two.
Next question . . .
Who ramped up the war with CTU by telling its president, "Fuck you, Lewis!"
That's easy. It was the mayor talking to Karen Lewis back in August 2011—as part of his effort to win her over with his charming personality.
Emanuel doesn't deny that he said it. Probably because he knows no one would believe him if he did.
As far as I know, Rauner's never dropped the F-bomb on Lewis. Though she's said a few nasty things about him, including this when asked about his bankruptcy proposal: "Please don't pay any attention to the ravings of a madman."
I think everyone will agree that Karen can give as good as she gets.
Who effectively snatched millions from the classroom with his provocative comments about CPS bankruptcy?
That's Rauner, of course. He proposed a law in January to allow CPS to go bankrupt. Last week, right around the time Emanuel was looking to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to pay operational costs, Rauner suggested that he appoint someone to oversee the schools now. Thus, Rauner undermined the creditworthiness of Chicago and forced Emanuel to pay more in interest. That means more money for bankers and less money for the classroom.
Of course, Rahm did a similar thing back in 2014 when he borrowed money to pay for a pre-K program instead of paying for it out of the budget.
Thus, the mayor used the educational needs of low-income children as an excuse to give up to $17 million in financing costs to some very wealthy bankers.
Chicago voters reelected him anyway. But I will refrain from making any disparaging comments about the electorate—this time around.
Ready for the next one?
Who paid homeless people to show up at hearings in an attempt to make it seem like poor black people wanted schools in their communities to be closed?
Mayor Emanuel—back in January 2012.
I'm pretty sure Rauner's never paid homeless people to support his school policies. On the other hand, Rauner's supporters have funneled about $640,000 in campaign funds to Democratic state rep Kenneth Dunkin.
Dunkin helped defeat the Democratic effort to fully restore Rauner's cuts in child-care benefits for low-income parents.
Here's a thought. If the Republicans give $700,000 to those homeless guys, maybe they'll back Rauner's budget cuts too.
Now . . .
Who's helping the schools go broke by annually diverting more than $200 million in property taxes from CPS to a slush fund that's supposed to eradicate blight in low-income communities, but instead goes largely to the wealthiest parts of town?
C'mon, that's easy. Every Reader reader knows I'm talking about Mayor Emanuel and the city's tax increment financing program.
Rauner hasn't devised anything as diabolical as the TIF scam—yet. But he did give up to $1.26 million a year in tax credits to ConAgra Foods, a Fortune 400 company, to move its corporate headquarters from Omaha to Chicago. Even though there's a good chance they'd have moved here without the handout.
Why waste money on kids when you can give it to gazillionaires?
Which brings us to our original question . . .
It was Mayor Rahm who said that 25 percent of the kids in CPS wouldn't amount to anything. Well, allegedly.
Karen Lewis says he said it to her when they met to break bread soon after he won the 2011 mayoral election, in response to Lewis pushing for improvements like smaller class size.
Emanuel vehemently denies he said it. Of course, he also denies having told a White House aide to "take your fucking tampon out and tell me what you have to say."
So one might say the mayor's credibility is a little strained on these denials.
Interestingly, Rauner allegedly offered up similar comments in a conversation with Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University.
According to Ravitch, the conversation went like this . . .
Ravitch: It doesn't seem fair that charters can exclude students with disabilities. That leaves them to public schools.
Rauner: That's no problem for us. Kids who don't speak English, we don't have to take them.
Ravitch: That's not fair.
Rauner: What's wrong with not taking kids? We don't need kids whose families are not highly motivated. That's our choice.
Ravitch: You smug, supercilious son of a . . .
Hold it! Ravitch didn't say that last bit. I thought it, when I read her account of that exchange in a Chicago magazine article by Carol Felsenthal.
Rauner didn't deny the conversation took place when Felsenthal called for comment.
Say what you will about Rauner—but unlike Emanuel, he's not afraid to let everyone know exactly where he stands. v