Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rauner's game plan. Hold budget hostage until schools forced into bankruptcy.

Soon after announcing his support for Donald Trump, Gov. Rauner doubled down on his strategy for taking over Chicago's public school system.

Yesterday, Rauner repeated his call for CPS to go into bankruptcy. And his refusal to release a captive state budget, combined with a so-far weak Democratic Party response, makes that scenario a possibility. Remember, the Democrats have a veto-proof majority in both houses but Boss Madigan hasn't been able to keep his troops in line. Let's see if sellout Rep. Ken Dunkin's loss to Juliana Stratton will send the proper message to straying Rauner Democrats.

Rauner insists that Chicago schools focus on "reorganizing their debts and their contracts under court supervision" — which of course defines the bankruptcy process.
"The only other option is massive tax hikes in the City of Chicago on homeowners and small-business owners," Rauner said. "And I'm talking massive tax hikes. That would be tragic."
Some in the union are downplaying the possibility of a forced bankruptcy and state takeover, insisting that the big banks, who would be forced to take a hit, wouldn't allow it.
"I’m sure the governor’s friends in the banking industry won’t let that happen, given the lucrative debt owed these institutions by our school district," union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said. 
I wouldn't bank on that.

Bankruptcy could lead to a state takeover and Republican control over the state's largest school system, including its $5 billion budget, jobs and contracts. The banksters would be the first to be paid off. It would also allow the governor to fulfill his dream of voiding union contracts and finally busting the teachers union completely. It's the same strategy that Republican govs Walker, Kasich, Christie and Snyder have used successfully in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan.

It's all based on what Naomi Klein called, The Shock Doctrine. The strategy is all about exploiting crises to push through controversial exploitative policies or in this case, a complete power shift (coup d'etat) while voters are either too emotionally and physically distracted by disasters or upheavals to mount an effective resistance or, as in the case of Michigan, have there voting rights stripped.

As Bruce Rauner's long-time pal, Rahm Emanuel used to say,
"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
The legislature needs to bail out the state's public school system through a reasonable debt restructuring process (not forced bankruptcy) and new revenue with the wealthiest paying their fair share.

But an appropriate response to Rauner-ism is militant resistance on the part of the unions, the threatened service agencies, and state universities, and a show of broad community support for public education. It can't mean just waiting passively for Madigan to do something.

Adding a few more independent voices in last week's state rep elections would have been a good start. The planned CTU action on April 1st seems like a good next step. Passage of the Elected School Board bill would be another.

If CPS is to be taken over (out of the hands of an autocratic mayor), it should be done through the election of a representative school board, not by Rauner's maneuverings.

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