Chicago teachers have won a major victory without going on strike. But the mayor is under fire from his own LaSalle Street pals for "taking the easy path" and "leaving another eventual crisis for somewhere down the road." They may be right on the latter, but Rahm had no choice but to use his corporate-friendly TIF slush fund if he was to avoid another teachers strike.
Crain's Greg Hinz scolds the mayor for his retreat on TIF, the 7% pension pick-up, and the building of another selective-enrollment high school in Lincoln Park.
After imposing more than $1.1 billion in new taxes for workers and related items last year, Emanuel apparently has decided not to push the limits of the public's patience any further. Or, for that matter, to risk a teachers strike just when Chicago Public Schools is showing signs of improvement, along with Emanuel's rating in the polls.
Initially, Emanuel defended the TIF program against all attackers. Gradually, under pressure from both his financial bottom line and his political foes, he relented, agreeing to cap most expenditures in the city's thriving central area, and to carve off 20 percent of unencumbered TIF funds, or "surplus," each year and pass it out to CPS and other governments.
So the schools, at Emanuel's direction, backed off. Yes, teachers hired after Jan. 1 will have the 7 percent deducted from their pay. But starting CPS pay will be increased 3.5 percent on Jan. 1, too, and bumped up another 3.5 percent July 1, so it's a $140 million wash.In other words, faced with the CTU's unanimous show of rank-and-file solidarity in last month's strike vote, along with growing parent and community pressure to avoid a strike, Rahm did the only thing he could do. He bought four years of likely labor peace and maybe even a third term in office. And he did it without any help from Republican Gov. Rauner, who continues to hold the state's school budget hostage and who is the big political loser in the deal.
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As for his plan to build an elite Barack Obama High School on the north side, where selective-enrollment schools blossom like Starbucks, that deal is dead, at least for now. Rahm says his retreat is only "temporary" but I doubt that all the king's horses can put that Humpty Dumpty together again.
Of course his business pals are right. The fix is only temporary. But that's because neither Rahm nor the legislature will dare raise taxes on the state's wealthy, powerful one-percenters.