Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Death by 1,000 cuts at CPS

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them." -- Frederick Douglass
Donald Trump thinks Frederick Douglass is still alive. In one sense (certainly not the one intended) he may be right. Douglass' words, his warning, that if we don't resist oppression, we will get it's full measure, are alive and as relevant today as they were more than a century-and-a-half ago. They were ringing in my head this week as I watched our Trumpian Gov. Rauner veto a bill that would have put $215M back in the schools.

We're now in our third year without a state budget and Rahm Emanuel's schools CEO Forrest Claypool has just announced another $46M in cuts at CPS and I'm asking myself just how much more of this death by 1,000 cuts of public space are we willing or able to endure?

The cuts have created more chaos throughout the system, forcing principals to re-engineer their budgets in the middle of the school year and give up as much as half of discretionary money for textbooks, field trips, technology and hourly workers who staff recess and after school programs. CPS is also cutting $5 million in teacher professional development funds.

As expected, Claypool put all the blame for the cuts on the more-than-deserving, "Trumpian" Rauner. But Claypool, Rahm and the Democratic Party leadership in Springfield have blood on their hands as well. They've acceded to Republican demands for more and more cuts with little more than a whimper, and Sen. Pres. John Cullerton is currently colluding with Rauner in the Grand Plan to loot the pension fund and weaken the unions.

They are also unwilling to tax the state's wealthiest for badly-needed revenues and instead are considering other ways to save money, including shortening the school year. How ironic, considering that Rahm made the unfunded, compulsory longer school day the centerpiece of his first campaign for mayor.

Taking the biggest hits...As I scroll down the list of CPS schools to see which ones are affected the most, something jumps out at me. It's how Claypool wielded his sword in favor of the mayor's pet selective-enrollment high schools, which were hardly touched. Compare for example, Walter Payton (.049% of its budget was cut) or Northside Prep (0.13%)  with Clemente (4.20%) or Juarez (4.14%). Newly opened Dyett, the product of a community hunger strike, took a 5% hit.

I haven't seen the list yet of charter schools. I've read that charters could see their funding cut by a total of $18 million in April to match the spending freeze and furlough days imposed on district-run schools. But charters are also benefiting from outside funding streams that remain inaccessible to most public schools. The also pay their non-union teachers less and push out veteran teachers in favor of less-experienced, lower-paid TFAers.

I know in some cases, I'm comparing apples and oranges here, due to size of the schools and their overall budgets. For example, Lane Tech, the city's largest high school, stands to lose about $890,000, by far the largest of any school. But Lane also had the largest pool of discretionary funds to begin with. Forty other elementary and high schools are targeted for an average of $300,000 for cuts.

But percentages and sizes of cuts are still indicators of the two-tier system of schooling Rahm is building, by attrition and subtraction, here in Chicago, where privately-run charters and selective-enrollment continue to supplant community-based schools according to policy.

Back to Frederick Douglass -- The heart of the resistance is still the public employee unions, AFSCME, CTU and SEIU, along with parent and community groups.

The CTU used one of Claypool's 4 forced, unpaid furlough days to protest the cuts and call for his resignation. AFSCME #31 is taking a strike vote as I write this.

CTU Pres. Karen Lewis summed it all up nicely,
"Rahm and Rauner are both to blame, There's no separation between their intention to destroy publicly funded, public education in Chicago."

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