Nov 23, 2015
For months, Forest Claypool, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, has threatened to lay off 5,000 teachers – unless he gets 500 million dollars from the state government. This would mean laying off about 20 percent of teachers and staff. It would mean throwing schools into turmoil in the middle of the year. It would mean much larger class sizes – when many classrooms are already overflowing.
Originally, Claypool proposed that the layoffs would happen before Christmas. His own principals objected that this would mean that there would be no one to enter the students’ semester grades, since the semester ends in January! But Claypool is a businessman, not an educator, so he didn’t even realize that. Or care.
Should the state pay more for decent schools? Certainly. Illinois is spending almost 10 per cent less per pupil than it did in 2008. The state budget crisis is just as fake as the city budget crisis, based on handouts to the rich. But Chicago is a rich city and could easily afford to pay for an excellent education for every child – if that was the city government’s priority.
Claypool, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner all want to use the fake budget crises to force through attacks on the education Chicago provides its children through layoffs, pay and benefit cuts, more school closings, and attacks on union rights.
But the teachers and students aren’t fooled. The teachers union recently took a practice strike vote, in which 97 percent voted for a strike. Hundreds of students from different high schools have demonstrated against layoffs, the expansion of charter schools, budget cuts, and the banks that have been stealing the money that should go to the schools. If a strike comes, teachers could have many allies among the parents and students of this working class city.