Aug 22, 2016
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest schools hatchet man, Forrest Claypool, announced 1,000 layoffs in Chicago schools earlier this month. He ratcheted up pressure on teachers to accept a big paycut that teachers have already rejected more than once.
Claypool explained: “There isn't additional money to borrow, there isn't additional money to give. We have been as generous as we can possibly be with the teachers. . . . . There’s a lot of things we can do as part of a global negotiation. But there is no pot of gold.”
He ignores the fact that the City of Chicago is, in fact, sitting on a gigantic pot of gold: the TIF funds. TIF funds are accounts that divert tax money away from schools and other public services in defined areas of the city. The Cook County Assessor, who keeps track of property taxes, reports that the city’s 146 TIF zones took in 461 million dollars in 2015. Half of that money would have gone to the schools. Sending that money back to the schools would all but wipe out any supposed shortfall in the schools budget. The TIF funds all together contain about one and a half billion dollars. So no, the City of Chicago is NOT broke.
Instead of funding the schools, the mayor and his aldermen friends dole out this money to developers. For example, the mayor gave 29 million out of a TIF fund to the River Point office tower recently constructed just outside the city’s Loop. That money could have paid to keep hundreds of teachers and staff in the schools.
Teachers can see very well the Mayor’s priorities: shovel money at wealthy developers, while letting working class schools rot.