The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Stealing from Poor Chicago Schools to Give to the Rich

Jul 30, 2012

A few decades ago, Chicago politicians announced a plan to “develop” “blighted” neighborhoods. It became the tax program called TIF (for Tax Increment Financing), which siphons half of the property taxes collected in the city.

TIF fund money is money diverted away from schools, which rely heavily on property taxes – no wonder the school system has a deficit! Much of this money has been handed over to big businesses, like United, the Mercantile Exchange, or Miller Coors.

Some TIF money is spent on school projects – building new schools or renovating old ones. The question is which schools.

More than 200 million dollars of TIF money went to Chicago’s elite selective enrollment schools, like Payton College Prep. Among the best schools in the state, many serve middle and upper-class students and are located in well-off, white areas of the city. These selective enrollment schools are only 1% of the schools in Chicago. Add to this the TIF money that went to charter schools and you have more than 40% of the money spent on schools. Charter schools also restrict enrollment, and they are privately run – many by people friendly with the city’s political elite.

Chicago’s neighborhood schools, the schools that educate all students, wherever they come from, are more than two thirds of the schools in the city. But they received less than half the TIF money.

There you have it: a program advertised as helping poor and working people in the city takes money away from their schools and gives it to schools for the wealthy and middle classes. And the resulting deficit in the school budget is then used to attack the public school system.

Like other plans that pretend to aim at “development,” this program is a win-win – for the arrogant rich and their cronies.