Exclusive Interview with Outspoken Mayoral Critic Troy LaRaviere
By Jim Vail
Special to Mychinews.com
|Newly elected president of the Principals Assoc. Troy LaRaviere spoke to us.|
The outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel just recently won the election to serve as president of the Principals and Administrator’s Association after the city moved to fire him as principal of award-winning Blaine Elementary School. Troy LaRaviere spoke to Chicago News about the financial problems of the city, the corruption and greed of the Rahm Emanuel administration and his plans for the principals association.
Q: Did you think you would win the election to become president of the Principals and Administrator’s Association after it appeared the city openly backed your opponent and did not let you campaign in many of the schools?
TL: I didn’t have any expectations either way. I’m not in the predicting business. I just wanted to help the principals and vice principals understand a new direction and they responded to it.
Q: What are your goals now as head of the principals association? What do you hope to accomplish?
TL: I have two layers of goals. My own personal goal is to create a system in which the students get the knowledge they need to make better lives both for their families and a better life for the community. My professional goal is to make this happen. I didn’t jump as this position initially. All principals have the opportunity to influence policy, to improve their ability to realize their full potential. This starts by ending the isolation of principals. We need to come together to tackle the problems they are passionate about.
Q: What is the biggest problem facing the city and its schools?
TL: The biggest problem facing the schools is more than the funding – it is actions and lack of actions that have led to the funding issues. We need to understand what was done and not done to make this happen.
Q: So who created this mess? How did the city end up with such a huge budget deficit that it is threatening to cup 30% of the schools’ budgets?
TL: The funding crisis was created by a lack of revenue and a lack of fiscal responsibility with existing revenue. They spent more than they took in. You don’t create an operating budget that spends hundreds of millions of dollars more than you take in. They spent more money without raising it. They built school after school without gaining any students. I read somewhere that while they built 40% more schools, there was only 2% more students. That’s not an intelligent use of resources. You build new schools based on demographics. That’s one of the many ways that have led to this crisis. That practice must end. It’s been fiscally irresponsible.
Q: So how do we fix this fiscal mess? Is Springfield the answer?
TL: You need new revenues with controls and oversight. It can be done by beginning with a board of education that is not beholden to the city administration that is hell bent on siphoning off revenues to campaign contributors. Whatever is done needs to be focused on fiscal responsibility.
Q: So what do you think about the Emanuel administration?
TL: This administration had 373 meetings with campaign donors in 2013 – 2014. What is the mayoral administration’s priorities when over half of his days he’s catering to the greed of campaign donors than responding to the needs of our neighborhoods, to our schools, to our residents. Can you imagine if he had 373 meetings about curbing the violence on our streets, the difference that could have made. Can you imagine if he had 373 meetings with ways to generate revenue for our schools? But it’s not only that. The problem is also with the people who have enabled this through the ballot box and need to pay attention. We as citizens need to keep them accountable once they take office. If you don’t do that, then you can’t hold them accountable. We have to understand that candidates are just a face behind an agenda. We need to understand the names of the stakeholders. When I see Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and other big banks behind a candidate, an alarm bell has to go off. These are interest groups out to siphon tax dollars away from us and toward their bank accounts.
Q: You have not backed down to the city administration. But isn’t the mayor your boss?
TL: People have told me aren’t you supposed to toe the line. Why are you biting the hand that feeds you. And my response is the hand that feeds me is the taxpayer. And this administration is robbing the taxpayer. And so I am biting the hand that is stealing from the hand that feeds me.
Q: Can you list other specific problems with the Emanuel administration?
TL: If you look at this administration you see a pattern where it creates financial relationships with his campaign donors that send money away from children and toward his campaign contributors. The SUPES Academy contract, the Aramark contract, etc. One of the most brazen ones to me is this social impact bond where they borrowed $17 million and promised in the fine print to pay double in return. The bond was supposed to expand pre-k. Pre-k was never expanded, but they took out the loan. And to justify paying double the $34 million was if the kids in pre-k do better. That’s an established fact. You don’t pay double for something because that’s what it’s supposed to do. That’s like going to your plumber and he says it’ll be $10,000 and you say I’ll give you $20,000 if the pipes don’t leak. Who does that? Who is that irresponsible with their own money. But that is what this administration does. And who were the donors of this money – Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust, two of Emmanuel’s big campaign donors.
Q: Sounds like you’re ready to be the next mayor?
TL: The mayor’s office is not a current consideration.
Q: What immediate plans do you have for the principal’s association?
TL: I will work with the principals to set up their priorities. We need to end the isolation. I want them to speak in unison. I’m not asking them to take the risks as I did. We need to come out together. To create mechanisms that allow them to do that. We need to influence public stances and make it safe to do it. We will work with legislation, write op-eds and propose ordinances.