By Jim Vail
Special to Mychinews.com
|CTU organizer Marty Ritter|
People spoke out at the Chicago Public Schools budget hearings last week after 1,000 teachers and teacher aides were recently fired.
“Most teachers who came here are here because they lost their jobs,” said Chicago Teachers Union organizer Martin Ritter. “Every school has lost teachers. New schools are great, but there are hundreds of schools that need extra resources.”
The CPS budgeting team spoke to a room of about 75 people at the National Teachers Academy on Wednesday, Aug. 17, to lay out a $300 million capital budget plan to renovate and build new schools.
Activists have pointed out that CPS has been building new schools while enrollment has been dropping.
Ritter said CPS should endorse a couple of proposed ordinances for progressive revenue that would include funneling the surplus of tax increment financing funds and increasing the employee “head tax” and personal property lease tax to generate additional school funding.
CPS responded that they have looked at state funding, but that all sources of revenue should be explored.
The mayor has so far made no effort to support these measures nor has he asked the banks that have profited off toxic loan swaps at the schools’ expense to reimburse the city. Other cities such as Jefferson, Alabama have successfully sued the banks to recover money lost to toxic loans.
In addition to borrowing $725 million at a whopping 8.5 percent that will further indebt the city, the Chicago Board of Education proposed the sale of up to $950 million in bonds to pay for construction projects to support capital improvements and other expenses at 7.25 percent interest.
Bond holders and banks continue to profit at the schools’ expense.
Rather than build new schools or additions to relieve overcrowding, CPS can make boundary changes to save money and preserve teachers and minimize class sizes, said Sarah Hainds, a CTU researcher.
“Now we have many schools that are underutilized because of all these charter schools,” she said.
CPS continues to make proposals for more charter schools despite the costs and opposition.
Jennifer Biggs from Raise Your Hand said to release the TIF funds and to not build a proposed new Obama Prep school that would save $60 million.
“Chicago does not need another high school,” she said.
Alderman Pat Dowell from the Southside said she agreed that CPS should build a new annex to relieve the overcrowded South Loop school and that CPS should find new revenue for the schools. She did not state if she was in favor of releasing the TIF surplus funds.
Rod Estvan, an analyst with Access Living which advocates for disabled students, said the increased Americans with Disabilities (ADA) funding of $500,000 would maybe fund a new bathroom or some water fountains, but not what is necessary. He said under the Daley administration the ADA funded millions over five years to support students with disability.
Another speaker said CPS should build more athletic facilities such as one stadium each year to promote athletics as an alternative to violence.
A substitute teacher who said she worked as a gym teacher, said she noticed there are fewer teachers, including some classes with no regular teacher. Why, she asked, does the funding not address hiring more and not less teachers.
CPS responded that the capital funding is earmarked only for building and not for hiring teachers.