Chicago Teachers Union Rallies Against Cuts

Chicago teachers took to the streets Thursday to protest $100 million in new cuts being made by the financially troubled Chicago Public Schools that is struggling to close a $480 million budget gap.

Paris Schutz joined us from the Loop with details.

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“There certainly was a big crowd,” Schutz said. “Hundreds of teachers, maybe close to a thousand … came in from all corners of the city.”

“They’re protesting some of these controversial swap deals – interest rate swap deals – that CPS has entered into with some of these banks, saying banks are making millions of dollars off of these while teachers are bearing the brunt of cuts,” Schutz said.

The cuts would affect CPS support staff, like special education teachers and social workers.

“They want to get rid of us, or possibly privatize us, so we won’t get the same benefits or the same pay,” said Toni Berglind, a special education support staff member.

"We have to make a choice in this city: Banks or schools," CTU President Karen Lewis said at the rally.

The cuts were announced earlier this week by CPS CEO Forrest Claypool after the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a contract offer from the district on Monday. That offer would have required teachers to pay more into their pensions, prohibited teacher layoffs due to budgetary reasons, included teacher raises and given teachers more autonomy in the classroom.

CPS responded today with the following statement:

Claypool and CTU President Karen Lewis said they’ll go back to the bargaining table to try and hammer out a new agreement, but the clock is ticking. CPS on Wednesday borrowed $725 million at an astonishingly high interest rate to help keep the district open through the rest of the fiscal year. 

Asked by "Chicago Tonight’s" Carol Marin if CPS can go back to Wall Street and borrow again, Claypool said, “I don’t know.” 

Claypool and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have called on state lawmakers to give CPS more money through an overhaul of the state’s education funding formula that they say would be more equitable.

Chicago Teachers Union rally begins in the Loop. (Paris Schutz)Chicago Teachers Union rally begins in the Loop. (Paris Schutz)

On Thursday, powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan announced a special task force on education funding that will hold hearings beginning Feb. 16. Madigan’s move comes as Gov. Bruce Rauner has pushed a state takeover (and possible bankruptcy) of CPS, an action he cannot make without approval from the Democrat-controlled General Assembly that is currently at odds with Rauner over how to fund the state.

Rauner has also said he is willing to work with Senate President John Cullerton on revamping education funding. 


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