The mayoral election in Chicago is tomorrow. What’s at stake: the future of public education in that city.
The Chicago Teachers Union predicts more school closings if Tahm is re-elected. A major campaign contributor said he should have closed 125 schools, not just 50. This donor, Ken Griffin, is a Republican who also has given to Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
CONTACT: Ronnie Reese
April 6, 2015 312-329-6235
School closings inevitable if Emanuel wins second term
If Rahm Emanuel is re-elected, more school closures could come before moratorium ends in 2018
CHICAGO—Rahm Emanuel’s refusal to seriously pursue any meaningful, progressive revenue solutions for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) funding needs will without question lead to further mass school closings in the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods if he wins re-election on April 7. As Emanuel’s economic policies prioritize the financial interests of billionaire campaign donors like Ken Griffin and other big business supporters, at the expense of public education in Chicago, the mayor is making a clear choice to drive the district into even further dire financial straits that he will use to justify additional school closings.
Griffin, one of the top contributors to Emanuel’s re-election campaign and the richest man in Illinois, has accused Chicago’s mayor of being “lackluster” for not closing 125 schools instead of 50, and recently reiterated to the New York Times that the number of closings, which disproportionately affected African American and Latino students and their families, “should’ve been 125.” Griffin also has claimed that the top 1 percent of income earners have too little influence in politics, which is seemingly why he has backed Emanuel with more than $1 million in campaign contributions. As Griffin’s influence on City Hall grows, future school closings are inevitable if Emanuel is re-elected.
“Rahm’s pledge not to close additional schools for five years, which he refused to put into writing or pass into law, will conveniently run out if he wins a second term,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “In Ken Griffin, who is among the top donors to both Emanuel and his friend, Bruce Rauner, he has a billionaire puppet master for whom he’ll have to do a lot of dancing if he is fortunate enough to retain his office.”
In return for Griffin’s generosity, Emanuel has rejected holding the city’s most wealthy accountable for their growing untaxed income while he simultaneously fleeces working class families with regressive taxes. Emanuel also has committed millions of dollars in tax increment financing to one of Griffin’s hotel investments and remains silent on suggestions for a millionaire tax that nearly 2/3 of the state of Illinois voted to support.
In deference to his central contributors, Emanuel has refused to claw back losses from toxic swaps, capital appreciation bonds, TIFs and other forms of predatory finance that will cost the city $3 billion—money that would be better used in meeting pension obligations and expanding city services.
If Griffin himself were taxed at the individual income tax rate before it declined from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on January 1, 2015, his $1.2 billion annual income would have garnered $60 million. That amount alone would have saved 30 neighborhood public schools from closing, according to the Chicago Board of Education’s own calculations. If this same formula was applied to members of the Pritzker family, Grosvenor Capital Management CEO Michael Sacks and other financial titans financing Emanuel’s campaign, there would be substantially more resources available to the district to offset its projected $1 billion shortfall.
“If the mayor had the courage to take on the banks’ toxic swaps for market manipulation, unfair dealing and misinformation—along the lines of what the Department of Justice has done federally—we could recoup nearly $1.2 billion for our schools and the city, eradicating the current deficit,” Sharkey said. “Instead, CPS will face more mass school closings, more layoffs, more losses of retirement security for educators and more students in our already overcrowded classrooms.”
If the district closed the additional 75 schools that Griffin has called for, Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education would have to layoff approximately 9,000 teachers, which would result in class sizes of 50 or more in most schools. Emanuel has threatened such actions in the past. If Chicago had a mayor who chose the city’s residents, their schools and communities over the interests of wealthy benefactors, the pain and suffering that Emanuel has caused can be avoided in the future.
Emanuel is the bankers’ candidate, for it is the bankers who are most enthusiastic about his willingness to defend their interests. His refusal to hold them accountable is an indication that future budget cuts and school closures are a certainty.