By: Mark Glennon*
In its statement yesterday announcing rejection of the contract offer made by Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Teachers Union included this:
CPS’ uses this math to plug its budget hole:
- $200 million from the state for pensions
- $150 million from the state in a school aid formula change
- $170 million from a new local property tax levy for pensions
- $150 to $175 million from eliminating the teacher’s pension pickup and from increased healthcare costs.
That’s about $700 million. But the offering documents for CPS’s struggling bond offering say its annual structural deficit is $1 billion, and the real number is far worse if you measure pensions properly. And does the CTU really think Springfield will cough up a total bailout of $350 million annually? Never mind what Governor Rauner has said about that, it wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance of getting through the General Assembly. CTU isn’t trying to put up a real plan and many members have to see that.
So, you seriously have to wonder how the minds in the CTU are working. It’s not just greed, though there’s plenty of that. Not just stupidity, though there’s plenty of that, too. Maybe it’s all just negotiation. But my personal sense from watching their rhetoric is that much of its leadership wants to provoke a much broader confrontation — mass strikes, chaos — a people versus The Man uprising. Many of them are classically trained leftists for whom that’s doctrine. And they think they can win. They’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid from the likes of Chuy Garcia, Bernie Sanders and the seminars on Marxism and socialism that many of them attend. Only with that could they achieve the systemic changes they want — soak the rich and corporations, a transactions tax….
Maybe “perplexing” is word for the CTU, but “infuriating” is the right one for CPS’s conduct in this. The terms of its offer to CTU were kept secret, and we only learned that it included a property tax increase after CPS rejected it. The offer also would have choked off creation of new charter schools, widely popular with parents and students. The Chicago Tribune has a great editorial on this today, asking “What kind of deal was this?” The offer, from what we can now glean from CPS statements, included pay raises and guaranteed job security, and met the union’s other demands including raises for seniority in addition to cost-of-living increases and more classroom autonomy for teachers. The only material concession from teachers was elimination of the pension pick-up under which CPS is paying most of the “employees share” of pension contributions.
What the hell is going on? Is there even one person in Chicago who knows how to deal with insolvency and who isn’t engaged in cover-up?
UPDATE: After writing this, CTU President Karen Lewis called the response by the CPS to cut spending an “act of war” and the union is gearing up big time. “Let’s shut this city down” is one of their Tweets. Big rally planned at 4:30pm Thursday on LaSalle Street. As I’ve been writing for a long time, shut CPS down, reconstitute it in or out of bankruptcy, end CTU, fire all of them and rehire the good ones.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.