An ill wind blows hot air in the Windy City.
Like Detroit, Chicago is a city in dire fiscal straits – it is depopulating and its debt is in the stratosphere. The school system alone, hardly a crown jewel, is dealing with a $1 billion deficit. For a variety of reasons, the city’s student population has been dwindling since the 1960s, and in March the school district announced its plan to close 54 sparsely populated campuses. (The number has since been revised to 49.) As RiShawn Biddle wrote at the time,
Chicago’s enrollment of 404,584 children is a third smaller than the number of kids served by the district during the 1960s. Three hundred thirty of the district’s 616 schools — more than half of the district’s portfolio — operate below capacity, with 137 of them half-empty. At some schools, including Drake Elementary School in the city’s Bronzeville section, and an elementary school named for hometown hero Emmett Till (whose murder in Mississippi by two men offended by his violation of Jim Crow segregation spurred the modern civil rights movement), just two out of every five seats are filled during the school year.
Needless to say, the local and national teachers unions are horrified by the closings, but as a fact sheet released by the Chicago Public School system (CPS) points out, the action is necessary and will have little impact on the city’s kids.
The story was on the back-burner for a while but was rekindled in June when Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) President Karen I-never-fail-to-be-offensive Lewis, went on a tear and blamed “rich white people” for the educational woes of minority kids. But as Juan Williams points out,
The latest statistics show only 63 percent of Chicago public school students graduating in 2013 and that is an increase over recent years. Among the city’s 8th grade students, 79 percent are not at reading level. Meanwhile, Lewis’ union has made Chicago’s public school teachers’ salaries among the highest in the nation at an annual average of $74,839.
But the only school reform Lewis advocates is higher taxes on Chicago’s property owners and she describes it as a tax hike on upper-income whites. She also wants new taxes on all financial transfers as well as a commuter tax, which she concludes will principally impact, once again, the target of her anger, well-to-do whites.
Lewis, a black woman and highly educated Dartmouth graduate, also argued that the city’s white, Jewish mayor, Rahm Emanuel, his aides and the city’s “venture capitalists” are guilty of using “little black and brown children as stage props at one press conference while announcing they want to fire, layoff or lock up their parents at another press conference.”
Then, in mid-July, CPS took another hit when the city announced it would have to lay off another 2,100 teachers and support staff, bringing the total number of pink slips to 3,600 in two months. As usual, Lewis aimed her arrows outside the bloated and wasteful school system itself for solutions and came up with …yawn …. raising the state income tax.
… ballooning pension and labor costs, and billion dollar deficit, could be solved if the state would simply raise its income tax and start giving the new money to Chicago schools.
We need to close some corporate loopholes. We need to look at a financial transaction tax.
We also need to go to Springfield to get rid of this regressive flat tax. We need a progressive income tax.
At the same time, CTU involved itself in a bizarre stratagem. The union and a motley collection of fellow travelers, including terrorist Bill Ayers, unrepentant communist Michael Klonsky and Action Now (ACORN reincarnated) petitioned the United Nations, sending a “letter of allegation” to Geneva asking the international organization to investigate whether the closing of 49 Chicago schools “violates children’s human rights.” Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.
“The United Nations taking this issue up and giving it serious attention will really bring home to Chicago and the United States that there are violations occurring here of human rights, potentially, not just about a budget crisis,” said Sital Kalantry, the University of Chicago law professor who filed the letter on behalf of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights.
Apparently, the fact that the United Nations – thankfully – has no influence over internal American affairs is not of interest to these folks. Their entreaty to the UN is especially ironic considering the world body’s own appalling record on human rights. Most notably, Sudan – with its long history of slavery continuing to this day – is on the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Additionally, the proud slave-owning country was laughably and tragically represented on the UN Commission on Human Rights until that body disbanded in 2006.
Obviously the UN isn’t much concerned with things like slavery. So what does this august body do for humanity? Right about the time the CTU and pals submitted their petition, the UN was busy passing a resolution declaring November 19th “World Toilet Day.” This solemn recognition joins a host of UN efforts to be really important and make a difference in the world. Other “days” it acknowledges are “International Mountain Day” (December 11th), “World Migratory Bird Day” (May 11th) and “World Television Day” (November 21st).
Rumor has it that when the Chicago folks realize the UN is as serious about human rights as a clown college, they will move on, undaunted, to examine other options. As such, Bashar al-Assad, the Castro brothers, Robert Mugabe and Kim Jung Un are advised to keep their cell phones charged.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.