Kenzo Shibata

Chicago teacher, activist, writer, media strategist

Gapers Block: Let My People Retire

Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman takes notes from Republican Democrat Daleycrat playbook by invoking the tax increase boogeyman to garner support for raiding teacher pensions.

The CPS proposed budget for 2009-2010 was unveiled (in a limited capacity) last week. The budget projects a $475 million dollar deficit (which, to the keen observer is $25 million less than the proposed “cap” on Olympic spending). Huberman is using this as an opportunity to pit Chicago resident against Chicago resident over scarce dollars.

City officials have stated that a property tax increase may be necessary to fill in budget gaps. This increase will average about $18 per year increase per home valued at $262,000 per year. The framing of this increase, however, is textbook means for pitting recession-beleaguered homeowners against public school teachers (many of whom also being recession-beleaguered homeowners).

Huberman, along with officials from the Civic Federation, have blamed this shortfall on one thing, teacher pensions.

“The Chicago Public Schools face a pension tsumani,” said Civic Federation President Lawrence Msall. “The next two years are going to be very difficult.”

I relayed this news to a retired teacher friend of mine who was so shocked to hear this news, he dropped his monocle into his bowl of gilded foigras and pulled his top-hat down over his head in shame.

My retired friend displayed further shame after I shared another Huberman quote with him from Chicago Public Radio:

HUBERMAN: There’s not one pot of money for classrooms, after-school programming, sports–the things that matter most to our students–and another pot of money that’s for pensions. It’s one big pot of money. And when you take a look at that big pot of money–every dollar that goes into a pension is a dollar that doesn’t go into a classroom.

So the stage is set to raid the pensions. City Hall and its corporate brethren have set the narrative that greedy, greedy teachers are robbing from both children and homeowners. This strategy fosters resentment from the right and from liberals. The fact that teachers are represented by Union leadership that has allowed thousands of educators to hemorrhage from its membership through charterization and privatization, makes this all but a done deal.

Whenever I see framing taking place, the first question I ask is, “What picture lies underneath this new frame?” What is being hidden to force grown people to elicit boogeymen in place of solid decision-making?

Ald. Tom Allen (38th) noted that schools would be getting more property tax dollars if tax increment financing districts weren’t siphoning millions away from schools.Property tax hikes are “less politically radioactive when you’re talking about educating our kids,” Allen said, but even so, “people are despondent. They’re frustrated.”


Therein lies the problem with the mayoral control of the CPS. The Mayor’s agenda of TIFing the city into a giant slush-fund goes unquestioned by the entity that is being crushed by it. A public entity with lobbying power, like the CPS, should be pushing back on the schemes that rob from it, not using its PR department to attack the livelihood of its own employees.

This is something that will never happen when the Mayor has the power to appoint the CEO, the board president, and each-and-every person who sits at the helm at 125 S. Clark.

If this pension raid takes place, I have to ask the Mayor, “Will you set aside jobs for retired teachers to work the concession stands during the 2016 Olympics?”

Hearings on the proposed budget are taking place this week and are open to the public.

The hearings will take place at the following locations:

Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen, August 17

Marshall High School, 3250 W. Adams, August 18

Black Magnet School, 9101 S. Euclid, August 19

All hearings begin at 7:00 PM. To sign in for public participation, plan to arrive by 6:00 PM.

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This entry was posted on August 17, 2009 by in Uncategorized.
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