Wirepoints president calls CTU's proposal 'irresponsible'
Chicago Teachers Union's first contract proposal, delivered earlier this week to the city's mayor, asking—among other things—for a 5 percent pay raise, is "irresponsible," the president of an online news outlet said during a recent interview.
"The Chicago Teachers Union really needs to take a look at the fiscal damage they're doing to the city and the school district when they keep pushing up the cost of delivering education to levels that its residents can't afford anymore," Ted Dabrowski, Wirepoints president, told Chicago City Wire.
That "rich people" would provide the tax revenue for pay and services increases, as CTU's vice president, Stacy Davis Gates, said this week, goes to the heart of union shortsightedness, Dabrowski said.
"Chicago teachers have the highest pay already of any of the larger school districts in the nation," he said.
Chicago teachers receive that pay despite the well-known financial difficulties of Chicago Public Schools and the city of Chicago, Dabrowski said.
"It's an irresponsible request," he said.
CTU officials delivered that request Tuesday to the office of outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In addition to a pay increase, the union is asking for librarians and nurses, increased special education and bilingual student services, capping the class size at 24 students and providing a counselor for every 250 students.
When asked about how to pay for requests expected to blow past the current $8.9 billion contract, Gates told reporters the funds would come from a certain group of taxpayers.
"Where would the money come from? Rich people," Gates was widely reported to have said. Gates added revenue sources could include corporate taxes, legalized recreational marijuana, sports betting, a Chicago casino and other areas under Gov. J.B. Pritzker, an amenable Democrat who replaced Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, earlier this month.
"We have a governor who says he is going to fund fully education in the state of Illinois," Gates was quoted. "No more roadblocks. No more passing the buck to Rauner."
Allowing CTU to have its way in its request would only continue the ongoing fiscal disaster in Chicago and the rest of Illinois, Dabrowski said.
"Thinking that the rich can pay for everything, from unfunded pension liabilities to budget deficits to more and more pays—the flippancy about it is very risky," he said. "Wealthy people can move to 49 other states if they are unwelcome in Illinois."
Flight of the wealthy from Illinois is something CTU officials seem not to be considering in their request, Dabrowski said.
"What the CTU doesn't understand or seemingly is forgetting is that Chicago's population has shrunk three years in a row, and Illinois's population has shrunk five years in a row," he said. "We're losing people, and the more difficult we make it for people to live here, the more people we'll lose and we'll enter—we may already be in—a bad spiral."
The spiral spins in only one direction, Dabrowski said.
"As we lose more people, our tax base shrinks and then we raise taxes again, over and over. It's not going to work. What we need are reforms and to bring the cost of delivering education down in Chicago."
A hard look at reforms and an even harder look at pensions is required, Dabrowski said.
"We need to make sure we're competitive, but we shouldn't be out of line with the rest of the nation," he said.
Implementing reforms and scaling back pensions would go a long way toward making education more affordable for average residents in the city that already isn't getting the quality of education that should be expected from paying exceptionally high taxes, Dabrowski said.
CTU officials claim their contract proposals are "built on demand for schools Chicago students deserve" but Dabrowski countered that the already overtaxed Chicago taxpayer is not seeing a return in student performance and test scores. Dabrowski referred to Illinois State Board of Education findings that only about a third of third-grade students can read at grade level and that by sixth grade only a quarter perform at grade level.
"Instead of focusing on getting more and more money out of taxpayers, they need to focus on getting better results," Dabrowski said. "We still know that the majority of kids aren't at the reading level for their grade. That's a tragedy when you consider a third grader who can't read. They're never be able to succeed in life if they can't succeed in school."