Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who may be leading a strike in the very near, had plenty to say about Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) this week.
Not only did she call the governor a liar, she also accused him of being an ISIS recruit because of his “acts of terror on Chicago’s poor and working-class people.”
“This kind of rhetoric has no place in American public discourse and sets a terrible example for our kids,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool “made a bid for moving contract talks with the CTU to binding arbitration.” Meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Madigan suggested that affluent residents pay higher taxes to help with dwindling education funding.
And CTU members boarded buses along with other labor union members and supporters to travel to the state capital and march on the Capitol and the Executive Mansion to lobby for more funding for education, reports Juan Perez, Jr. for the Chicago Tribune.
The incendiary speech by Lewis followed the union’s rejection of contract recommendations from an independent arbitrator, which could lead to a strike as early as next month.
The union has been in talks with the school board for over a year in an attempt to replace a contract that became invalid on June 30, 2015.
Claypool all but begged Lewis to agree to “final and binding interest arbitration in lieu of a strike,” and added that he could not see how a strike could solve the many issues that face CPS.
Part of Lewis’s speech included a stab at Rauner for using his influence to get his daughter into the highly respected Walter Payton High School instead of having her enrolled in New Trier, the Winnetka public school near one of Rauner’s homes, according to Mitch Dudek of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“With nine houses, who knows where he and his children actually lived when he clouted his daughter in that school,” Lewis said.
Lewis added that cutting educators’ compensation is not the way to handle the glaring financial difficulties facing CPS. Until the governor finds a “stable, sustainable, and increasing revenue,” not even the “mayor’s handpicked” school board can afford any contract proposal.
The union is also calling for the creation of a progressive Illinois income tax and an elected school board in Chicago.
The crowd that assembled in Springfield numbered over 1,000, and all, teachers, retirees, activists and union members, were there to spotlight the 10-month budget battle that has forced layoffs in higher education and a possible closure of Chicago State University, report Sophia Tareen and Ashley Lisenby for the Associated Press.
Rauner and Democratic lawmakers are at a standoff over a budget that should have been in place when the fiscal year began in July. Rauner wants reforms that will attract and retain businesses. Democrats want a tax increase and disagree with Rauner on many of his ideas such as changes to collective bargaining.
The governor says his spending plan would give public schools $120 million more for next year. But, under his guidelines, universities may see reductions in funding and CPS could lose $74 million. CPS is already carrying a $1 billion deficit.
Legislators are also discussing Democrat-backed measures for a graduated income tax and a sweeping change to the state’s outdated school funding formula.