February 19, 2004

The following article is from a newsletter published by Chicago teachers and educational workers.

On February 12, Arne Duncan, head of the Chicago Public Schools, announced plans to eliminate as many as 1,000 jobs, including teachers, teacher aides and other school employees. CPS officials also said they are preparing to cut several educational programs, including math, science and reading initiatives, and after-school programs.

The proposed layoffs and curriculum cutbacks are an outrage. They are an attack on our children's right to an education, an attack on the livelihood of teachers and other school employees, an attack on the right of the people to a modern educational system. Teachers, parents and concerned people must not let these attacks pass.

Everyone knows that the Chicago public schools, like schools in working class cities and towns across the country, are already drastically underfunded. Buildings are in disrepair, classes are overcrowded, educational materials are in short supply, staff is underpaid, etc., etc. Rather than cutting funds, government, at all levels, must meet its responsibility and increase investments in the schools.

Duncan claims that these cuts are necessary because the CPS faces a $100-$200 million deficit. Duncan said that the size of the deficit depends on how much aid the city receives from the state budget. But while Duncan claims he does not have the money to hire enough teachers, the CPS budget allocates hundreds of millions of dollars in for-profit contracts to private janitorial companies, food service companies, etc. Last year, the banks alone received $274 million in interest payments from the CPS. We ask: what is the first priority of the CPS budget - to guarantee profits for the bankers or to provide education for Chicago's children.

Nor should we fall for the trick of letting one governmental authority shift the blame to another in order to avoid responsibility.

We charge every level of government with criminal and conscious neglect of the public schools. The CPS defrauds the public of hundreds of millions of dollars in "administrative overhead," in sweetheart contracts, contracting out, etc. As for Blagojevich and the state government, it ranks 48 out of the 50 states in financial support for the public schools. The federal government provides almost no support for the schools.

The issue is not a lack of funds. The issue is that the government refuses to use the vast public funds at its disposal to meet its responsibilities to the people. The issue is not one of economics but of politics.

In other words, we are faced with a straightforward struggle. We must come out together - teachers, parents and working people throughout the city - and demand that government "find" the money, i.e. use the money already taken from us in taxes to meet the needs of the people.

Teachers and other schools employees have an important role to play in this struggle. As we learned in the recent contract battle, we cannot sit back and wait but must take the initiative into our own hands:

1) We must immediately begin to organize regular union meetings in our local schools.

2) We must step up our struggle to demand strict enforcement of contractual guarantees on class size, caseloads, space, prep periods, etc. so that the CPS is not able to shift even more impossible workloads on fewer and fewer employees.

3) We must make plans to reach out to parents, students and local communities to join together in the struggle to defend Chicago's schools.

No Layoffs!

No Program Cutbacks!

More Funding for the Schools!