A day after the Chicago Board of Education’s unanimous approval of an unbalanced $5.7B budget, and days before 26,000 public school teachers head back to the classroom, Chicago Teacher’s Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey railed against Mayor Emanuel, the Board, and Bank of America at an appearance at City Club of Chicago Thursday.
Sharkey took the place of CTU President Karen Lewis, whom Sharkey said was having a “not-so-good” recovery week. Thursday’s audience included several state representatives and Board of Education staffers, including Vice President Jesse Ruiz.
In the midst of mediated CTU and CPS negotiations over teacher contracts, Sharkey set aside questions about another potential strike, and focused instead on the Board’s “dysfunctional” budget. “What is at stake right now really is the future of public schools as we know it in the city.” Sharkey likened the Board to a gambler at the end of a run, saying the state legislature and Governor Bruce Rauner are unsafe bets, and unlikely to fill the budget’s $480M gap.
He predicts that unfilled gap will mean more cuts for teachers in the middle of the school year. “It’s going to be a horror story. Mass layoffs of teachers and of the school staff, every school of the system will need to be reprogrammed, we’re going to eliminate maintenance and cleaning budgets, eliminate vital programs. Strip our schools to the bare bones.”
Sharkey’s solution is one CTU has previously called for: tax the wealthy. At Thursday’s event, he also called for a boycott of Bank of America and for B of A’s Illinois President, Timothy Malone, to return $274M in profits Sharkey says the company made off swaps. The Tribune recently detailed those deals and CPS has started a boycott petition.v He accused the board of being “insulated from public pressure” and dominated by “bosses” before making another pitch for an elected school board.
Such a change would take approval from Springfield, which is in the works in the form of HB 4268. The bill, which has 48 co-sponsors, also calls for the Board’s inspector general to be appointed by the Board, rather than the Mayor. It’s pending in the Illinois House Rules Committee.
Sharkey also expressed solidarity with hunger strikers hoping to keep Bronzeville’s Dyett High School open by turning it into the “Dyett High School of Global Leadership and Green Technology.”
He called for CPS and Mayor Emanuel to suspend the request for proposal process and accept Dyett protesters’ pitch for a the green tech school. Mayor Emanuel gave no indication Thursday morning he’d halt the RFP process, and said schools nearby are still under capacity.