Rahm's War On Teachers
In his crusade to reform Chicago Public Schools, Rahm Emanuel apparently has declared war on our teachers.
"Teachers got two types of pay raises [in a 2003 labor agreement]," the new mayor said last week as he defended his handpicked school board's decision to rescind 4 percent raises for CPS faculty. "People in public life got labor peace. Can anybody explain to me what the children got? I know what everybody else got."
In case anyone didn't catch his drift, Rahm clarified: "Our children got the shaft."
These are the same dedicated teachers I wrote about last month, nothing that "They have to manage the behavior of 25 individuals whose brains are not physically or emotionally developed while at the same time teaching them the basics needed to survive."
On Friday, one of those teachers was listening to Roe & Roeper on WLS-AM. The hosts were playing parts of the same Emanuel dialogue, including when Rahm stated that, in good conscience, he could not meet the demands of the teachers' current contract "because they have left the children by the side of the road."
She was so stunned that tears came to her eyes. It was her last week with the kids before summer break. It had been an especially difficult year. She has dedicated 30 years of her life to teaching. How could the mayor be so demeaning to such a dedicated class of people?
Ironically, the Sun-Times reported on Saturday that Rahm left a Chicago first-grader by the side of the road.
Apparently, while attending Governor Pat Quinn's signing of a sweeping education bill, Rahm brought a girl from South Loop Elementary School and paid tribute to her for asking him about his plans for a longer school day while he was visiting her class.
Guess what? It was the wrong kid. The right kid was Parker Rasmussen and he shouldn't have been hard to find; his comment (and photo) was posted on South Loop's website and the Sun-Times had actually captured the mayor kissing Rasmussen on the head in a photo that ran in the paper.
Teachers will probably forgive Rahm this faux pas; after all, schools are bustling with commotion even on ordinary days; on days that important people visit, they can be especially chaotic. Rahm may have found it difficult to concentrate.
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Rahm attended public schools while growing up in Wilmette, including New Trier West High School. Teachers there have always been well-paid.
The average teacher salary at New Trier Township High School today is $86,424. The average teacher salary at CPS is $69,000.
I wonder if Rahm thinks he got the shaft when he was in school.
Before being a congressman and then President Obama's chief of staff, Emanuel worked on Wall Street for an investment banking firm. He made $16.2 million in 30 months.
I wonder if anyone felt like they go the shaft from Rahm.
He was also appointed by President Bill Clinton to the board of Freddie Mac.
"The board met no more than six times a year. Unlike most fellow directors, Emanuel was not assigned to any of the board's working committees, according to company proxy statements," the Tribune has reported. "Immediately upon joining the board, Emanuel and other new directors qualified for $380,000 in stock and options plus a $20,000 annual fee, records indicate."
But that's just the tip of the shaft.
"On Emanuel's watch," the Tribune reported, "the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass."
"During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians. Emanuel was the beneficiary of one of those parties after he left the board and ran in 2002 for a seat in Congress from the North Side of Chicago."
When asked by the Sun-Times political columnist Lynn Sweet if he had any responsibility for questionable practices at Freddie Mac, Rahm said: "I think I did my board service well, and I am proud of what I did."
No one can deny that Wall Street and Freddie Mac played major roles in the current mortgage crisis. Chicago ranks eighth among the nation's largest metropolitan areas with mortgages underwater. Of those properties, most are in default on the property taxes too - the major source of revenue for schools. I wonder if Rahm thinks he's given our schookids the shaft.
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Rahm's net worth is between $6.2 and $16.2 million dollars, the Tribune reported last week.
Now he is saying the teachers must work longer hours and more days without a raise. What financial sacrifice will he make to reduce the CPS deficit?
Teachers are not responsible for the estimated $724 million shortfall.
That doesn't mean they aren't willing to share in whatever sacrifice is necessary to close the gap. But what about those who mismanaged the budget - and the economy - in the first place?
Rahm's war doesn't stop with teachers, either.
"Who do we value as a society, the CEOs who threaten to leave to get tax breaks or the hard-working men and women who teach our children and the police who patrol our streets?" Fraternal Order of Police president Michael Shields told the Tribune last week. "This war on public employees has to stop."
In a time when teachers are now getting the blame for our worst performing schools, maybe Rahm ought to consider that when teachers get the shaft, so do their kids.
Ed Hammer is a retired Illinois Secretary of State Police Captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty: How and Insider Links the Death of Six Children to the Politics of Convicted Governor George Ryan.
Posted on June 20, 2011
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