CITY HALL — Hundreds of teachers picketed outside City Hall on Thursday to protest cuts to schools and call for new, more progressive taxes on the rich.
The Chicago Teachers Union protest began with a few dozen members and swelled to hundreds as teachers arrived at City Hall to join in.
They protested $200 million in cuts to education in Chicago Public Schools announced Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS Chief Executive Officer Jesse Ruiz, and called for new taxes on those who can afford to pay them.
"I think the mayor is deeply embedded in Novocaine right now," said Craig Cleve, a social-studies teacher at Columbia Explorers Academy, 4520 S. Kedzie Ave., in Brighton Park. "He doesn't feel the pain."
Cleve marched with a sign casting Emanuel, Ruiz and Gov. Bruce Rauner as the Three Stooges and calling them "Bond Buying Bozos."
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) joined in the picketing, saying, "I'm out to stand with our teachers to say our parents have paid their fair share."
Ramirez-Rosa, a first-term alderman who drew support from the teachers union in his campaign this year, said the Board of Education, not the City Council, had say over whether to levy a $175 million property tax increase also proposed by the mayor Wednesday, but that he was not enthusiastic about it.
"Cuts and layoffs are not the solution to the financial mess created by the mayor's appointed school board," Ramirez-Rosa said. "Our children deserve fully funded schools and smaller class sizes. The time to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share is now."
According to Ramirez-Rosa, the council's Progressive Reform Caucus is working to put together a package of funding alternatives, including a commuter tax, a tax on financial transactions, a hike in the corporate income tax and an end to corporate tax loopholes.
Ruiz issued a sympathetic statement in response to the protest Thursday, saying, "We agree that these cuts are painful and intolerable — and we wouldn't be here if Springfield were prioritizing education funding.
"We urge CTU leaders and members to join us in concentrating our energy on the one place that can partner on a comprehensive solution to close our $1.1 billion budget gap and prevent even deeper, more painful cuts — Springfield."
Emanuel echoed that in a statement: "The cuts that CPS was forced to make are intolerable, and I share the union's outrage as well as the disappointment of residents across our city who are understandably frustrated at Springfield's inability to prioritize education funding and refusal to treat the children of Chicago as they do other children across the state.
"We urge CTU to partner with us on a comprehensive solution that will close the district's $1.1 billion budget gap and allow us to spend money on educating our children, rather than focusing on pension payments."
The General Assembly, however, has thus far been reluctant to grant CPS delays in a $634 million pension payment made before a Tuesday deadline or to offer any other funding reforms while it's locked in a budget impasse with Rauner.
The teachers union's Jackson Potter said the rampant borrowing by the city and the Board of Education to make the pension payments threatened to "foreclose on the future" for Chicago students and teachers.
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