In a scathing speech on Wednesday, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union charged that racism and “rich white people” are to blame for the immense financial crisis facing the Chicago Public Schools.
In her remarks to an audience at the upscale City Club of Chicago, union boss Karen Lewis strongly criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. She also urged the city schools to follow the strategic blueprint of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
“Members of the status quo — the people who are running the schools and advising the mayor on how to best run our district — know what good education looks like because they have secured it for their own children in well-resourced public and private institutions,” the Dartmouth graduate charged.
“When will there be an honest conversation about the poverty, racism and inequality that hinders the delivery of a quality education product in our school system?” Lewis also asked in the speech. “When will we address the fact that rich, white people think they know what’s in the best interest of children of African Americans and Latinos—no matter what the parent’s income or education level.”
The union leader then questioned the motives of “venture capitalists” who have expressed a desire to improve the quality of education for poor and minority students.
“There is something about these folks who love the kids but hate the parents,” Lewis inveighed. “There’s something about these folks who use little black and brown children as stage props at one press conference while announcing they want to fire, layoff or lock up their parents at another press conference.”
Lewis called for “an end to corporate subsidies and loopholes.” She demanded “progressive taxation” to close the $1 billion budget deficit currently facing the Second City and its public schools. (RELATED: It’s official: Chicago Public Schools will close 49 elementary schools for good)
Higher income tax rates on wealthy residents would generate billions in necessary revenue, the union chief suggested. She also proposed new taxes for commuters and for financial transfers.
In her closing remarks, Lewis, a self-professed Chicago White Sox fan, suggested that the Chicago Public Schools would be wise to emulate the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise.
“When the Cubs lose a game they don’t call for Wrigley Field to close down. They don’t want the entire team dismantled. Despite empty seats, the stadium isn’t accused of being underutilized,” she said.
Lewis, who obviously spends little time listening to Chicago’s two main sports radio stations, also suggested that “no one questions” the salaries of Chicago baseball players.
Year after year — despite individual player performance, despite game losses and near wins — the fans show continue to show up. We keep cheering for our Cubbies. We know they are winners. We dream. We believe,” Lewis said.
“Do the same for our children,” she implored. “Cheer them on. Invest in them. Love them. Support their parents. Support their teachers. Support their schools. Let’s work together. Let’s win, Chicago. Let’s win.”
The Chicago Cubs famously have not won a World Series since 1908 (or a National League pennant since 1945). The team is currently in next-to-last place in Major League Baseball’s National League Central division — 16 games out of first place.
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