CHICAGO, September 5, 2012— The above photograph is Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. It is the face of power. It is the face of money. It is the face of the corruption that permeates Chicago and Illinois. It is the face that will launch the first Chicago teachers’ strike in twenty-five years.
It is the face of a mean disreputable bully.
Kids don’t vote. Kids don’t give politicians campaign bribes- oops contributions. Kids don’t pay union dues, which go to bribe politicians. Kids don’t count. That is the philosophy of the Chicago Teachers Union and all teacher unions. They do not care about children. They do not care about education. They only care about power. In Chicago it is called clout. You either have it or you don’t.
Parents, students, and taxpayers do not have clout. Public employee unions do. That’s the Chicago Way.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to go on strike September 10th. Last year Governor Pat Quinn and the Demopublican Combine in the state legislature had the opportunity to make teacher strikes illegal. They stripped a no strike clause out of the legislation affecting public employee unions. They refused to act in the interests of the people and children.
The CTU and their affiliate unions delivered campaign checks to defeat the measure. That is also the Chicago and Illinois Combine way. Take the money, the people be damned.
In Chicago and Illinois campaign contributions are legal bribery. Money talks. This is the corruption that permeates politics in Illinois and Chicago.
Kids and parents do not have the money to bribe politicians. Taxpayers, who pay dearly for Chicago’s dismal school system, do not have money to bribe politicians. The Chicago Teachers Union has money. They know how to spread it around. And do they ever.
Now there is the possibility that tens of thousands of children will be on the streets of Chicago due the cowardice, greed, and corruption of Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois legislature.
Taking money from public employee unions is an egregious conflict of interest. Government is management. Management should not be taking money or political support from labor. It is that simple. It is bribery.
Since the late 1950s Chicago mayors have tried to reform Chicago Public schools. Nothing much has changed. The drop out rate is the same. Children are not getting educated in the basics- reading, writing, arithmetic- forget math. Too many students who graduate from high school are woefully unprepared for college. This is especially true in minority communities.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is the latest mayor to face this disgraceful dilemma. His predecessors implemented short term fixes for short term political gains. It was window dressing. Mayor Emanuel is not them. Love him or hate him, one thing is certain. Rahm Emanuel wants permanent educational reform for the long term.
Rahm Emanuel is known for his tough hardnosed style. It remains to be seen how tough he is in the face of some Alderman who gladly accept those campaign checks from the CTU. Some aldermen are oepnly supporting the union, Karen Lewis, and the strike. It is a disgrace.
Rahm should stand tough against the union and the aldermen. Chicago cannot afford failing schools any longer. This strike is not about pay, benefits, or working conditions. It is not about the teachers. It is about the power and control the union will wield over the public school system. It is about who is going to control the schools, the Board of Education or the union.
Rahm Emanuel is the ultimate power player. Emanuel believes in bringing effectiveness to policy. This will be Emanuel’s first real test of his mettle and style of governance. He cannot afford to cave in. The people of Chicago cannot afford for him to cave.
The Chicago Teachers Union has been the constant barrier, roadblock, and obstruction to effective lasting school reform. They use their money to buy political clout. If the teachers strike Emanuel should go on the offensive hard. He should be joined by the people of Chicago to shame them.
It is long past time for the Chicago Teachers Union to recognize they are an anachronism. If there was ever a time for Rahm Emanuel to employ his iron fist that time is now. He owes Karen Lewis nothing.
It is long past time the people of Chicago stood up to the Chicago Teachers Union. They are paying higher taxes, especially property taxes, for failing schools. It is time for the schools to be run in a business like manner with full measurable accountability from all its employees. People are owed that.
The people of Chicago should not just say no to a teacher strike. They should say “hell no!” They should say it loudly, forcefully, and in great numbers. People should be sending emails and making phone calls to the union to stop this strike. Not just parents but all taxpayers should get involved. They should also send missives encouraging the mayor to fight this union tooth and nail.
The people are the public public employees are supposed to serve. The Chicago Teachers Union has it backward. They do not believe they serve the public. They believe the public serves them. It is time to set them straight.
If the teachers strike there should be counter protests wherever their picket lines are. Parents, concerned taxpayers, and busloads of children should protest and oppose the teachers.
The Chicago Teachers Union finally should be forced to face their real bosses, the people who pay them. The people they serve. That would be a hard lesson learned.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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