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Let’s not permit plutocrats to run schools

Chicago Teachers Unirally Daley Plaza. Monday September 3 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Chicago Teachers Union rally at Daley Plaza. Monday, September 3, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 31, 2013 6:33AM

On Dec. 19, the Chicago Sun-Times accused the Chicago Teachers Union of “bullying tactics” in our efforts to defend public schools. We strongly disagree.

For the last eight years, more than 100 schools have been shuttered and replaced with non-union, politically connected charter schools that have largely underwhelmed the public with their mediocre performance. Parents, students and teachers have been treated like pawns in a chess game where they had no voice or choice in the matter.

Black students have suffered the most, and there is clearly a disparate impact. Just because CPS may not intend its policies to have a discriminatory result, that does not remove their culpability when those policies produce a racially disparate impact. Nonetheless, the city continues to promote these disruptive and harmful policies.

The CTU has started to ask who makes these decisions? We have found that the makers of education policy are dominated by billionaires and millionaires with unfettered access to the mayor, while the low-income black and Latino parents, who are the majority stakeholders in our system, are ignored. That’s a problem. When Penny Pritzker or Bruce Rauner have more say about what goes on in our schools than our parents or the teachers who do the work, then we are no longer talking about democracy or philanthropy, we are describing a plutocracy.

Why should people, by virtue of their money, be able to make decisions that everyone else has to live with but has no power to influence? If we are to be judged for referring to such actors as “fat cats,” then who will be held accountable for the destabilization of school communities, the subsequent violence that has erupted as a result, the domino effect on receiving schools and the systematic divestment and privatization of our neighborhood schools? If we are to be judged, let us all be judged.

Perhaps it’s time for a democratically elected school board because, as former Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis once said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Let the people decide how the schools should be run, not a shadowy league of extraordinarily wealthy individuals and corporations. The health of our democracy and our schools depends on it.

Jackson Potter

Staff coordinator

Chicago Teachers Union

Getting stiffed on Social Security

I started working full-time in 1972 and retired in 2005. That’s 33 years of contributing to Social Security and Medicare — nine-percent FICA and Medicare deductions — and my employer paid a corresponding amount. And this doesn’t include the “contributions” withheld during 12 years of part-time work. But now there’s Beltway talk of means-testing these “entitlements.” There wasn’t any “means testing” when my money was being transferred from my pocket to Washington.

Let me offer a solution: Send me back my half-million dollars, stop taking the FICA and Medicare out of my meager part-time paycheck, and we’ll part friends. Washington won’t have to worry about sending me another penny.

John Schmitz, Bloomingdale

Shower the rich with more riches

We average middle class and poor Americans should be ashamed of ourselves. We have a lot of nerve resenting the ultra-rich, given that we should appreciate we own anything at all. We should resolve in the new year to admire their infinite greed and empathize with their frustration with our indignation toward them.

Greg Stone, Elgin

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