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Karen Lewis: Time for investment, not austerity

Karen Lewis | Sun-Times Medifiles

Karen Lewis | Sun-Times Media files

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Updated: July 22, 2013 6:10PM

Last Friday, the Sun-Times rejected a number of revenue proposals for the Chicago Public Schools that the Chicago Teachers Union views as viable and necessary [“How CPS got into its financial mess,” June 13].

The portion CPS gets back from TIFs has been designated for capital construction, not to support the instruction of students. The distribution of these funds has been grossly inequitable, providing a quarter of TIF funds to selective enrollment schools or 1 percent of CPS. Less than half of TIF funds went to neighborhood schools.

TIFs also provide subsidies to the wealthiest corporations and developers. Of the $2.45 billion in TIF dollars spent from 2004-2008, the Loop, Near North Side, Near South Side and Near West Side communities received $1.56 billion, or 63 percent. Recently the mayor announced that nearly $90 million in TIF funds would be appropriated to help DePaul build a new stadium, an amount that would have prevented all the schools from closing and averted the most harmful cuts being imposed.

We are on the cusp of massive reductions in library, art, music and special education programming. Since 2008, the district has lost nearly $180 million from toxic swaps that could have been invested in our classrooms. At the city level, a combined city-income and commuter progressive-tax between just 0.5 and 1.5 percent can generate close to $1 billion for the city, with half going to CPS. Imagine if CPS had $600 million more in revenue in addition to nearly $300 million a year from TIFs and swaps? CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has asked the CTU to offer revenue solutions. When will CEO Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Emanuel join the CTU and lobby for these reforms?

Karen Lewis, president, Chicago Teachers Union

Cyclists should have sticker

Regarding bad pavement for cyclists: Cyclists over 18 and who use bike lanes should have a license plate, city sticker, and insurance. These user fees will help to pay for better roads. Also we can have tollbooths set up that can be removed after the better bike lanes are built. We all need to pay our fair share. As for safety, mandatory 400 square inches of blaze orange in the form of a vest and hat.

Mike Rendak, Jefferson Park

Hillary has it all wrong

In her speech at the Clinton Global Initiative on June 13, Hillary Clinton stated, “It won’t surprise you that I want to work to create more opportunities for women and girls.” I won’t disagree with Clinton when she says that we need to empower women and encourage them to participate in our economy and society. But I will disagree with her methods. Clinton is pushing for the United States to finally ratify the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all discrimination against women, which would legally commit the United States to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms.

The treaty requires legislative measures that “prohibit discrimination.” The U.N. supports forcing quotas, forcing equal pay, controlling employers’ hiring and firing power, and more. This is not equality, but a gross infringement upon the rights of individuals. Women need empowerment, but unlike Clinton, I believe that voluntary leadership and social action on the part of individuals is the best way to achieve this path — not through force and regulation.

Mary Parrilli, Batavia

No incentive to teach

I wonder if any of the lawmakers in Springfield are considering what impact their solution to Illinois’ current pension crisis will have on the quality of public education in Illinois. Who will want to teach in Illinois when it becomes clear that the state’s pension and health care benefits will no longer take care of them when they retire? Why would any bright, talented young person want to become a teacher, especially in Illinois?

David R. Wood, Edgewater

Secure the border first

As the immigration bill approaches a vote, consider the Senate has just rejected Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) amendment to secure the border before any amnesty can be considered, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) wants to hand out welfare and health care benefits to the illegals. Well, there was a time when America was a wealthier nation and could absorb poor people who sneaked across the border seeking a better life. Today we are a debtor nation. So by granting illegals a path toward citizenship will only encourage 10 million more illegals to come here. This is why securing the borders first is so important today.

Tom Ploski, Mount Prospect

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