by Stephen Lendman
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years waging war on progressive politics. He's a corporate predator turned politician.
As White House strategist and senior advisor, he represented the worst of the Clinton years. His abrasive style earned him the nickname "Rahmbo."
From 1999 - 2002, he earned a reported $18 million as managing director for Chicago investment bank firm Kleinwort, Wasserstein.
From January 2003 - January 2009, he represented Illinois' 5th congressional district. From January 2005 - January 2007, he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
From January 2009 - October 2010, he was Obama's White House Chief of Staff. He left to run for mayor of Chicago. On May 16, 2011, he won easily. Doing so fulfilled his longtime ambition.
He's known for saying "winning is everything," and "You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is that's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." He didn't mean popular ones.
Emanuel is notoriously pro-war, pro-Israel, neoliberal, and anti-populist/now button-down rogue Chicago mayor. He believes anything government does business does better so let it.
He's handing over as many city functions to corporate profiteers as possible. He launched what he calls "a public private partnership." The sky's the limit. He bought off unions with promises to invest pension funds in profitable enterprises.
Instead of investing in Chicago's future, he's giving it away to corporate friends and cronies. His schemes are still unfolding. They involve city airports, water system, community colleges, public transportation, parks, public health, schools, and various infrastructure projects.
On July 6, 2012, the Wall Street Journal headlined "Look Who's Embracing Privatization - Big City Democrats," saying:
Emanuel embraced a multi-billion dollar "rebuild Chicago" scheme. He's involving private firms and banks. He's letting profiteers cash in on city functions.
He began straightaway after taking office. He forced city workers to do work longer for less. He laid off thousands of others and wants new hires paid less.
He proudly claims his "duty as mayor is to protect our city's taxpayers and be their voice - not to protect the city's payroll."
He's handing over city resources and functions to corporate predators so they can profiteer at the expense public workers and most Chicagoans. He's forcing on Chicago what Obama and Congress are doing to America.
Privatizing schools is prioritized. It's happening in Chicago and across America. Public education is on the chopping block for elimination. Richard M. Daley began it during his mayoral tenure.
He called it Chicago's Renaissance 2010 Turnaround strategy. He planned 100 or more new "high-performing" elementary and high schools in the city by that date. Under five year contracts, they're "held accountable….to create innovative learning environments under one of three "governance structures:"
(1) charter schools
(2) privatized contract schools run by so-called "independent nonprofit organizations"
(3) "performance schools with freedom and flexibility on many district initiatives and policies."
Under the 1996 Illinois Charter Schools Law, quasi private/public charter schools are called "public schools of choice, selected by students and parents….to take responsible risks and create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system."
Orwell couldn't have said it better. Stealth privatizations plan eliminating public schools entirely.
In 1997, the Illinois General Assembly approved 60 state charter schools. Chicago was authorized 30. Suburban areas for 15, and downstate locations another 15. Mayor Daley bent the rules. He operated 53 charter "campuses" and planned many more.
Currently, 119 charter schools serve 52,000 students. They remain open during Chicago's teacher strike. They're not affiliated with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).
Only 10 city charter schools are unionized. Each operates independently. Doing so neuters their effectiveness. Union representation effectively is toothless. Principals have almost total power. They have hiring and firing authority.
On September 10, Chicago teachers walked out. At issue is saving public education and providing futures for city kids. Emanuel has other ideas in mind.
On September 11, the Chicago Tribune headlined "Mayor's plan to close schools fuels union fears during teachers strike," saying:
Plans call for closing 80 to 120 public schools on Chicago's South and West sides. Low income areas are affected. Bronzeville, North Lawndale, Garfield Park, and Englewood will be hard hit. Poor kids will entirely lose out. Families will be cheated. Thousands of teachers will lose jobs.
Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton called the report "completely untrue." Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the same thing.
They lied! They want dirty scheme details suppressed. At issue is replacing public schools with charter or private ones. Doing so, of course, sacrifices effective education in the process.
Unnamed sources told the Tribune about "plans to launch a targeted outreach program to broach the topic with community groups as soon as" teachers go back to work.
Emanuel's continuing Daley's scheme and then some. It involves letting "private operators of charter schools" educate Chicago kids. He calls it a "key component in fixing elementary and secondary education."
CPS officials acknowledged a plan to dramatically transform city schools. Privatizing them is prioritized. Former CPS CEO Terry Mazany said:
"The union is going to have to face the brutal truth that with declining enrollment and continuing growth of charter schools, there will be continuing pressure to reduce the teacher workforce" and close schools.
The Tribune said "a (CPS) proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation….laid out a plan to create 60 more charter schools over five years." If accomplished, they'll number over 170. At the same time, public schools will be down to 480 with more closures and privatizations planned.
CTU president Karen Lewis complained about Emanuel planning to "privatize public education and further disrupt our neighborhoods."
He did nothing to allay public fear. He's allied with business cronies. They're eager to cash in on privatized schools. They contributed generously to his campaign. It's payback time.
Chicago children have been marginalized throughout most of father and son Daley tenures. Emanuel plans completing what they began.
Privatizing schools assures destroying their effectiveness, ending the careers of thousands of experienced teachers, replacing higher paid ones with low paid replacements, and depriving most Chicago kids of futures.
Parents, students and teachers are own to stop it. CTU president Karen Lewis' words ring hollow. She'll collaborate with Emanuel if plans are pursued in a "reasonable way."
"We understand the whole movement of closing schools and doing it aggressively," she said.
"We either do this together in some reasonable way or we will always be fighting, and I think the key is that the people that are making these decisions want to make them unilaterally."
"Instead of sitting in air conditioned buildings with your spreadsheets, come talk to us and look and see what's really going on."
Lewis has her own interests in mind. Saving teacher jobs is key. Fewer teachers means fewer union members, less revenue, and less power and income for her and other CTU officials.
Laid off or fired teachers want jobs back with fair pay and benefits. They want contractual language assuring it. Emanuel's hardline. He insists principals decide who's hired and fired at schools they run. Key is replacing higher-paid teachers with lower-paid new ones. He also wants tenure ended.
In July, an "interim agreement" involved lengthening the school day with no added pay. Teacher concessions yielded little. A small number laid off benefitted marginally.
Those rehired got "interim" deals. They remain vulnerable to future layoffs after one semester. Emanuel even wants this scheme ended. He's all take and no give. He wants schools privatized, profits prioritized, union influence neutered, and teachers, parents and kids hung out to dry.
On September 12, Marshal High School was the venue for a mass rally. Thousands turned out. Chants included "Hey Rahm we're no fools we won't let you ruin our schools." "Ain't no stopping us now," and "R E S P E C T."
Two other rallies were held with large turnouts. "Drums beat, bells rang and fists soared as the crowd" also chanted "Hey hey ho ho, Rahm Emanuel's got to go" and "Rahm Rahm Rahm Rahm Rahm Rahm Rahm, hey hey, goodbye."
Questions were asked and comments made, including:
"Why are the public schools paying for private schools?"
"When our students go to Charter Schools and, they don't come up to par, the first thing they do is put them out and send them back to public schools but they don't send the money with them. They keep the money."
"When they come back to public schools and they don't come up to par, we're going to teach them no matter what."
"And when they don't come up to par they put the teachers out. Does that make sense? NO!"
A march followed throughout the neighborhood. Parents and children waved and cheered from doorways and windows. Some joined them. Cars honked horns. Even some police showed support. Endless signs and banners were displayed. Slogans were chanted.
Strike day three showed solidarity. This struggle has miles to go. At stake are thousands of jobs, futures for kids, bedrock public education, and the soul of Chicago and perhaps America. It that's not worth fighting for, what is?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.