Can’t We All Just Get Along? CTU Should Focus On Springfield First

When I saw this story about the latest Chicago Teachers Union protest coming to downtown Chicago, I heard a voice of wisdom from my childhood…

martin lawrence

Seriously folks. The craziness has to stop. The Chicago Teachers Union should simply not be clouding the message and giving cover to Governor Rauner while we still need a budget and a long-term fix to the education funding scheme.

I get it. We want an elected school board and we have a body unilaterally appointed by a narrowly elected, not-so-loved mayor. And I know CTU leaders are supposed to hate the mayor. And the mayor is supposed to hate the CTU leaders. I know that some people think that charter public schools are the scourge of our public system. And believe me we have all heard the union’s message about fighting the rich corporatist to who want to take over our public schools and turn them into money making machines.

But…um…reality check: none of that stuff matters if we don’t get a long-term funding solution out of Springfield.

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY should be running around at a moment like this insinuating that there is local solution for the problems facing Chicago Public Schools. I think that anyone…including folks from CPS or the mayors office or the school reform community would concede the point that there are things that could be tightened up at the district and innovations that should be considered. But there is NOTHING we can do in Chicago to truly right the ship. Springfield has to do that.

Rather than taking the punch-everybody-in-the-room approach to advocacy, I am pleading with the CTU and all teachers of goodwill, to focus on the matter at hand. And just be clear: the matter at hand is Governor Bruce Rauner.

The governor recently laid out a slightly revised version of his “Turnaround Agenda”. You know, the things he says he requires in order to move forward on other issues. That agenda still includes significantly curbing collective bargaining rights (that should make the CTU upset), a property tax freeze (hard to do) and a changes to the pension system (the likes of which have essentially be ruled unconstitutional). I guess we should be glad that he’s narrowed it down to three nearly impossible items.

The only way to overcome the logjam in Springfield is a laser-like focus on an overwhelming tide of public outcry against Rauner’s intransigence. But, the CTU still insists on serving up distractions. If we dig into the TIF funds, sue the banks that screwed us over, and throw up all of the other local recommendation (each of which deserves good share of scrutiny), what do we really accomplish in the near-term or the long-term. And what unintended consequences might we see in the city? The ship is going down. We have to save the ship; then we can go back to fighting over who gets to be captain and how we organize the deck chairs. It is as simple as that.

I promise that as soon as we get an acceptable resolution out of the statehouse, we can go back to duking out our in-district issues. But, if everyone doesn’t come together on this, we might not have a district to speak of.

Can’t we all just get along? We have to…at least for now.

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Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate. Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago. Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.