Editors Note: The Minority Report is pleased to have David From (state director for the Americans for Prosperity-Illinois chapter) lend us his opinion on the Chicago teachers strike and explaining why the Illinois local CTU is doing what’s best for union, not students. -Steve Foley
I certainly didn’t think as the state director of Americans for Prosperity in Illinois, I’d be expressing my solidarity with the Obama-chief-of-staff-Democrat-congressional-leader-Clinton-attack-dog mayor of Chicago any time soon. But, apparently battling the insatiable appetite for tax dollars of government unions and their disdain for accountability makes for strange bedfellows.
The strike by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), led by its caustic leader, Karen Lewis, pits two of Chicago’s top bullies in a struggle for who will chart the future of the nation’s third largest school district. However, it is also a glimpse of the larger problem facing governments run by politicians who for decades have doled out overly generous pay and benefits to their government union benefactors with little regard for performance- there is no longer enough money to satisfy the government union beast. At a time when private sector companies have largely ended defined benefit pensions and automatic salary increases, many state and local governments still provide these generous terms while the very taxpayers paying the salaries and benefits (and ultimately the union dues) are earning less and working longer. This arrangement is unsustainable.
What we are witnessing in the Chicago teachers strike is just one of the larger and higher profile protests by government unions who are not happy that their one-time allies are not readily giving in. Rahm knows that the Chicago Public Schools is in deficit and had to drain its reserve funds just to fill its 2012-13 budget and that he governs some of the highest-taxed residents in America and they cannot pay more. Rahm is smart and recognizes Chicago cannot be the world-class city he envisions without a qualified workforce, but graduating 40% of incoming freshman won’t accomplish that goal. While there is dispute over the salary increase for teachers, Rahm has chosen to make a stand mainly on reforms to teacher evaluations and providing principals the discretion to make hiring decisions. These reforms are where the real friction arises because they would directly diminish the power and size of the union.
In Wisconsin, New Jersey and other places around the nation, we’ve seen strong free market-oriented leaders take steps to curb the power of government unions to the benefit of the taxpayers. The twist in Chicago is we have an executive in Rahm who does not share many of the free market values of leaders like Scott Walker and Chris Christie, yet he is forced to confront government union excesses and demand accountability, or his city will spiral downward. I think we will continue to see this type of scenario play out in traditionally liberal areas throughout America, because in the end taxpayers cannot afford increasingly expensive demands from unaccountable government unions and our leaders may be forced to recognize that reality, albeit reluctantly.
(David From is the state director for the Americans for Prosperity-Illinois chapter.)