Economic Fairness and April First

A recent Tribune editorial characterizes the Chicago Teachers Union call for an April first job action as a “Tantrum Day,” and it dismisses this call by suggesting that most Chicago workers cannot whimsically decide to stay home because they’re “upset about conditions.”

CPS teachers in fact have been asked to join other educators, social service providers, nursing home employees, and other workers in a coalition that foregrounds the costs of the current budget impasse in Illinois and calls for fairer funding for these public services and public goods. As such, this action is part of a larger debate about the future of both the State of Illinois and, some suggest, the public sector more generally. 

This larger debate can be seen in educational conditions within Illinois and across the country. Although Illinois politicians have funded K-12 schools for this fiscal year, they have withheld state appropriations for Illinois public universities, which, after months without state support, have terminated some employees and imposed furloughs upon others. In a similar way, some in other states have argued, as Steve Mims suggests in his new documentary Starving the Beast, that schools should be operated more like businesses because education is a commodity.

This debate about education and other aspects of the public sector is central to the April first call to action. Illinois Governor Rauner and others have often suggested that Illinois cannot afford its public sector, but the bipartisan Illinois Economic Policy Institute has suggested that Illinois would collect $7.3 billion dollars more if, for instance, it adopted the tax system of Iowa, or $8.3 billion more if, to cite a second, it adopted that of Wisconsin.

In response to this call, CPS teachers have had mixed reactions, and the CTU House of Delegates will vote on whether to support it today. Regardless, the Tribune does a disservice when it misrepresents situations and issues, which it does in this instance by separating this call to action from the larger coalition that has planned events for this day.

In doing so, the Tribune seems to endorse the model of citizenless democracy decried by Robert McChesney and John Nichols (2016) in their new book People Get Ready. Although McChesney and Nichols start with the technological changes throughout society, they call for a greater democratization of our society, in which education, they suggest, is central (251).

 

McChesney, Robert W., and John Nichols. 2016. People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy. New York: Nation Books.

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