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chicago teachers union

What Paradigm Shift?

Do we need a Lifetime special or a HBO documentary to get anyone to pay attention to the CPS sexual abuse scandal? Why are the mayoral candidates and Chicago press corps shrugging their shoulders at an outside law firm being hired to investigate over 1,000 cases of abuse against children? Dan and Amy discuss the cowardly cover given to Chicago Public schools from the city’s elite.

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Where Is The Accountability In CPS' Sex Abuse Scandal?

Since 2008, police have investigated more than 500 reports that children have been sexually assaulted or abused inside Chicago Public Schools. Where is the outrage? Where are the calls for school and city leaders to be held accountable? On this edition of Illinois Rising, Dan Proft and Brian Timpone hear from state Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford and member of the House education committee, about what was and wasn't accomplished during hearings on the CPS sex abuse scandal. Proft and Timpone also discuss the increasing costs to taxpayers for former President Barack Obama's presidential center in Chicago. And they broke down how more and more Illinois counties are seeing underwater mortgages become a norm.

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Chicago Public Schools: The Predators’ Playground

Everything big city Democrat mayors like Rahm Emanuel do is for the kids, they tell us with ersatz earnestness.

Rahm—Tiny Dancer, I call him--is quick to take up cause célèbres like the Parkland high school gun control brigade in the name of school safety.

What Rahm and his leftist colleagues won’t do is change school systems run by the adults for the adults—even when some of those adults are child predators.

In a blockbuster expose, the Chicago Tribune documented a long-running sex abuse scandal inside the Chicago Public Schools that should end Tiny Dancer’s career, that should be international news on par with coverage given the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, and that should serve as a warning to public school parents across the country.

According to the Tribune, since Tiny Dancer was elected in 2011, 430 reports of sexual abuse, assault or harassment have been investigated with credible evidence of misconduct found in 230 of those incidents.

The Tribune also found that school administrators may have acted criminally in failing to report incidents of abuse to the state’s child welfare agency.

Worse yet, the story identified repeated failures to screen out Chicago Public Schools employees with prior arrests related to alleged sexual offenses involving children.

A lot of attention is devoted to holding pols and their appointees accountable for threats to kids in school that come from the outside.

What about the threats they welcome inside and cover for?

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Chicago GOP Files IG complaint Against CPS For School Walkouts

Students across the nation are staging “walkouts” for gun violence in light of the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL. If teachers are herding their students out into the streets and encouraging them to make posters about gun control isn’t that violating the law? Chicago GOP Chairman, Chris Cleveland joins Dan and Amy to discuss the IG complaint he filed against CPS for breaking the law and holding political rallies during public time on public property.

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Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. So, the guy that Eddie Redmayne played passed away, and Stephen Hawking died at the age of 76, came over the transom late yesterday evening. Jacobson: He was diagnosed with ALS at...in 1963...so he has lived with this disease for decades. Proft: Yeah, obviously a famed theoretical cosmologist... Jacobson: ...renowned scientist, all that. Proft: Right...although he was wrong about Higgs-Boson, wasn't he? And he had to admit that Peter Higgs was right. We'll debate... Jacobson: I remember that...we're gonna debate that in the last hour of the show this morning. Proft: 8 o'clock hour, we're gonna debate that, we're gonna re-enact the argument between Stephen Hawking and Peter Higgs about the Higgs-Boson, the particle that gives...the God Particle, as of course you know... Jacobson: Of course! Proft: ...you know, the matter that gives protons...you know, protons and electrons mass. So that's gonna be a fun 8 o'clock hour. Stephen Hawking also known as a great comedic actor, in such series as Family Guy. Hawking(?)(from tape): Tell your wife to come over to my place if she wants a little boom-shaka-laka-laka-laka. Boom-shaka-laka-laka-laka. Boom-shaka-laka-laka-laka. Boom. Proft: Is that too soon? Jacobson: No, but this is...I mean, he did have a funny side to him, when he was Larry King once, Larry King asked him "What puzzles you the most about this world?" And he said "Women." He couldn't figure women out. He could figure everything else out but not us, our gender. Proft: Yeah, that was a good one. He was better on Family Guy when he had writers. Hawking(?)(from tape): *Hawking and a woman having sex with robotic voices* Jacobson: DAN! That IS when you say...WAY too soon, not just too soon. Proft: Eh. He would have enjoyed it. Yeah, you just mentioned his great sense of humor that he had. Jacobson: He did have a great sense of humor. And that's why he let them use his appearance and his voice on Family Guy and on The Simpsons. Proft: Right. I mean, everybody can talk about cosmology! This is... Jacobson: Einstein's theory of relativilly! Proft: Umm, I'm sorry? Who's what? Alright, switching gears. Today is March 14th, by my look at the calendar. That means a bunch of kids who were in charge of schools where adults get paid are walking out to protest gun violence, protest guns... Jacobson: They want the banning of assault rifles, assault weapons... Proft: ...whatever those are...memorialized the 17 that were murdered in Parkland. But in Chicago, that is being met with some resistance. Ahh, the resistance turns the tables, and that is the Chicago Republican Party has sued CPS over these walkouts. Why did they do that, and how are they faring? For more on that topic we're pleased to be joined by Chris Cleveland, who is the chairman of the Chicago Republican Party. Chris, thanks for being with us. Cleveland: Thanks Dan. Proft: So, why the lawsuit against...or maybe you're just seek injunctive relief, but why the action against CPS? Cleveland: Well, what we've actually done is filed a complaint with the Inspector General, and we'll see what he actually does. But the problem is that we've got teachers who are taking kids out for a political rally on public property and public...you know, public time! And it's just...this is political indoctrination. And it's totally inappropriate. Proft: Well, what...how many schools...because I know my kids' school is not doing it, but how many CPS schools are planning a walkout? Do you know? Cleveland: Well, we know the walkouts are going to be widespread. The one that triggered it, it was...my own school. I have a child in a CPS school and in this one, they were planning to take grades 5 thru out, herd them outside for this demonstration they encouraged them to make posters about gun control to express their opinion about it. Now, I don't think they're telling these kids to be AGAINST gun control here, it's clear that they're pushing a political view upon them. Proft: Well, we've seen this from some of the survivors from Parkland and other school shootings who've spoken out...that there's some divided opinion among young people about guns, as there is in the general public. And so you've had some people...some people's kids...say "Well, no, I'm not opposed to guns" or "No, I don't think banning guns is the answer to what happened in Parkland". And is there any indication from your kid's experience or what you've heard that people who don't hew to the orthodoxy of the Chicago Teachers Union on the issue are being allowed to express themselves too? Cleveland: No, there's no indication of it, because this is an elementary school. These kids are 10, 11 years old, the grades you know 5 through 8....14. They're not old enough to have formed an informed political opinion on this sort of thing. And they're gonna do what their teachers tell them to do in this case, or what their peers are saying they should do. And what they're going to do is herd all these kids out and the few kids who choose not to participate...they do have some provision for this...they're gonna be put in their own room, where they just have to sit by themselves, in this room. Proft: A veritable overhead BIN, Amy. Jacobson: Will you STOP IT? But then they could face bullying from other students who want them to take part in this protest, which they believe is like their civic duty to do so. You had mentioned that they encouraged the kids to make posters, did the teachers tell them what exactly should be on the posters, or encourage them with some "helpful suggestions"? Cleveland: Well, all we know for sure is what the principal said in his email, and he said they are "encouraged to bring posters to express their opinion." Now, you can guess what that means exactly. Proft: Yeah, and so you...the complaint has been filed with the Inspector General, the CITY Inspector General? Cleveland: Right. The CPS Inspector General. Proft: Oh right the CPS Inspector General. Well, CPS, the city, CPS...I keep forgetting that we pretend CPS and the city are two different things. Yes, so and...so, but this is something obviously you filed this yesterday, the walkout's today, obviously they're not going to adjudicate it. So, this is going to happen, right? Unless you pull your specific child, you pull your kid out of school or something like that. Cleveland: Well, we've appealed to the good sense of CPS (Proft: *laughs loudly*), and if they're wise enough to recognize that this is an EXPLICIT violation of CPS policy, written CPS policy. It's a violation of state law, AND it's a violation of the First Amendment, you THINK that they would call the principals or put out a note and say "Hey, cmon, you can't do this." Are they gonna have the good sense to do this? I dunno. But somehow I doubt it. Jacobson: Wow. So, personally, what have you decided to do with your daughter or son? Are they going to stay in a specific classroom while people walk? Are they just going to go outside and get some fresh air? Cleveland: Well, he's a third-grader. So, he's not going to be among those who are herded outside for this thing. So we've dodged that bullet this time, who knows what will happen in a couple of years when we have to deal with it? Proft: Well, that's the...that's the remarkable thing, isn't it? I mean, you mentioned it, but it bears repeating and emphasizing...first second third grades, fourth fifth graders, and they're supposed to take hard positions on public policy issues like guns and get out there with placards and...obviously this is just following the lead of the adults...to the extent that you call THAT leadership. And it's exploitive, really, isn't it? Cleveland: Well, yeah, of course! It's coercive, at that age, it's coercive. It's political indoctrination. And not only does it not make any sense, as it's obviously wrong, it's a VIOLATION OF THE LAW. I mean, you can't be doing this. State law says you can't use public property for private political purposes. I mean, it's crystal clear! Jacobson: Yeah, and if you're worried about kids safety...keeping them in school as opposed to forcing them to go outside...cuz I know personally, our school is on a busy street, so I don't want that to happen. Proft: Or if you're just worried about, as Chris mentioned, you know, the rule of law in a free society, if you're worried about the state law meaning anything... Jacobson: Well, the head of Chicago Public Schools came out and assured parents that students would not be punished for participating. So even though...if a school is doing that and a student wants to just walk out and leave, they're not going to be punished. Proft: What about the...but the question is, should the people breaking the law be punished? I guess it's the operative question, right? Cleveland: Yeah, yeah, obviously. And as I said, CPS has an explicit rule, which explicitly prohibits political demonstrations or rallies on public property, the teachers who lead this sort of thing ought to be subject to SOME kind of penalties, or else the rule is meaningless. Proft: Alright, he is Chris Cleveland...appealing to the good sense of CPS. Jacobson: Good luck with THAT! (Cleveland laughs) We're pullin' for ya! Proft: He is chairman of the Chicago Republican Party. Chris, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Cleveland: Thank you, Dan and Amy.

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Successful After School Chess Program In Englewood

Although he’s no longer a member of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, Joseph Ocol has made tremendous strides for his students through his chess program. Not only are student test scores up at Earle STEM Academy in the southside Englewood neighborhood, but the school also has a near perfect attendance record. Ocol says, “My main goal is to make them better persons so that they can contribute to the world.” Joseph Ocol joins Dan and Amy to discuss the successes of his students and what resources they still need.

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Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. So a couple years we took notice of the story of a teacher and chess coach, Joseph Ocol who teaches at the Earle STEM Academy in Englewood on Chicago’s South Side. And he started a chess program there, and for starting a chess program there he drew the ire of his fellow faculty members… Jacobson: Well, because they had a one-day...like a furlough day? And he didn’t take it, because he wanted to be with his kids. And he was expelled from the Union. Yeah, I don’t know if he’s back in, or out, or what’s going on. Proft: Targeted for elimination by Karen Lewis, and her friends there… Jacobson: Yeah, for not joining the one-day strike. Proft: The red-shirts, as they are. But Ocol has kept on, and continued coaching that chess team, and great effect. Back this Spring, the US Chess Federation Supernaturals...Super Nationals, excuse me, tournament in Nashville, largest chess tournament in history, hundreds of schools, 6000 students competing from around the country. Earle STEM Academy won THREE Super Nationals trophies, one team and two individual. One of his champions is as young as, I think, third grade. So it’s really an amazing story, an underreported story, I guess but he’s not locked up and walking with the Teachers’ Union, he’s focused on, I don’t know, teaching chess and imparting wisdom and intellectual curiosity and strategic thinking into kids, which I thought as a teacher is what you’re supposed to do, but anyway. But for more on where the chess team stands and where things are standing generally speaking at Earle STEM, we’re pleased to be joined once again by Joseph Ocol, Joseph thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Ocol: Hi, good morning Dan. Good morning, Amy. Good morning, Chicago. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to be on your station. Proft: So...oh, no. It’s a pleasure to circle back with you. So, I mentioned how well your team did at the tournament back in May. Tell us how things are going otherwise with the chess team, the program there at Earle STEM, and the kids. Ocol: We’re continuing with the program, in fact I have more kids this year and a lot of younger kids. I have Pre-K kids who have joined the chess team, I have kindergarten kids, I have a lot of younger kids this year. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to compete in the incoming national tournament, which would be next month, and I’m proud to say that our school has also become a Level-One school with almost perfect attendance, the number of our kids. Jacobson: Oh...almost makes me want to cry… Ocol: And last Saturday, our kids won three first-place trophies in the Chicago Latino Chess Championship at the Chicago Public Library, Lozano Branch. We just want to compete, I just want the kids to keep on competing, give them the chance to compete, we’re not seeking 4PP, though we would appreciate the opportunity, and for them to be able to shine, because give them the opportunity to shine, they will shine. Jacobson: Well, I know CPS is strapped for cash… Proft: *sarcastically* Oh, yeah! Jacobson: ...and it’s hard to have extracurricular activities… Proft: *still sarcastically* ...strapped for cash… Jacobson: ...so, how are you surviving? Do you have fundraisers, or is there a place that we can go to help you? Ocol: Yeah, we’re doing fundraising, and we welcome any opportunity for help. We’re not complaining, I’m not complaining, just want to do what I can do as a teacher. And with regard to the Union, I’m no longer a member of the Union, I was kicked out of the Union, but I have no regrets as long as I’ve done my part for the kids. Jacobson: So even years later, they wouldn’t let you back in the Union? Proft: Why would he even want to go back? Ocol: Well, I’m...I’m still not a member… Proft: *sarcastically* Yeah, and I’m sure you just miss them terribly. Ocol: Oh no I do...I do not. Proft: *laughing* Oh no, I know! I know you don’t! I got that. Jacobson: The thing is, do they still take your union dues? Ocol: Yes, they still take my union dues. Proft: Yeah, sure…*sarcastically* “their fair share”. For not… Jacobson: Only in Illinois… Proft: Well no… Jacobson: Hopefully not for much longer? Proft: Yeah, the Janis case next year may change that. But Joseph, how is the school in terms of supporting the kids in your program? Ocol: Oh, the school has been supportive, as well as Chicago Public Schools. I’m not complaining, I’m just doing what I can to campaign for funds to help the kids whatever way I can. Proft: And do you have any Gary Kasparov’s...any budding Gary Kasparov’s in your crew? Are we gonna see somebody, are we going to see some international chess master taking on...I don’t know, Big Blue or something? Ocol: I have a number of potentials, including Tamiya...Tamiya Folks. She’s our top player, but this is her last year. She’s being...she’s applying at Whitney Young, hoping she’ll be accepted, she’ll have to take the test anyway next month. But we’re trying to train some more kids. But my program also entails for graduates, those who are in high school, to come back and mentor other kids. And that’s what we’re trying to do, and I have six former Earle students, already in high school, they come every now and then to mentor other kids. Jacobson: How wonderful… Proft: How do you see other kids change through their participation in your chess program? Ocol: Big change. You know, first of all, 90% of our kids are below poverty level. So this Englewood, you know we’re trying to improve their concept and lives, and we try to get them to be in the school, after school, to see some other opportunities. So my goal and my mission is to make sure that they become productive citizens of the world, and that’s my main goal. It’s not about winning, it’s just to change them, to become better persons, to be able to contribute to the world… Jacobson: And it’s sad to say...it’s sad to say that they’re safer inside than being on the streets...correct? Ocol: Yes, yes. 4 to 6pm, that’s the time when we have the chess program, Monday...Monday to Friday. And Saturdays we compete, we try to compete, certain tournaments that don’t charge registration fees. Proft: Has this...has the success of your program there at Earle STEM spawned other schools to start chess programs? Ocol: I believe so. We have more schools now having chess programs, and we have more competitors now, welcome competitors. Because the kids would like to compete, and we like the opportunity to be able to compete. And not just at Englewood, not just in Chicago, not just in Illinois, but nationwide. Jacobson: And you said attendance is up? I mean, have more people enrolled and they’re staying in school and they want to be there because of the chess program? Ocol: I believe so because we just became...we’ve just become a Level One School. Our school has just become Level One. And one of the factors there is the attendance...the just about perfect attendance of our kids, as well as the high scores in their NWA. You know, chess gives one the chance to develop the critical thinking skills...that’s the least expensive of all activities, and yet it’s one of the most effective in the developing of critical thinking skills in kids. Proft: Well, don’t be afraid to tell your kids to sweep the leg, if they need to, in a tough match. He is Joseph Ocol, teacher, chess coach at Earle STEM Academy in Englewood, Joseph thanks...congratulations first of all for the success of your kids and that program there, it’s great to see what you’re doing for those kids and what they’re accomplishing under your tutelage, and continued success there. And we’ll continue to keep track of you and spread the word, so people can continue to support the program. Ocol: Thank you, Dan. I just want to take this opportunity also if there are computers...even if they are used computers, it would be a big help to us. Because we have a program now where the kids are able to compete online, it will save us also on travel cost… Proft: Computers...okay… Ocol: So we just want to request if there are donors for computers, it would be a big help to our...to our program. Proft: And if someone wants to make a donation for the acquisition of those computers or donate those computers...Earle STEM Academy, Joseph Ocol, O-C-O-L, is the chess coach...is there any other information you want to provide? Ocol: Umm, no. Just the players...will be competing next month, we hope to be competing next month in the national tournament...next month...and also this coming February there’s a state tournament. So we’re hoping to get some funding for the kids to compete. You know, just to give them the chance...for the opportunity to compete. And I know they will shine, just the opportunity to shine, and they will shine. Proft: Yeah. Jacobson: Well, bless you. Proft: I could, I mean look Joseph, I just recently acquired a 5th and 6th grade girls volleyball team, over at Blaine, so I’m in the market to do more acquisitions in other realms, and CPS, and maybe this will be one. So Joseph Ocol, thanks so much for joining us, continued success, congratulations on the success you’ve already achieved, as well as your kids. Appreciate it. Ocol: Thank you Dan. Thank you Amy. Thank you Chicago.

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Everything You Need To Know About The Chicago Public Schools Is Contained In The Story Of Joseph Ocol

“I joined CPS not to be a union member, but to purposefully help the kids.” 

Joseph Ocol teaches math and started chess clubs he coaches at Earle STEM Elementary School in Englewood, one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. For choosing to be with his students over participating in the Chicago Teachers' Union's one-day strike on April 1, Ocol was expelled from the union and now faces possible termination. Ocol joined Dan & Amy with an update on his status.

View full transcript


Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. Well, we were one of the first to bring you this story and develop it. This is the story of CPS, Chicago Public School math teacher and chess team coach, Joseph Ocol, who works at Earle STEM Academy in the Inglewood neighborhood. Rough neighborhood, high crime area, children from low income homes, and he’s done the unthinkable. Amy Jacobson: What’s that? Dan Proft: He’s started a chess team at the school – this is recently, within the last year, or two years, very recent – and because he prioritized his students over the Chicago Teachers’ Union he was expelled from the Teachers’ Union. He skipped the Union’s one day show protest. Amy Jacobson: Oh, the day of action. Yeah, that was April 1st. Dan Proft: The show strike on April 1st, and he did so because he was coaching his chess team. Coaching his chess team, so he didn’t want to do the walk around the Thompson Center with a sign about socialism, or whatever, and strike from his job. He just wanted to do his job. Well, he received a correspondence, via certified mail, from Chicago Teachers’ Union chief executive officer Karen Lewis, and that expelled him from the union. Now he wonders if he will continue to be employed by Earle STEM Academy and the Chicago Public School system. Amy Jacobson: We should remind people that you and other of our listeners raised thousands of dollars to send this group, this chess team, to Washington DC. Dan Proft: Yeah, they had an opportunity to go to DC, they were invited by Congressman Danny Davis, and so they needed to raise money to get there, and so thanks to generous AM560 listeners, we raised a bunch of money, sent it over to Earle STEM Academy. And I know they did – I’ve spoken to Joseph Ocol – I know they did go on that trip to DC, and we’ll talk to him about it right now, because we’re joined by math teacher and chess coach at Earle STEM Academy, Joseph Ocol. Joseph, thanks for joining us again. Appreciate it! Joseph Ocol: Hi, good morning, Dan and good morning to the listeners to your radio station. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for bringing me to your show this morning and giving me the opportunity to share with you the news. Dan Proft: Yeah, well, we’re pleased to have you on again, and so, why don’t we start with your current situation, before we get to the chess team. So you’re kicked out of the Chicago Teachers’ Union – hooray – and now what happens, or what are you concerned may happen, with respect to your continued employment at Earle STEM Academy? Joseph Ocol: It’s sad, but I have been expelled. I’m just concerned about the kids. I’m also concerned about my job and the future where I really would like to be with the kids and continue with the program, especially in Inglewood, where there are a lot of challenges. So I’m praying that I’ll still be able to surmount these challenges, to be able to continue my advocacy for helping the kids. Because there’s so much talent in Inglewood, there’s so much talent. These are children of poverty, but many of them are very talented kids. Dan Proft: They need opportunities and they need mentors like yourself. Have you got any indications from the principle or anybody in the administration about your employment status at the school? Joseph Ocol: Not yet, but I’m bracing for the worst scenario. But I still continue to receive bullying – I would call it bullying tactics and dirty picks from certain union bullies. I think they will never stop until they get rid of me from CPS. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, I’m sure they want you to resign, but since you’ve been expelled from the union, does your seniority, are you down to the bottom of the list, then, and you possibly might not come back next year because of budget cuts? Joseph Ocol: I hope to come back, but I leave it to God. It really breaks my heart if ever I would not be able to return. I hope to find another way where I can still continue my advocacy to help the kids. Dan Proft: I just want to go back to something. I think most people listening to this are going to find this just unfathomable. You started a chess club to teach children in elementary school the game of chess, and you’ve turned these children from chess novices to on their way to being grandmasters. They’ve been very successful during your time as their coach after starting these teams, and the response from the union and perhaps some of your colleagues at the school is what you describe as bullying tactics. Can you help us understand why they don’t appreciate what they’re doing? Joseph Ocol: I think it’s more about their loyalty to the union. I see it in another way. I would like to say that I became a teacher; I joined CPS not to be union member but purposefully to help the kids. I think that’s my role; that’s the role of a teacher, to be with the children. And last April 1st, when there was no other teacher, I decided to be with the kids, because the day before, the kids were telling me I should come on April 1st, because they will be coming. I just could not think of a better reason to say, “Yes, if you come then I will come”. So that’s when I decided to cross the picket line and be with them. Amy Jacobson: Are you concerned about your kids’ safety over the summer, because they don’t have the safe haven of school, they don’t have the afterschool chess program you provided for them? Joseph Ocol: Oh, I wish to thank you and Dan and everybody, all the donors, because we still have some money for the summer project, and we’re coming up with the summer project for the kids, and actually, I’ve been getting a number of applications, kids coming to me. They says they want to start [learning? 00:07:14] chess. I said let’s have a summer program. So we’re having a summer program run through, hoping that I’ll still be around, and we’re going to have mentors among these kids. You know, mentoring is a good way – I would call it the least expensive way - to master a skill. You teach the skill, you master the skill, and I plan to develop mentors among these children. Dan Proft: Just give us a little bit of the forward look for you. If you’re relieved of your teaching job, which is just going to be an incredible occurrence, what can you still do? Are you still this iris of continuing to at least coach chess there? Will they even allow you to do that? Will you have to continue the program off-school/off-site? What’s next to you? I know you need to be employed and work like anybody else, but you say you’re planning for the worst case scenario. So what’s that plan look like? Joseph Ocol: I would still like to be with the kids, if I’d be given that the fortune would be so. Of course, I will have to apply for a job, another job, but I would like to have a job where I can be more effective, and what’s effective if not teaching them, especially in math and in chess? Dan Proft: Your experience, what does this tell you about the Chicago Teachers’ Union and about how CPS is run? Joseph Ocol: I just feel that the Chicago’s Teachers Union should not bring the kids in the middle of whatever fight they want to pursue. I think the kids should be the ones to benefit. They should not be put in the middle. And that’s a hard decision for any teacher, whether or not it’s about loyalty to the union or dedication to the kids. To me, dedication to the kids comes first, over loyalty to the Union. Dan Proft: And with respect to today’s protest rally, whatever it is that the Chicago’s Teachers Union and their members are doing downtown, will you be participating in that? Joseph Ocol: No, actually, we’re excited to meet Mayor Emanuel and the rest of the members of the city council today. Amy Jacobson: Really? Joseph Ocol: So it’s all preparing, because we will be recognized by the city council, so everybody’s excited to be there. Dan Proft: Alright, so they’re going to be honored by the city council today, and their chess coach and math teacher. Amy Jacobson: For their accomplishments. Dan Proft: And the team, right, the kids, that’s great, and the chess coach and math teacher is facing expulsion from the system because he won’t abide the union. Amy Jacobson: You need to bring that certified letter to Mayor Emanuel. Can you please do that for us? Dan Proft: No paradox there. Alright, Joseph Ocol, continue your great work as long as you’re allowed to. I’m sure you’re going to find an outlet for it, regardless of what happens at Earle STEM Elementary school where you teach math and where you coach chess. Joseph, thanks again for joining us, appreciate your time. Joseph Ocol: Thank you very much!

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Dan Proft & Ted Dabrowski: The Cost Of Increasing College Tuition

On this edition of “Illinois Rising”, Dan Proft and Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute, discuss the Chicago Teachers' Union strike, if Chicago is on the road to Detroit, an administrator at the University of Illinois who makes $900,000 a year while tuition costs skyrocket and where we can start consolidating Illinois’ 7,000 units of local government.

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Dan Proft: Thank you for joining us on another edition of Against the Current; coming to you from the Skyline Club, on top of the Old Republic building in downtown Chicago. My name is Dan Proft, and our guest on this episode is Ted Dabrowski, who is the Vice President of Policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, the Free Market Think Tank, economic liberty orientated think tank in downtown Chicago. Ted, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Ted Dabrowski: Thanks for having me. Dan Proft: There’s a lot to talk about. You’ve got judicial decisions, as relates to pensions, both at the state level, with regards to Chicago pensions coming on the heels of Illinois Supreme Court’s decision from just a year earlier on state pensions, and then you’ve got the Supreme Court decision because of these Scalia absence on the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, as it pertains to forced union dues; that’s a lot to talk about against the backdrop of the second teachers’ strike looming in less than four years, and an almost junk-rated city of Chicago, according to Fitch, mostly because of the inability to solve the pension problem, combined with a junk-rated Chicago public school system, combined with the state, that has the worst credit rating in the United States. So, some challenges I think is a fair assessment. Ted Dabrowski: Some pretty big challenges. Dan Proft: Yeah. So why don’t we start with Chicago public schools, and the looming teacher strike over the teachers’ unwillingness to increase their contribution from 2 percentage points of the 9 percentage points they pay into the pension system to not have the Chicago Public School System pick up the other 7 percentage points anymore, as it’s been the case for the past 3 decades. Of course, the management side wants them to pick it up, so they can start trying to make the math work, and the teachers don’t want to essentially take a pay cut to increase their contribution to their pensions. Why is the teachers’ position unreasonable? Why should they pick up the 7 percentage points that the school system has been picking up for these past 3 decades? Isn’t that just another promise that was made to them, like they say, the Constitution made a promise to them and it shall never be changed? Ted Dabrowski: It’s another perk that Chicago teachers have had for a long time. It was gained back in 1981, and the issue, I think, the bigger issue is that the Chicago teachers do pretty well when you compare them to big cities across the country. They have the highest salaries of any big school district in the nation, and so what’s amazing is… Dan Proft: So higher than New York, higher than California, higher than L.A, higher than Houston. Ted Dabrowski: Higher than Miami, etcetera. So, they do pretty well, and again, it’s something they’ve negotiated, but they’ve done well, and included in that is this teacher pension pickup. That’s fancy words for, “Look, teachers, you don’t have to pay your full pension share, full pension payment you’re required to pay. We, the School District, which means tax payers, will pay it on your behalf”. And that’s been going on for about 3 decades, and the School District is broke, any way you look at it, it’s broke. And so CPS, Claypool and others trying to fix the problem are asking the teachers just to pay their fair share. Dan Proft: And by the way, I had the opportunity on the morning show that I do on AM 560, Chicago’s Morning Answer, to speak with Jean-Claude Brizard, a couple of CPS superintendents ago; this is not the CPS superintendent that’s going to jail, for those of you scoring at home, but they were running billion dollar budget deficits when he arrived as Rahm Emanuel’s first Chicago Public School superintendent. Nothing has changed in the intervening 5 years; in fact, it’s gotten worse, so do we start with the pension pick up and the distribution of who’s picking it up, or do we start with the fact that 9% paying into your pension, that’s also insufficient. Ted Dabrowski: Right, that’s insufficient. I think that the bigger issue is that the School District has been mismanaged for a long time, and you’ve got issues from not funding pensions for nearly a decade, you’ve got issues of Barbara Byrd-Bennett being indicted for fraud. You’ve got a situation where you’ve got a Teachers’ Union that’s willing to strike two contracts in a row, and they’ve won the last contract. They won big; they strike, despite the fact that the city, or the district, was already billion dollars in the hole. They had no business striking then, and they have no business striking now. So really, what you’ve got is a situation… Dan Proft: But they strike because… they struck, they won, so they’re not incentivized to do anything other than strike if they don’t get what they want, because they figure that the politicians will bend over… Ted Dabrowski: Like they have… Dan Proft: Like Tiny Dancer did four years ago. Ted Dabrowski: And he’s even weak. If he was weak then, he’s even weaker now, given the situation he has at home. So this is a situation where the two big groups, the Administration and the Teachers’ Union, they collude when they need to, they strike when it makes sense to then, and in the end it’s all the kids who get left out, and I think that’s the whole sad part of the story, which is why many people talk about bankruptcy. If Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want to do something about the finances, if Karen Lewis doesn’t want to do something about the finances, let it go bankrupt, and finally get a situation where we can get a focus back on the kids and not on the adults. Dan Proft: Well, that’s what the Governor said, Governor Rauner has said, “Bankruptcy needs to be something that the city and CPS take under consideration”. They’ve rejected that because of course, nobody wants to be the person, or people in charge, right, to be taken over by the state, to go bankrupt on my watch; what does that say about my leadership and my management; making the tough decisions to bring us back from the precipice, just rather than pushing us over. So why not – and this is more of a political question than a policy one – but from Governor Rauner’s perspective I’ve offered to pitch in and help. I’ve offered, here are some options, and by the way, I have kind of a 30 year track, because the reason I’m 100 millionaire is because I’m pretty good at reading the balance sheets and understanding what the real world options are, and if they don’t want to entertain real world options, why not just wash your hands and just say, “Okay, geniuses, okay, Tiny Dancer, okay Karen Lewis, whatever, Forest Claypool, you figure it out. But you can come down to Springfield with your pickle buckets and panhandle outside the Capital, and we’re not giving you anymore money”. Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, and I think politically that’s where it goes. I think that’s where it goes, and the sad part is – and I think everybody knows this – is that, you know, we just had a massive property tax hike in Chicago; the largest on record, and that only solves a small part of the problem; we probably need to have another two of those to try to start getting toward balance, and so the sad part is that Chicagoians are already burned with all kinds of nickel and diming fees, and red light… you know, anything you want to talk about, there’s a fee or a tax for it. Chicagioans can’t afford more, and we’ve already heard about people leaving the city. Dan Proft: But at least Teachers’ Union is honest about… I mean, I give them credit… they’re kind of like Bernie Sanders; they are like the honest socialists, as opposed to the disingenuous socialists. Property tax increase – sure. Chicago Teachers’ Union is on board for that; Karen Lewis – yeah; Graduated State Income Tax – yeah; fine. Ted Dabrowski: Financial services is back. Dan Proft: Yeah, on Nassau Street, on the exchanges, financial transactions – good. They’re contemplating the institution of a new city income tax to layer on to all the other taxes – we’re open to that; all they care about is the revenue side; at least they’re genuine about it, so you can have an honest conversation. Tiny Dancer and the Chicago Democrats trying to cling to power, they understand the political difficulty of that, because they have to stand for election outside of 30,000 teachers, and so they play this game like something can be solved by getting a half of billion dollars every other month from the state of Illinois. Number 1 – it doesn’t solve it; number 2 – it’s not going to happen. So do you give the Teachers’ Union at least credit for being honest, so we can have an honest conversation? Like here is where they want to solve the problem; that’s one option. Confiscatory taxation on top of confiscatory taxation; and here’s another option, like you and the Illinois Policy Institute have charted, that presents a real choice for Chicago residents and Illinois residents to consider. Ted Dabrowski: I think you’re right, they are, to say, honest about their motives with you, and Karen Lewis is pretty clear about it, but I think that’s why we call them the most militant union in the US. They say what they want, they strike for it and they go for it. Dan Proft: And they unironically wear red shirts to their rallies. I mean, beat me over the head with a cudgel, I get it. Ted Dabrowski: I think the saddest part for me – and the parents haven’t figured it out yet – still the parents are still backing with the Union. In the first strike they did it still seems like they have backing, but at some point that’s going to break, and when people realize that those strikes mean bigger and bigger taxes, increase in property tax, especially for the low income families, right, because they may not pay property taxes because they’re owners, but they certainly pay higher rent; they certainly pay higher sales taxes, higher X, Y and Z, and at some point there’s got to be a connection. Dan Proft: But those are the unseen costs that they don’t kind of…are people connecting the dots. Because it seems to me what Karen Lewis is good at doing – and to some extent, Rahm is good at doing as well – is presenting it like Rahm and Karen Lewis are on the opposite sides. They’re not on the opposite sides. They’re fighting over who gets to be the central planner in charge, right? And so the free market perspective of the economic liberty movement, to some extent has to also bear some culpability for not charting a third way, and explaining to people that you’re getting played by both sides. They’re not looking out for your best interests, and they don’t have a plan that solves this without imposing additional duress on you, on your children, on the taxpayers read large, so that the city continues to shrink and the number of revenue producing wards continues to winnow, and we continue the death spiral to a place that you’re not going to be insulated from in terms of pain. Ted Dabrowski: No, I think you’re right, but these guys have always worked together. That’s why I said they collude. They’re like two monopolies, or an oligopoly, and they work together pretty closely; they choose to fight every once in a while, but never – and if you think about this, are the discussions and the fights about better outcomes – we don’t hear much about that; it’s all about who’s going to win the power struggles; whether it’s Rahm or there’s Karen Lewis; whether it’s Claypool, whether it’s Rauner in the takeover; but nobody’s talking about how to help the parents win. And what you’re right about is that really this is a battle over who controls billions of dollars in salary, and billions of dollars in pension payments. And Rahm loves to be in control of that, and so does Karen Lewis. Dan Proft: I know, the 6 billion dollars CPS budget; what is it, a third of it is salaries? Ted Dabrowski: Oh yeah, you’ve got over 2 billion, sure. And so that’s the control power, and so when we talk about, and you’re right, the free market movement that hasn’t done a great job in Chicago, in Illinois, about saying “Hey, it’s time we take the power out of Rahm Emanuel; it’s time we take the power away from Karen Lewis, and give it to the families; let them be in control of the dollars, and let them hold schools accountable”, and by that I mean the parent would have the ability to walk away from the school and use that public money for a private school, if he/she wasn’t having their kids’ needs met. Dan Proft: Or a public school. Ted Dabrowski: Or a public school. It could just be give them the power to walk, and when the parents have that power, then the public schools would have to listen. Dan Proft: Well, you say, you know, the parents side with Karen Lewis and the Teachers’ Union; well, that’s because they experienced the teachers. Right, their kids experienced the teachers, and so they like Mrs. Smith, who teaches 4th grade, and they like Mr. Jones, who teaches 8th grade. They know those two, so when Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones or their local school principle says, “Are you going to throw in with me, or are you going to throw in with that little cleptocrat on the 5th floor of City Hall?”, that’s an easy choice. Ted Dabrowski: It is, but I think, though, more and more teachers are starting to realize; and if you’re a 35 year old teacher and you hear the arguments going on, you say, “Wait a minute, is there going to be a pension for me? I’m going to contribute for years; will there be a pension for me?”, and I got a call yesterday, as a matter of fact, from a teacher; she’s 67, retired from CPS, lives in the suburbs, and she’s scared to death whether her pension is going to be cut totally. Dan Proft: When did she retire? Ted Dabrowski: She retired just a few years ago. Dan Proft: So about the average age of 63, which is like the average age of a CPS teacher retiring? Ted Dabrowski: The average retirement age is closer to 60, so over half retire in their 50s, and you’re hitting on a good point, Dan. The reason these pensions are so expensive is because the average worker who works there is retiring in their 50s, most of them with full benefits, and because they get automatic costs for living adjustments, those pension benefits double after 25 years. It’s a fantastic gig, and it’s something that tax payers can’t afford. Dan Proft: Let’s talk numbers, kind of get out of the unfunded liabilities and the billions, and this and that, that don’t mean anything to most people, and you can’t kind of distill down to something they can’t relate to. Let’s relate it. So the Chicago public school teacher retiring in 2014 with 30 years in max out in terms of pension, what annual pension are they receiving? Ted Dabrowski: About 68,000. Dan Proft: $68,000? Ted Dabrowski: Right. $68,000. Dan Proft: Which is almost 40% more than the medium household income in Illinois? Ted Dabrowski: Sure, close. And you can compared a medium household income; that’s more than one person. Dan Proft: So maybe it’s 25% more than the medium household income in Chicago. It’s still a big number. I’ve looked at the work that you and Illinois Policy Institute has done, and I just want to relate these numbers because they are staggering for anybody that works in the private sector, and frankly, anybody that works. This is IPI numbers – a Chicago public school teacher retiring in 2014, 30 years in will have paid these around numbers, $133,000 into their pension, will receive 2.1 million dollars back, a 15,000% plus return on investment. Ted Dabrowski: And let me just say one thing, that that 133 is giving the teacher credit on having made the full payment, when in fact the school district was picking up… Dan Proft: Would they had made less than 25% of it. Ted Dabrowski: Correct. So it’s phenomenal. These are great returns. Dan Proft: You’re right. So how do we have a bankrupt school system, and a bankrupt city, and a bankrupt… I mean, come on? Ted Dabrowski: And how many people in the private sector have 2 million dollars from having their career sitting there waiting for their retirement? Dan Proft: What’s the private sector counterpart? I think you guys have this too. So if you wanted the average retiree kind of same-similar situated, if you wanted to receive 2.1 million dollars in pension benefits back, pay yourself 70 grand+ a year in retirement, how much would you have had to contribute into your 401? Ted Dabrowski: Around one and a half million dollars, because interest rates are so low, so you’d have to put in a lot of money just to get that. Dan Proft: So in the private sector it’s one and a half million dollars in for 2.1 back; at CPS it’s 133 in for 2.1 million back. Ted Dabrowski: Correct, and this is phenomenal. And it’s not sustainable, I mean, don’t forget the reason why it’s so high. That 2.1 million is because they get that 3% automatic bump in their pension benefit each period. Dan Proft: The cost of living adjustment turned out to be an annuity because that’s seven times the rate of inflation for the last decade. Ted Dabrowski: Correct. And so basically, somebody’s pension benefit doubles over 25 years. It’s phenomenal. Dan Proft: And this is the case – not to get too far field off of teachers and CPS's; that’s really kind of at bar with the strike looming in May – but the numbers for Chicago firefighters, for Chicago police officers, for city of Chicago municipal employees, for city of Chicago laborers, and the laboring public sector, they’re basically the same. Ted Dabrowski: Pretty similar, yeah; of course, Chicago police and fire will be a little higher. But basically it’s the same, and you’re talking about the average career worker getting somewhere in 2 million dollars and more in retirement; and it’s really hard to ask taxpayers who are struggling to pay that over and over again. Dan Proft: And so, when you look at these numbers, the public sector union, a lot of the ranking file, the response is “Wait a second; why are you attacking teachers, and firefighters and police officers? Don’t you respect the job we do?” And even if you say you respect the job that we do, “Hey look, we play by the rules that were set forward by the politicians that set the rules, so why should we take a haircut, when they made a promise and we relied on that promise?” Ted Dabrowski: I think it’s a good argument. Look, I always want to blame the people who set the laws. It’s the politicians who agreed to bad deals. I think everybody fights for their own special interest, whether it’s the Teachers’ Union, or an employee wanting a raise, or better terms, so I think it’s important that we don’t vilify teachers or cops; my kids go to the public schools. I love my kids’ teachers. I think they do a great job, but the bottom line is this is not about that. This is about the state’s ability, and people’s ability, and taxpayers’ ability to pay for these benefits, and so I don’t think we should vilify them, but I think there has to be realization that the agreement, whatever it was… we should meet whatever obligations we made; whatever’s been promised and has been earned we should pay. But going forward we need to strike a new deal, and I think that’s what this whole discussion is about. Striking a new deal that’s fair for the public sector workers, but also fair for the tax payers that fund them. Dan Proft: Yeah, I just want to emphasize that, because this seems to get lost in the conversation; I have the opportunity to talk to and hear from the public sector workers a lot in my radio program, and they don’t seem to hear it when I say “Wait a second, whatever you’ve earned, even if it was a bad deal, you should get, because there was reliance created by the state, you did anticipate these benefits, you earned the benefits, you should receive what you’ve earned. Full stop; however, at a date into the future, certain, like a year from now, there’s a new deal for the existent workers who have not earned those benefits, because they haven’t worked those days in the future yet, as well as for new hires, that is not going to be the same deal that you have now”, and point of fact, don’t we have that with the state employers with the tier 2 for new higher at this point, even at present? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, so of course, tier 2 is a brand new employee, but I think what we’re saying is that for even existing employees – and this happens in the private sector every day. The private sector can’t take away benefits you’ve already earned. That would be a huge problem, and that shouldn’t happen here in Illinois either, at the state or city level. But going forward, we have to have a deal that allows the state budget, the city budgets – because we haven’t talked about cities; this is a huge problem all across Illinois with pensions for firemen and policemen… Dan Proft: And nationally. Ted Dabrowski: And nationally, of course. It’s a huge problem everywhere, and it’s pushing up property taxes – I’d like to talk about that in a minute, about all the taxes that are going up, but at some point there has to be another deal, because here’s the issue; right now you and I are saying we want to protect benefits we’ve already earned; if we ever go into bankruptcy courts, federal courts don’t care about state Constitution; federal courts trump the state Constitution, so like you saw in Detroit, like you’ve seen in Alabama, like you’ve seen in Rhode Island, pensions have been cut as a result of bankruptcies, and so if the public sector union workers don’t finally realize that they can actually have their pensions cut under bankruptcy, they’re going to get hit with exactly what they don’t want to see. Dan Proft: So many of them are listening to their public sector union bosses, rather than looking at the math and just taking a common sense approach to it to say “Do I really want to pay Russian roulette with my retirement?”. It’s not roulette; it’s Russian roulette, because all it takes is one federal bankruptcy judge to say, for example, “Yeah, states cannot go bankrupt under federal bankruptcy code”. But if pension funds go upside down and they can no longer pay out beneficiaries, then I’m going to say that pension funds are separate and distinct from the state, and instead of checks in the mail you get IOUs until they figure it out. Ted Dabrowski: Or you have a 15% - 20% haircut. And I think that’s a real distinct possibility. That’s why I think at some point, and I think the state ruling recently that came out last week… Dan Proft: This is on Chicago pensions. Ted Dabrowski: On Chicago pensions; where it starts to say that things like pension benefits can’t be collectively bargained if there’s some exchange, some consideration given for changes in the pension benefits… Dan Proft: Simple contract law theory. Ted Dabrowski: Exactly. And that being the case, I think behooves the unions. And let’s talk about Chicago policemen and firemen. You were talking about teachers and others. The worst funded pensions in Illinois right now are the Chicago fire and police pensions. They have about 25 cents of every dollar they should have in their account. So imagine, you have your 401(k), you open it up and you think you have $100,000. You open it and there’re only 25,000. You’re missing three quarters of the money. That’s exactly what’s happening to policemen and firemen right now. And I don’t know why they’re not jumping up and down and saying “I want a new deal. I want something better. Promise me what I’ve earned, but give me a new deal going forward”. And I think that’s what they should be fighting for, because they run the big risk of having a massive haircut. Dan Proft: If you have a police fund or a firefighter pension fund that’s only a quarter funded, are those pension funds salvageable. Ted Dabrowski: I think, we’ve run numbers, I think we can salvage them, but it’s painful, right? And you’ve got to have a long term process, but you got end the game now. But effectively, in any private sector scenario, they’re bankrupt; they’re done. They would have been closed up if they were part of a private sector group, they would have been closed, liquidated and gone. So it’s something, I think, they have a huge interest in hitting the table and negotiating. I think the way to look at this, Dan, if we can stop the bleeding now, and move to a new 401(k), stop playing go and forth for all benefits earned going forward, then what we do is we treat the unfunded liability as debt. Chicago just has a bunch of debt and it’s going to take years to pay that debt off; but I think it can work with Chicago’s numbers if we stop the pain. Dan Proft: Then you can start to bend the cost curve and catch up. Ted Dabrowski: Exactly, but it’s not just police and fire, you have to do that for teachers’ pensions and for the other pensions in Chicago, so it has to be a whole deal, because remember, you have one taxpayer in Chicago, and that one taxpayer has to pay all those pensions and Cook County pensions as well, and of course, the shortfall at the state-level; so we have to be careful to respect the taxpayers in Chicago. Dan Proft: It seems to me the taxpayers are starting to understand what is in the offing, and I just look at out-migration; is there any better indication of the vitality of a community, county or state than whether people choose to live there or not, and in 2015, according to the census, Cook County lost more population than any other county in the country; this against the backdrop of the state of Illinois continues to compete with New Jersey for the largest out-migration year after year. Ted Dabrowski: I think that’s the biggest issue, and it’s something that we talk a lot about as respecting the taxpayer. And I don’t think Rahm Emanuel, Michael Madigan, they don’t understand… sorry, they may understand, but they don’t care; it doesn’t fit into the political calculus, but the reality is that people are leaving and I think more telling them the 2015 numbers is the out-migration that occurred between 2000 and 2010 by middle class Blacks. 180,000 blacks were lost during that period, and if you look at what happened in Detroit; first you lost the White taxpayers when you had the White Flight, but the problem really happened in Detroit when the middle-class Blacks left. And then the tax base was gone, and I think Chicago has to start thinking about how to protect its residents – doesn’t matter what color they are – but if you don’t protect your tax base you’re done. And we’re entering that spiral today. Dan Proft: Well that’s interesting, so I have a conversation with my aldermen; I’m in the 42nd ward when, you know, the wards that looks fancy on the outside, and you hear this propaganda from the likes of a Brendan Reilly, who’s just a toady for Madigan and for Tiny Dancer. Well, look at the planters on Michigan Avenue, and look at the tower cranes with new rental units going up in Streeterville. Everything’s on the up and up, and my response to them is, even let’s accept your premise, that this ward, one of 50 wards, is on the up and up; explain to me how you think – let’s say there’s 10 wards, 20% the city, that are kind of revenue producing wards that have substantial economical activity ongoing – so you’re telling me that 80% of the city can burn to the ground around us and we’re not going to be impacted? Do you really believe that? Does anybody really believe that except a craven feudal lord, which is what these aldermen are? Ted Dabrowski: I remember the first time I went to Detroit right after the bankruptcy, and I came back and wrote about it, and the lessons I learned from it, as it relates to Chicago; a lot of pushback, you know, Chicago is not a Detroit. Dan Proft: No, never happen here. Ted Dabrowski: And listen, Chicago’s not a Detroit when you think about the diversification of businesses; you walk down in the loop here, it’s hot, man, it’s rocking, it’s a lot of stuff going on, but I think what people forget is bankruptcy is not about what you look like; bankruptcy is whether you can afford to pay your debts. It’s simply that, and you take the best paid athletes in the nation. A lot of them go bankrupt; they’re making 100 million dollars, but they go bankrupt because they don’t manage their spending, and I think that’s where Chicago is. Dan Proft: Yeah, how can they be bankrupt? They’ve got a nice home, they’ve got a nice car and they wear nice clothes? How can they be bankrupt? How can Antoine Walker – he’s an NBA champion – how can he go bankrupt? Terrible investments; he put his money to use in all the wrong places. That’s how you can go bankrupt. Ted Dabrowski: And I think that’s where Chicago is. Chicago is exactly there. And let me make one other point, and I think this is important. Chicago’s got a big footprint. We used to have 3.5 million people, right? We’re down way below that. The population in Chicago now is below the 1920s. That’s a massive change. We still have that same infrastructure, and I don’t just mean physical infrastructure, like the highways and all that. We have the same public sector infrastructure, and that public sector infrastructure’s not shrinking fast enough with the city. What it’s doing is it keeps growing; the cost of that infrastructure, the unions, the teachers, the police and fire; it’s too expensive. It’s outpacing the growth of what people make in the city, and that’s what’s going to break us. Dan Proft: So you wanted to talk about the taxation that your median Chicago resident faces. Let’s talk about it. Ted Dabrowski: What you see in Chicago is a lot of people saying “Oh, property taxes are much, much lower in Chicago than they are in the suburbs. Dan Proft: Subsidized by commercial. Ted Dabrowski: Subsidized by commercial one, but two, they are relatively lower, but what people don’t talk about is the… you know, Daley was a genius. We all know that. He knew that he shouldn’t go after property taxes, so what he did, and the other who followed, is they came up with a bottled water tax, and a dollar tier tax, then you had to add the red light cameras, they had every kind of tax and fee to hide the fact that the raising taxes on you. And it’s really hard to track what’s going on, so we did all the numbers, and it’s amazing how much higher, when you take all the taxes that there are in Chicago than in any other city – Evanston’s a competitor – but any other city in Illinois, the taxes are tremendously high. So I think there’s a lot of deceit, the press hasn’t wanted to talk about it properly, none of the politicians want to talk about it, but Chicagoians are taxed up the zahzoo, and in the end, middle class families know it; I think, when we talked about the Black families earlier, schools aren’t working for them, crime is certainly hurting them, and taxes are going against them; why stay? And I think that’s a question that people ask themselves. Dan Proft: Sure, and they ask themselves and they’re answering in the negative. Why stay? It makes no sense not to stay. Ted Dabrowski: And it’s not easy for people to leave, right? It’s hard to pick up and leave. Dan Proft: Right, sure. You laid down routes, you made an investment here, it is a great city, it’s a beautiful city, it’s a fun city; great restaurants and night life and arts and culture. Why do I want to leave here? I don’t want to leave here, but you’re making it such as I can’t make it make sense to be here. And frankly, even someone like me - who does relatively well, because I’ve got phony baloney job on the radio that pays me a lot of money and I work 20 hours a week - even me, I say, “Gosh, move over to Northwest Indiana and lower my cost of living by 40%, my muffling it up by 40%? What am I doing here? Ted Dabrowski: You’re hitting on the issue that recently I was in South Chicago, and I met with this company, Modern Drop Forge – they’re a big steel stamp planter, steel stamper – and they tried to stay in Illinois, they worked hard, nobody paid attention to them; this is a year and a half ago; and so they finally looked at Indiana, and Indiana opened their arms, said come here, the company eventually moved there. I was at there, I think I was telling you about this. I went to their new facility, this massive, beautiful huge facility; state of the art, and a lot of the workers who didn’t want to move to Indiana from Chicago, they went and they looked at the house prices and said wow; they looked at the property taxes, much lower; school choice. Dan Proft: And what you get for those numbers in terms of home and property. Ted Dabrowski: It’s a huge home, and he said he took his wife, this worker who didn’t want to go, he took his wife; they moved. And they’re so happy; and I saw him at the new plant, he’s ecstatic, and that’s what people are experiencing, and we shouldn’t force people to look at those alternatives, but I think what we’re doing is we’re making it such that people… people don’t move because their taxes are high. People move because things get difficult, the opportunities aren’t there, it gets too costly; they finally make a calculus and some way say “Hey, I’m going to go somewhere where there’s a new opportunity”. Whether it’s Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, whatever. Dan Proft: Well right, it’s cumulative. It’s not a single tax, it’s not that if I don’t have a city sticker, my fine is going to be like $42,000 to make the numbers work for the city for one year additional. It’s just the cumulative impact of every time you turn around, you’re just being fleeced. Ted Dabrowski: So it comes around to that’s why we need these massive reforms, and until we get them… Dan Proft: Which, by the way, the funny thing is, the other side, that has been unwilling to advance these structural reforms says we need these structural reforms. What did Rahm come in on? He came in on a wave of here’s a tough guy, he was the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States, and he’s going to make these tough decisions. He’s going to endure the political capital that must be spent to make the difficult decisions to bring the city back, to right the financial ship; and he hasn’t done it. Ted Dabrowski: This is Rahm though, right? He was the guy that was going to let nominate crisis go to waste. Dan Proft: The tutu should have been the leading indicator that this was not a tough guy. Ted Dabrowski: A lot of people were excited, and it’s amazing, because he actually did something that is pretty bold when he first came in. He went down to Springfield, and he sounded like he was proposing the Illinois Policy Institute’s ideas. He talked about COLA – Cost of Living Reforms – producing them, he talked about bringing retirement agents down, and he talked about optional 401(k) style plans for workers. That was awesome, he actually went down to Springfield and did that, and Daley didn’t do that, he didn’t go down to Springfield. So there was a lot of hope in the beginning, but quickly, once the negotiations got tough, once Karen Lewis put her foot down, he caved. Dan Proft: Well the 401(k) thing was interesting, because the response you get from a lot of people is “I don’t want to be subject to market fluctuations; I guess it’s okay if everybody else who is not in the public sectors is subject to market fluctuations with respect that they’re 401(k)s, but we want a guarantee, the define benefit plan”, and so the response to that, that we want this guarantee, 401(k) doesn’t work for us, at the university level, this is kind of an under-reported story, but you were the first one to kind of alert me to this. There are thousands of actual university employees, public employees in this state who are part of a 401(k) retirement system within the larger public university system, so number 1 – is it working for them? – number 2 – if it is, why don’t we scale it? Ted Dabrowski: Well, what’s amazing is that somewhere along the way, 1998, not Mike Madigan, but a guy named Robert Madigan, he passed a law that allowed university professors to have a 401(k) style plan. Why? University professors wanted that portability. They wanted to control their retirement fund. They wanted it to be in their name that they could take when they left the state if they left. Now what’s amazing is that we would allow a professor to have that, right, but not a Chicago fireman, a policeman, or a teacher, who should have their ownership, their own title and control over that money; rather than being dependant on Madigan or Rahm Emanuel, these university professors can take their money and nobody can touch it. And what’s interesting about that whole thing is we’re sitting again almost on record highs in the stock market; these guys are doing really well. The money that’s in there is going up, and despite the massive recovery of the stock market, Illinois’ pensions continue to do worse and worse. Dan Proft: The public sector pension funds. Ted Dabrowski: The public sector pensions get worse despite this massive improvement in the stock market. Dan Proft: So I guess the argument would be made, wait a second, if Dan Proft with his financial guy can figure out where to put his money and how to distribute risk and how to have a balanced portfolio, then why can’t a Chicago police officer, Chicago firefighter, Chicago teacher do the same thing? They can do the same thing. I’m no smarter than they are. My financial advisors are no smarter than the financial advisors they could have access to. Ted Dabrowski: They make it so easy now to invest. You just call Charles Schwab, you call Fidelity, and they make it easy. I think that’s the whole thing, you know, public sector employees have gotten so in bed with the government, that they’re letting the government control their lives for them, including their retirement lives, and the government’s made a disaster of that, and people are scared that they may not have a retirement. We argue that the workers should have control; they should have that freedom to control their own retirement account. If they want the state to manage them, let them. But for those who want something different, give them the option; it’s only fair. Dan Proft: I want to go back to the Chicago public school system for a second, because we got a couple of things, a couple of chiblits that are always advanced by the Teachers’ Union, and their acolytes that need to be addressed. One is this idea the state’s not paying; it’s fair share the CPS, that’s the problem. Why don’t we just start there? Let’s do one at a time. So CPS receives a majority of its funding from the state, which is materially different than all the Collar County districts – well, most of the Collar County districts – and for the Collar County districts that it’s not materially different, that are majority funded by the state, they end up – districts like Matteson; low income – they end up subsidizing; so you have low income people in Matteson subsidizing people in Chicago. Ted Dabrowski: Well, let me just hit the first point. We’ve run the numbers, we’re going to be releasing them pretty soon. What Forest Claypool says, he’s using a logic that I don’t think makes sense, but let’s follow him with his logic; he says they have 20% of the students; they should get 20% of what the state doles out, to all the districts; and he says that that’s not true; well, we’ve run the numbers, and if you take the last ten years, including pensions, because he argues that Chicago public school district pays their own pensions, whereas the state pays the pension for all the other school districts; he says that’s unfair; and you could, at face value, agree with that; what Forest Claypool doesn't tell you is that the funding formulas for education more than make up for what the city looses on a pension, so bottom line is that we ran the numbers for the last 10 years; they’ve gotten more than their share every single year in the last 10 years, with the exception of this past year. They’ve gotten more on average than all the other school districts. So they’re getting their share, and I think we’re going to debunk his myth. He has to stop complaining that he needs a state bailout and start focusing on what reforms he can pass in Chicago. I think that’s where he really needs to focus on. Dan Proft: And so let’s just kind of again do this; like a little bit of classroom math – not common core style either, because I don’t know how to do math common core style – but the city of Chicago spends around 15 grand – a little bit north of that, but let’s use round numbers – 15 grand per kid per year. So classroom of 30 – keep it simple – that’s 450 grand per classroom in the city of Chicago; 650 schools, a little bit less than 400,000 kids like it normally used to be, because of the exodus from Chicago; so $450,000 per classroom; the teacher all-in cost the district $120k a year; let’s say you spend another 50 grand on supplies, because that’s 150. It’s a $1,700 per kid for the pension pick up, for the pension costs, so again, let’s round up to 2 grand; so that’s another 60 grand. So it gets me to 210; let’s say we throw another 50 in for the building of the infrastructure and all that – per kid – so that’s 260. Where’s the other 200 grand per classroom in Chicago go? Does anybody know? Because I asked Karen Lewis this question, I asked Forest Claypool this question, I asked aldermen in the city of Chicago this question. Nobody has the answer to this question. And the other thing that’s even more infuriating than not having the answer is nobody much seems to care. Ted Dabrowski: It kind of reminds me, after they closed the 50 schools and – I forgot who did the analysis – but they couldn’t find the computers, they couldn’t find a lot of the supplies, they were gone; and they can’t track themselves. I think the biggest issue was CPS, is that they’re too damn big, right? It’s a monolith, and they can’t manage themselves, and I think that’s the big issue. Dan Proft: So at the state-level or at the city-level, because the dynamics are very similar? Illinois Policy Institute, what’s a path forward? Everybody gets the benefits they’ve earned up to a date certain; what’s the path forward? What does that look in terms of retirement age? Pension contribution, all of the cost of living adjustments, all of the drivers for cost in the system? What should that look like, that is respectful and reasonable that we can potentially afford, that provides that balance? Ted Dabrowski: So let’s come back to that state university retirement system plan that’s a 401(k). That thing’s been around for 17 years. You’ve got about 1700-1800 workers and retirees in it. What that plan does, and the people who are on that 401(k) style plan, they don’t get social security, so the 401(k) style plan they get is robust enough to meet IRS standards, and to give a sufficient retirement. And what it does is the state puts in 7% into the 401(k) every paycheck, and the employee puts in 8%, so every paycheck period, 15% is going into their retirement account. And that’s been deemed good enough, and has been around for a long time, and many people get it. So we think that’s a good basis for creating a plan for all workers, new workers, and for benefits going for choosing some starting date; we think that would be a great start. You know, there could be debates on how to structure it, but we think that’s a really good start because going forward, what it would mean is that all the benefits that have been earned, any worker or retiree would continue to get… retirees wouldn’t be affected by this plan, but all workers would have earned their benefits up to a point, then going forward, everything goes into a 401(k) style plan. So it’s a fair plan, you respect retirement ages, you respect all that, and it does a lot to fix the problem in Illinois. We’ve run numbers and it depends on how strict we are with the terms, but we believe that we can cut the unfunded liability by 30-40%, which is pretty massive, and we can create a repayment plan on the rest of the debt that gets us out of this problem; in 30 years, but in one that there’s control and certainty, rather than the one we have today which is uncertain. Dan Proft: And to repeat just for emphasis, that means you’re not messing with the retirement age, you’re not messing with COLA's, or the other component parts of a person’s employment or retirement? Ted Dabrowski: Correct. I think what you want to do is leave what people have earned, because I think it’s all a question of constitutionality. Dan Proft: But even prospectively, even for the new hires today. Ted Dabrowski: Well the new hires today are looking for 401(k) plans. Dan Proft: Right, but you’re saying “Hey, if you have 30 years in and you’re 50, 55, 60, whatever, because you’ve got the 401(k), we’ve more or less achieved a solomonic balance of – we’re paying 7%, you’re paying 8%; you’re managing your funds; not defined benefit, it’s defined contribution like it exists in the private sectors, to the extent that even those exist in the private sector today – and everybody’s charting their own course. Ted Dabrowski: Right, and then from then on we just manage the debt that we have and the outstanding liabilities, but we don’t keep creating these unfunded liabilities which we’ve seen just keep growing every single year. They grow out of control. It’s like a mortgage that grows every year, rather than paying it down, it just keeps growing and growing, no matter how much you put in it. That would be the example of a home owner. You keep paying down your debt and it keeps getting bigger, and you can’t get control of it. Dan Proft: Right, and it would also obviate the need to make our mortgage payment with a credit card, which is essentially what we’re doing now, to the extent that we still get credit card companies that will issue us credit cards effectively, because at some point the bond markets are going to seize up and they’re going to disallow borrowing, except that usurious Soprano rates, like CPS just did. Ted Dabrowski: Here’s another point I wanted to make. So we talked about this 401(k) style plan already existing in Illinois; so it’s like some pipe dream we have; this is something that’s a legitimate plan that works, and if it’s good enough for our university professors, why isn’t it good enough for anybody else? But it’s not just Illinois that’s done this; we’ve had massive reforms across the country, and Michigan actually started this. In 1997 they moved all their employees to 401(k) style plans; back in 1997. Dan Proft: Michigan, big union state. Ted Dabrowski: Big union state, 1997, and so they got ahead of this long time ago. Let me give you another state that did a big change. They did a hybrid half, pension half 401(k) style plan, and that was Rhode Island. Democratically controlled legislature, they got it passed; big reform, very painful, but they did it. And Alaska has passed in 2006 a 401(k) style plan for new employees, and most recently Oklahoma passed one. So this is something that’s happening across the country. It’s not some dream, it’s happening. Dan Proft: So the question I’m sure a lot of people are thinking is “If it’s happening across the country and it’s working for 17,000 university professors who are not bitching about it – at least we don’t hear from them bitching about it – why haven’t we scaled it already?” Ted Dabrowski: Well, I think it’s been easy for Karen Lewis and others to say the rich aren’t paying enough. All we need are more taxes. And unfortunately, the union members have bought that argument. They’ve bough that argument that the taxes need to go up. There’s a solution, there’s a promise been made; don’t change what we got as a promise, no matter whether it’s 20 years into the future. Let’s just raise taxes to solve our problems, and at some point there’s going to be revolt. It’s not a big revolt, it’s a quiet revolt by people just leaving the state, leaving the city over and over again. Dan Proft: Isn’t that the problem? Again, it’s a political problem, but people leave the state; we essentially have a hollowing out in the city and the state. People that are insulated from bad public policy, the very rich and the very poor, that are beneficiary to the transfer payments, they don’t feel it, they don’t live in the world of trying to make ends meet, and so that’s what you’re left with, and frankly, that’s the constituency of the left. That’s the constituency of the established power structure in Chicago and the General Assembly. Ted Dabrowski: I think the big issue that’s going to continue to drive change are the property taxes. We’re seeing places, like you said, Matteson, and nearby - Southland – communities, where the tax rates on property, so the effective tax rate on a home is about 4-5% of the value. So if somebody would have tried to buy that house today would have to pay the cash for that home, they’d have to pay the value for that home, and within 20 years, because of taxes, they would have repaid for that home again. Dan Proft: So for most people with a 30 year mortgage, they pay for their home twice. What you’re saying is in Illinois and a lot of regions you’re going to pay for your house the third time because of the property taxes. Ted Dabrowski: Exactly, and that’s why people are starting to walk away from their homes in the Southland area. So you got a place where the manufacturing companies have gone. You see the big swaths of land just empty, and you’re starting to see now these nice big homes that have collapsed in value, and people walking away because they can’t afford it anymore. Between the mortgage and a second mortgage being the property taxes, they’re leaving. Dan Proft: And here’s something else I hear too, a lot of small and mid-sized businesses, 25 to 250 employees, they don’t make headlines when they leave, they don’t make headlines when they lay people off, they’re not big enough, but they’re impactful. They represent three quarters of the jobs in the state. They’re just quietly closing up shop, or they’re downsizing, and kind of methodically moving operations somewhere else. And it’s one of those things, like the old kind of sun also rises, how did you go bankrupt - gradually, then suddenly. So it’s kind of the whole thing, it’s like wait a second. Where did all the businesses in Elk Grove Village and the ring suburbs around O’Hare go? Well they slowly moved out over the course of the last ten years. Now how do you get them back? Ted Dabrowski: That’s really hard, and that’s why I always argue that… I talk a lot about the one reform that we can do tomorrow, and it can be agreed upon all the parties as new employees. Move to 401(k) style plans tomorrow. New employees don’t have a contract, they’re not protected by the Constitution, they would just enter with a new contract. Make it a reasonable, fair, 401(k) style plan. Then people would say “That wouldn’t save a whole lot of money”, but I’m saying “It may not save a whole lot of money, but that sure would send a different message than any message that we’ve sent over the last 25 years”; and that would send a message to the rating agencies, that reform is coming, that’d send a message to future employers, people that want to live in Illinois, but we’ve got to send a positive message, and right now there’s no positive message, and we know with the budget flight there’s no positive message. We need a positive message. Dan Proft: I want to level-up one level of education; the post secondary education in universities, we’ve talk about this cadre of university of professors in a 401(k) system, okay, but a lot of the discussion and the consternation in the context of this current state budget impasse is about universities, and they’re not receiving the funding they’ve become accustomed to from the state, and so there’s the prospect of laying off employees, and there’s a protest on campuses, state colleges, universities, and it’s all directed at the state of Illinois; what are they doing, they’re divesting from higher education. Well, it turns out, and this is some good work that’s been done by State Representative Mark Badneck - who’s a Freshman Republican from Oswego, Plainfield area - it turns out that if you do a little bit of comparison, in terms of what the state of Illinois provides in per pupil support, as compared to their conference peers – whether it’s Illinois State in the Missouri valley, or University of Illinois in the big 10 – it turns out we’re providing almost twice as much state support for pupil than the conference peers in other states, and yet tuition at our state schools is still 40% higher than their peers, their conference peers in those states. Explain that dynamic. Ted Dabrowski: Well, we looked at the numbers in higher education, and it’s easy to blame the lack of a budget right now. It’s easy to do that because it’s easy to point the finger at somebody. Dan Proft: That’s why they’re doing it. Ted Dabrowski: And that’s why they’re doing it, and of course, no budget has created a crack, sorry, is showing all the cracks that exist in higher-ed. But this problem has been building for 10 or 15 years or more, right, and a lot of it has to do with how much public funding is making it to education from the federal government and the state. And what these universities are doing is they’re taking all the available money they can find, and they’re hiring administrative staffs that are much too large, they’re bloated, and they’re paying massive salaries and massive pensions. And so when you look at what’s happening, it’s tuition's are having a double, not because education’s doing that much better; it’s all going to fund big, big administrations and super big pensions. Dan Proft: And we saw… we’re talking about the Chicago teachers’ strike in the not too distant past. How about the U of IC 1,100 professorate strike that was just two years ago – 2014. And they wanted to lift the floor for essentially part-time adjunct facility from 30 grand to 45 grand; 50% increase in base salary, and of course, that levels all the way up; we increase the floor here, and that increases the floor at every rung above that. And so how do we get out of that trap? Ted Dabrowski: It’s the same issues we’re talking. We’re talking pensions again. Dan Proft: Well, we’re talking salaries plus pensions. Ted Dabrowski: What happens is that these salaries are high and so what’s happened now is that when you take the state appropriations to go to education, higher-ed, they’ve actually grown a lot in the past decade. They’ve grown about 60% in the last decade; from 2.6 billion to over 4 billion. So it’s a big chunk of change; the problem has been is that 50% of all that money, 50% of what the state appropriates isn’t making it to higher-ed, it’s going to pay for pensions, and I was amazed when we did our work the other day, to find community colleges; community colleges pay their top person $500,000 a year. Dan Proft: You mean like the president of the university. Ted Dabrowski: The president, right. And of course, like you said, all those salaries get scaled up. Dan Proft: Tell us the story just for illustrative purposes, because it speaks to a larger cultural problem. In your research, the white paper that I read that you did in concert with colleagues at Illinois Policy Institute, a $900,000 administrator at the University of Illinois? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, $900,000. Dan Proft: What the frack does that administrator do that warrants $900,000?! Ted Dabrowski: Included in that was a roughly $450,000 retention bonus after few years. Dan Proft: Okay, so what the frack does that administrator making 400 grand do that warrants a $450,000 retention bonus? Ted Dabrowski: Exactly. That person will probably get somewhere in the range of who knows, 8 to 9 to 10 million dollars in pensions. Think about that money, how many kids, how many scholarships that would fund in a given year for kids that tend Chicago State; that one person. Dan Proft: But they don’t hear, I mean you may hear it incredulously, but you’re going to hear it. Well, you want to attract and attain talents in academia, don’t you? Ted Dabrowski: So you can say that, now the question is, to how many people do you pay that? There’s a great study done by the Illinois General Auditor, and he looked at the number of administrators that these universities have, and it’s amazing. We looked at Chicago State… Dan Proft: This is like the Teldar Paper story, like all these vice-presidents, they just send memos back and forth; I can’t figure out what they do; this is the Michael Douglas moment? Ted Dabrowski: Well, nobody knows what they do, but they’re walking around through halls, but the point was, for Chicago State, they have one administrator for every 18 students. Dan Proft: Not one professor. Ted Dabrowski: No, they have one faculty member for every 16 students. So it’s almost the same number. Dan Proft: One administrator per every professor? Ted Dabrowski: Yes, so you could be sitting in a class, and your professor would be giving you a lesson, and there’d be an administrator right there watching over, making sure things are good. Dan Proft: A supervisor. Ted Dabrowski: You know, and again, a lot of that is because federal mandates, etcetera, but you can’t have that kind of bloat and not expect your tuition's to double, as they have in Chicago state, to the point where – here’s the sad part – the tuition's have gotten so high that you can’t have a kid who wants to work and go to school, because it’s just too expensive. And that’s why they’ve come to rely on scholarships. They’ve come to rely on free money because it’s no longer affordable. If these community colleges were meant for these kids to have an opportunity, why have we priced them out of touch? Dan Proft: So at the post-secondary educational level, where there’s community colleges, and we have some good community colleges, you know, 50 somewhat community colleges that provide… at least you can get your gen-ed requirements knocked out at a lower cost/credit hour at the community college before you go on to a four year university. But what you’re suggesting is that actually that’s not even the case anymore, and oh, by the way, because K-12 education, if so subpar, a lot of the costs at the freshman sophomore post-secondary education level is remediation, you’re paying for high school twice. I mean, if you talk to community college presidents, and university presidents, college presidents in the state, they’ll tell you the one in three kids that are going on at post-secondary education, I’m paying for them to do high school again for the first year, because they’re not prepared to do post-secondary work; so we’re paying for high school twice, and then we’re paying for administrators layered on to kids that are going to post-secondary education, not ready for the work, and then we wonder why the medieval poetry major can’t get a job when they get out of NIU, Illinois State, or U of I, or wherever, or Northwestern, for that matter. Ted Dabrowski: I think you’re capturing the problem really well, and what’s really scary is that not only can’t they get a job, but many of them have debt that they’ll never going to be able to repay, and that’s why you’re seeing these problems, right? You’re seeing trillions of dollars maybe becoming the next big problem in our country, with all this student debt the kids can’t pay back. A lot of it, again, bring it back around, a lot of it driven by pensions. Dan Proft: Fundamentally, if we’re thinking about K-12 education, and we’re thinking about higher education, with the bleak financial picture that we’ve painted, and the systems that have effectively been set up – let’s be just real honest about it – have effectively been set up to pay generous salaries and benefits to the adults in the system, not to educate children and to program for success in life. Ted Dabrowski: The Jerry Jones Program. Dan Proft: Clearly that’s not happening for the majority, then if there was one or two things where you could wave a magic wand at the Illinois Policy Institute and say this is the way to kind of a halt and do a 180, take a step back, and then chart a completely different course, what are those one or two things that get us off this path to ruin that we’re on, and onto a path of fulfilling the mission as stated of K-12 and post-secondary education? Ted Dabrowski: I think K-12 – I’m huge in empowering parents; I’m speaking generally, off course of some great public schools; and there’s people who are dedicated… Dan Proft: As there are at the post-secondary level. Ted Dabrowski: Listen, it’s not that people aren’t dedicated and they don’t care. I think systemically, and I think CPS, I’m sure there’s thousands of teachers and employees that care, I think the system is broken. The system – I’d say – is morally bankrupt. And it’s not going to work, and so until you get into a situation, and again, we’re seeing this happen again, same like we talked about 401(k)s, we’re seeing the same thing for school choice plans. Parents should be given the choice over where their kids go to school, and that’s one super empowering for parents who feel like they’ve been just totally left out of this, and that they think that more money is the solution, rather than being given a choice and control over their children’s education. So I think that’s number one. And we just saw Nevada, all of its 500,000 public school students have been given the choice of a voucher up to that $5,000; all of them. It’s amazing, state-wide, amazing. There’s now 26 states that offer school choice. Why isn’t Illinois one of them? Why isn’t Chicago one of them? Dan Proft: So that’s K-12 at the university level the problem is choice, right? Because Illinois, all the auto makers in the 70's have been insulated from competition, and kids are taking their GI bill, their Pell Grant, their stafford loan money, and they’re not going to school in Illinois. Ted Dabrowski: Right, they’re going outside, and they’re not coming back, and I think that higher-ed is a bigger problem, because it’s also a federal piece to it. You’ve got all that federal money, the schools know it, the schools know that the kids can borrow, and so therefore they raise their tuition and their hiring their jobs program to match that. So I think we need to stop a lot of what’s been happening there, and that would allow the cost come down dramatically; if we didn’t have all these subsidies feeding the cost up; but until we do that, I think it’s going to be tough. With that said, there’s a lot that can be done locally, because we don’t have to pay the salaries that we pay, and 2, we don’t have to have the administrative bloat that we have; and we certainly don’t need to have the pensions that we have. There’s no reason why people are getting 7 and 8 and 10 and 12 million dollar pensions. Dan Proft: So other than scaling the 1,700, go back to the 1,700 person university professors in a 401(k) style program, would you say that the state should starve the beast of academia? And force them to make changes that they’re otherwise not inclined to make, as long as you keep the spigot open? Ted Dabrowski: Well, sadly, that’s what’s happening, right? And it shouldn’t be that way; you’ve got a lot of people in pain now. You’ve got kids who thought they had a scholarship, now they don’t. They don’t care about those problems; then they had to have a plan. You’ve got teachers, professors who thought they had a job; they may lose them. And the way it’s happening now it shouldn’t be happening. It should be the administrations taking control of what they do and running an efficient system, but they’ve never been forced to do it, and Governor Rauner and the budget impasse is making them do that. They don’t like it, they don’t like having a gun to their head, but it’s forcing them to look at their costs, and it’s how it may happen. Dan Proft: So effectively, I mean, this K-12 or university, the common denominator is you have to have families be the accountability mechanism to how their tax dollars are being spent for the experience of their children, they have to be an accountability mechanism for their own local K-12 schools, they have to be an accountability mechanism for the universities they send their kids, for those kids to go onto post-secondary education. Ted Dabrowski: That’s absolutely right, and it’s interesting when you think about Chicago, and this comes back again empowering parents, families, the residents. Not the bureaucrats. When you look at the Laquan McDonald case, right, and you’ve got a Chicago, a police force and or mayor, or a attorney general who can hide information from the public for more than a year. When you have a situation where a school district can strike two times in a row on families; when you have a police force, when you try to take the problems of a Jason Van Dyke and discipline him – the police officer that shot Laquan McDonald, but you can’t use his old history of complaints, there’s a lot of things that the public is not seeing, and they seeded that too much of their power is residence to the Government, and a lot of what we’re talking about today is giving the power back to the residents. Give it back to the families, at least give it back to the people. Dan Proft: He is Ted Dabrowski, he’s the Vice- President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. Nobody does more numbers, reality based research on these intractable problems in terms of the quality of public education in the state from pre-k through post-secondary than Ted and his team at the Illinois Policy Institute. You should read their stuff religiously so you’re empowered with the information they have researched and called to be that accountability mechanism that we’re talking about. Pleased to have Ted Dabrowski, Vice- President of Policy from the Illinois Policy Institute on this edition of Against The Current. Thank you for joining us, Ted, thank you. Ted Dabrowski: Dan, I appreciate it.

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CPS Teacher at Lane Tech to CTU: I told them I'm resigning from their "socialist union"

Mike DeRoss, a social sciences teacher at Lane Tech High School, explained to Dan & Amy this morning why he is not participating in the Chicago Teachers' Union one-day walkout on April 1 and why he subsequently resigned from the union. 

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Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy, so CPS Walkout tomorrow. The Red Shirts are supposed to be out in force, shutting down the city in protest of what Karen Lewis – Chicago Teachers’ Union boss – in protest of intolerable conditions. Amy Jacobson: But this isn’t going to change anything. All that it’s going to do is inconvenience. Hard working Chicagoans who want to go home on a Friday afternoon, and also the parents – a lot of the parents that I’ve spoken with, Dan, are against this one day walkout, for simply the fact it’s not going to change anything, and some teachers aren’t going to be walking, and some teachers aren’t going to be protesting. Dan Proft: Yeah, some teachers are not, I just want to work the logic on this, because the teachers that are protesting, as described by Karen Lewis, value teachers, and are doing it for the kids, therefore the teachers that do no participate do not value teachers and hate children. That’s the only logical conclusion! Amy Jacobson: And Rahm Emanuel yesterday, once again, he had tears in his eyes, Dan, and he was trying to convince teachers to do the right thing and not walk. Dan Proft: Oh, for Christ’s sake. Rahm Emanuel: Do not take it out on our students, for our students – the school is their safest place, the place where they’re going to learn. Amy Jacobson: And they’ve set up 250 safety sites for kids to go in, they’ll get free lunch, and free breakfast, and if they need transportation to those sites, they’ll provide it for them, but there’s going to be a lot of kids just out on the streets tomorrow; walking around, enjoying their day off. Dan Proft: Well let’s get CPS Teachers’ perspective on this; somebody that is daring to stand against the prevailing wind. He is Michael DeRoss, he’s a Social Science – used to be called Social Studies in my day – Social Science teacher at Lane Tech High School; Michael, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Mike DeRoss: Good morning. Dan Proft: So why don’t you respect teachers, and why do you hate children? Mike DeRoss: I don’t know if that’s the case at either level. Dan Proft: Well, so you’re not participating in the walkout protest tomorrow. Why not? Mike DeRoss: Well, there’s about 2 or 3 different levels that I find this wrong on. The first one is maybe the most important one, we’ll just do that; we have a process to go through when we believe we’re agreeing with an unfair labor practice. We should go through that process and let it wait, because if we don’t, then the strike’s probably illegal, additionally we sit in our classroom and tell our kids “Follow the law, obey the law, follow the rules of the classroom, and do what the law says”, and then we’re going to go out, and for the most part, say that the law didn’t act quick enough for us, and we’re just going to take it into our own hands and break it. I find that a very immoral way to interact or teach. I can’t support that, and finally, as Amy I think rightfully said, this thing’s not going to accomplish anything. This is a show strike for Karen, that’s all. Amy Jacobson: Now in 2012, 19 teachers crossed the picket line, then Jesse Sharky and Karen Lou said that you threaten to cross a picket line, you will lose a Union Membership; are you concerned about that, or maybe that you already lost it? Mike DeRoss: Well, I actually felt that when I decided that I wasn’t going to go, the only honorable thing to do would be to contact the Union and resign, which I did through e-mail, and told them that I wanted to resign from their bleeping socialist union. Dan Proft: How was that received? Mike DeRoss: And they sent me back an e-mail telling me how I’d have to pay fair share dues, which I already knew, and if that’s the law, that’s the law. I don’t like it, but it’s the law. And how they weren’t a socialist union. Dan Proft: They’re not a socialist union? Amy Jacobson: Oh really? Did they say anything else in that e-mail? Dan Proft: Socialist because they’re further left on that, or not socialist in a different way? Mike DeRoss: I don’t know, but there’s more to it. Why are we throwing in with other groups that are just going to dilute the message of the Chicago teachers? I’ll guarantee, if we got a bunch of kids that just called out of their mother’s basement in the march, scuffling with police everywhere, they we’re going to get the press, not the teachers. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, I know some Black Life Matters protesters are going to be there, some SEIU protesters I heard are going in, and they’ve even encouraged us parents to go and to bring our children, but I’m going to decide to opt out of that. Mike DeRoss: Well, when did we turn into France? Dan Proft: I think it was about 1996; 1995, in Chicago. No, it’s a fair point, what’s the response – you talked to other teachers, not just at Lane Tech, but I’m sure he’s got relationships outside of your school in the education space in Chicago, and what’s the reaction to your decision, as well as what this, as you described, show strike that Karen Lewis is doing? Mike DeRoss: Well, honestly, I don’t have a lot of relationships with teachers outside of Lane, but the ones inside Lane, for the most part – and this may be a selective, not a scientific pole, because often people that don’t agree with you won’t come and face you with it – but everybody that has come to talk to me, I don’t kick them out, necessarily, they said that “We kind of agree with what you said, we do agree with what you said, but I have to walk, because I got ten more years with this outfit”. Amy Jacobson: What about the students, though? Do they know what you’re doing and how you’re taking the stand? Mike DeRoss: Well, it would be pretty tough for them not to know what I’m doing, throughout most the media. And yes, most of them know, or a good part of them know; they have their own feelings, they’re pretty smart, mature kids here at Lane, so they’ll figure it out the way they want to. Dan Proft: And, as you said, it’s kind of a teachable moment, with respect with what you teach in class about respect for the law and substantive process and then abiding that, and you providing the example of abiding that. We’re talking to Michael DeRoss, he’s a social science teacher at the Lane Tech High School in Chicago. What about some of the underlying issues, I mean, because this show strike, as you’ve described it, and potentially a real strike next month, or in May, it’s over increasing the contribution that teachers pay into the pensions system on a go forward basis; where do you come down on reforming structurally pension system, CPS more generally? Mike DeRoss: Well, you don’t have enough time for all that, but let me throw a couple things out. Back in the day, Union was suckered, I think, by the Board and the mayors to say “We won’t give you a raise, we’ll just put some pension pick-up in here”, and we took it. We said “Okay, we won’t get a raise, but we’re going to pick up some more of a pension”. And we took, and then they’d go out and went and say “No no, pension holiday”, so they’re wrong, they’re dead wrong on that. You make a contract, you abide by the contract. That’s what we should do. Now if you want to negotiate a different one coming forward, then negotiate it, but to unilaterally say we’re going to start charging you when we’re still working under the terms of an old contract is dead wrong. Dan Proft: But you would be open to the idea of prospectively bargaining for the structure of the pensions that CPS teachers receive, and other material benefits. I mean, that’s part of a collective bargaining process who everybody knows what the deal is when it’s presented for ratification, and then what it would be going forward, if it’s ratified. You’d be open to that. Mike DeRoss: They can bargain for whatever they want, but you’re right, it’s part of negotiation. We can ask to be paid 1 million dollars a year, they can tell us they want to pay us 10 cents, and we’re going to meet somewhere in between. Dan Proft: Closer to a million, I think. Amy Jacobson: Are you worried that your pension won’t be there when you retire? Mike DeRoss: Anybody that’s not retired already needs to worry about that, between that and social security, and by the way, maybe if we would just go and say “Put us into the social security system”, then the Board would have to kick that money to social security and the federal government wouldn’t let them take a pension holiday. Dan Proft: Well, yeah, but you don’t want to change out your pension under CPS for social security, do you? And say drastically reduce benefit. Mike DeRoss: Well no, that’s not the question at hand. The question at hand would be the expense, as I thought where we’re going. Dan Proft: Yeah, okay. I see what you’re saying. Mike DeRoss: And if the Board is crying over paying the pension as it is now, well fine. Give us 401K or our own directed pension, 443B, and go put us all under social security, and pay your 7% and then tell Uncle Sam, “Hey, we don’t have it, we’re not paying it this month. See what they do. Dan Proft: Michael DeRoss, I am exercising my executive authority to install you as the President of Chicago Teachers’ Union. Amy Jacobson: Hey, Michael, what are you going to do… Mike DeRoss: I’ll be thin and good looking before that happens. Amy Jacobson: Hey, Michael DeRoss, what are you going to do tomorrow when your co-workers are out there at the picket lines? Mike DeRoss: Well, I’m going to go to work, to see what work there is to do, if there are any kids there at all to be dealt with, we’ll deal with them, if not, teachers never run out of work to do, trust me on that one. I got lessons I could plan, papers to grade, but even if it comes to the idea of just sitting there and reviewing new things to be taught, I can do that as well. There’ll be something to do. I’m not just going to sit there and drink coffee and listen to WYND. Dan Proft: Well, you can do that while you grade papers. There’s nothing wrong with that. Alright, Michael DeRoss, Social Science teacher at Lane Tech High School; Michael, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Mike DeRoss: Thank you, good day.

 

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Dan Proft & Hilary Gowins Discuss CTU Strike

On this edition of “Illinois Rising”, Dan Proft and Hilary Gowins, Managing Editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, discuss university administrators who make $900,000 while MAP grants for low-income students are being cut, the Chicago Teachers’ Union most recent strike threat, and criminal justice reform with Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow and Lisa Creason of Decatur.

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Dan Proft: Good afternoon, Dan Proft back on another edition of Illinois Rising; my co-host this week is Hilary Gowins; she is the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, Hilary welcome! Hilary Gowins: Thanks, I’m glad to be here. Dan Proft: Very good, so a big week in state government; the fight this week over funding of higher education; not just the funding of universities themselves, but also map grants; and there’s a rally at Chicago State University, where cameras were there, so then Jesse Jackson Senior was obviously there as well, following the cameras as he is want to do, and he took the occasion of this rally at Chicago State for map grant funding, to compare governor Rauner to segregations governor George Wallace, and from the 60’, Jesse Jackson is saying the following: Jesse Jackson: Apparently he's indifferent to racism and poverty. He’s willing to sacrifice this school on the altar of a budget. Dan Proft: Governor Rauner indifferent to racism and poverty; that’s the charge that Jesse Jackson lodged, in addition to the comparison to George Wallace, which of course is indicative of Jesse Jackson Senior not being a serious person; but the underlying issue of map funding; Rauner wants to do one thing with a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Ken Dunkin, Chicago democrat, that will fund map grants, and Madigan and Cullerton want to do another thing with the bill that wouldn’t fund map grants, and someone Rauner is the modern day segregationist. It’s quite a contention that Jesse Jackson and some of the University presidents, and certainly their democrat legislative leaders in Springfield are making, isn’t it? Jesse Jackson: Yeah, it’s an interesting point to bring up. Really, the map grant situation is a bi-product of a higher education system that has brought tuition cost for students that are totally unaffordable for low income, or even middle class kids; and it’s a system that has been brought about under the watch of Madigan and Cullerton, much longer than Rauner’s ten year, so the problem goes back a lot farther than what they’re pointing out right now. Dan Proft: Well, let’s bring our friend Ted Dabrowski – he’s the vice president of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute – into this conversation. Ted, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Ted Dabrowski: Thank you. Dan Proft: So earlier this week, in my morning show, we talked to state representative Mark Badneck, republican freshman from Plainfield, who became an expert in this area of higher-ed funding, and he makes the point that we spend twice as much as the average state per student, and yet tuition at Illinois College Universities is 30-50% higher than their conference peers, so it’s not a spending problem – at least, relative to other states – and yet we have high tuition, and yet the people that are in charge are not to blame, the guy who’s up there for 12 months and is actually trying to fund map grants is. Can you kind of unpack all of this for us? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, I think what’s happened is this whole budget crisis is being used to blame Rauner and his attempts to reform higher education finance, but when you strip out the problems, this budget crisis is really exposing the massive cracks that exist in higher education; and what’s happened is – these university leaders don’t want you to know it – but they’ve created these massive job programs at higher-ed, and they’ve blown up the number of administrators they have – they have way too many administrators – the pay is so high that the only way to pay all those people – the executive pay that they’re getting – is to really raise tuition; raise the rates that are no longer affordable for that person trying to make ends meet; and so you’ve got too many administrators, way too high executive pay, massive pensions, and the way they’re doing that is just take it off the hide of the kids in high tuitions. Hilary Gowins: Yeah, Ted, so I was looking at the numbers, I saw a report that you wrote – that was released last week – and I saw that, for example, the highest paid admin at University of Illinois, Chicago, in 2014, she made $887.000 in salary and bonuses, which would have funded approximately 329 map grants. So that sort of brings to light the disparity of the problem here. Dan Proft: One administrator made 900 grand? Hilary Gowins: One administrator. So Ted, can you unpack that too? I mean, let’s talk about tuition, because tuition in the last ten years at state schools in Illinois has doubled. Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, they’ve doubled it, and I think you’re hitting a why, and it’s not just that high end guys who get that, but Paula Allen Meares got nearly $900.000 in 2014 from the University of Illinois. Think about what tuitions have to be to pay for that; but it’s not just her at the top spot; there are so many administrators now, the growth in administration has far outpaced the student growth – which has really been pretty small. Dan Proft: She should have to coach the men’s basketball team at UEI in addition to whatever else she’s supposedly doing for 900 grand. Ted Dabrowski: Well, I don’t know, Dan, I think that should be getting her about 2 million to 3 million. Dan Proft: Yeah, I know, but 900 grand for an administrator, what does she do? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, it’s amazing, but it’s more than numbered administrators in addition to that, so let’s talk about Chicago State, which has been the one that’s gotten a lot of the attention. It’s gotten to the point now – this is amazing – that there’s almost one administrator for every professor. So it’s almost as if you were standing in your class, and then you were there, there’d be a professor talking, an administrator right there standing right next to him/her, overseeing what’s going on, and that’s what’s driven up the cost so much. Dan Proft: That’s like the Department of Ag Joke. A guy walks in the Department of Agriculture, and he sees a guy at his desk with his head down, and he’s crying, and he walks up and says, ‘What are you crying about?’, and the guy picks up his head and he says ‘My farmer died’. No? No? I thought that’s a good one, I liked that, that’s a pretty good government humor. Hilary Gowins: Pretty good. Ted Dabrowski: That is. Hilary Gowins: Ted, I think the bottom line, what is making me so angry about this, is that at the end of the day, the problem for families is that college, even at a state school, is unaffordable, it’s out of reach, it’s not something that you can get if you’re a kid by working your way through school; tuition is growing at a rate that we just can’t keep up with. Ted Dabrowski: Well yeah, I was talking to a buddy of mine, and we both worked our way through high school – I went to Georgia Tech – and we worked our way through all the time; you could do that back then – you could have a job, earn a decent amount of pay, and tuition was affordable enough that you could do both. Today, it’s really hard to do that. Tuitions have doubled in the last decade, and jobs are harder to come by, especially in Illinois, so to do that is phenomenal. Dan Proft: And so these map grants – let’s go back to this, because this was the topic du jour on higher-ed this week – map grants that are provided to a wide range of Illinois Colleges and Universities for students. Go back to the political fight in Springfield. Governor Rauner vetoes the legislative leaders’ proposal in this area; they failed to overwrite his veto, and he has got a bi-partisan piece of legislation that would fund the map grants for these students – that is a wait in action. Explain the difference between the two and what happened this past week. Ted Dabrowski: The democrats want to pass a bill that effectively just spends money that we don’t have. And Rauner, of course, is trying to get the reforms. There are two things going on: one, he wants the budgetary reforms, so that we don’t keep doing the [excess? 00:08:19] penny borrowing, and having an unbalanced budget that we’ve had for now nearly two decades; that’s number one – number two though is before you enhance more money to the colleges and universities, he wants to see them reformed, because if not, all they do is they take the state money, and they hire more people, and they raise tuition. And so it defeats the purpose of trying to fund higher-ed. So he’s trying to come up with a bill that is funded, that there is money there to give, due to the map grants, and can assure that when we pay map grants then suddenly we’re not funding – then we have a problem if we don’t have revenues for that, we’re just going to create more problems with the social service agencies that are waiting for money; so he’s trying to avoid multiple problems at the same time. Dan Proft: And so, one of the other things was some of these university presidents saying ‘We don’t want to get involved in politics, we’re not playing politics, we haven’t been told by legislative leaders to appear or not appear with the governor and any other politician, because this was an allegation the governor had made, that Madigan told them ‘Don’t appear with the governor until after the primary’; yet Chicago State, the president there, is rallying with Jesse Senior while he’s calling the governor George Wallace. Ted Dabrowski: I think what’s amazing is that University Pres. may want to look at their administrative staff. We just calculated the numbers, and if Chicago State reduced its loaded administration – and I mentioned they have one administrator for every faculty member – if they reduced their administration by a third, they could fund any one of those map grants that is not funded today. Dan Proft: Right, and so it’s worth appointing – I don’t think I’ve said this explicitly – the map grants are for low income students, so they’re the champions of low income students, but they won’t reorganize their own house to free up money to provide access to their college and universities for their said low income students. Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, and then that’s why I think in the end it should become job programs for adults, and they’re forgetting the kids who now can’t afford to go there. I think we have to flip this thing on its head and change the narrative; it has nothing to do with a budget crisis – it has all to do with the decades long loathe and growth in salary and pensions. We didn’t even talk about pensions; that’s eating up most of the state aid that’s going from the state to the universities. Dan Proft: And so that’s the point, going back to this twice as much as the average state on higher-ed what Illinois spends for student; it’s not like that money is going to the classroom – very much like at the K-12 level, it’s going to the administrative overhead pensions, the benefits, and the like. Ted Dabrowski: That’s right, and if you look at the pensions that all these administrators would get, most of them are retired in their fifties, because they were allowed to retire in their fifties, and they’ll bring in three to five to six million dollars in pension income, and that’s what the kids’ tuitions are trying to pay for, and it just doesn’t work that way. It shouldn’t work that way. Dan Proft: He is Ted Dabrowski – he’s the vice president of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. Ted, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Ted Dabrowski: Thank you. Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins; she is the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and criminal justice reformed the big issue for the Illinois policy institute. Governor Rauner, big issue for him. He formed in Illinois State commission on criminal justice and sentencing reform in his first year in office, trying to reduce the prison population in Illinois by 25%, and if you’re going to do that, need to work with law enforcement, and think perhaps about creative things to do to help non-violent offenders get on a path to being productive citizens, and this is an initiative the Illinois Policy Institute is pursuing as well. Hilary Gowins: Right. So, a lot of the numbers here show that what we’re doing now is just basically us banging our heads against the wall; so we know that really half of ex-offenders who serve their sentence and leave the prison will end up back behind bars within three years. On the contrary, if a person is employed within a year of being released, they are only 16% likely to go back behind bars, so something’s got to change. These aren’t just numbers, these are real people’s lives, we’re losing human capital, and we’re spending a lot of money in the process, and it’s just not working. Dan Proft: You’re right, you need to have people that have a stake in society; they’re less likely to commit a crime if they got a stake in society; and so, the balancing of you have to punish people who break the law, you have to keep the rest of society safe from criminal predators, but there needs to be some ability for the system to make judgment calls about somebody committing an offense – mostly non-violent offenses, I’d suggest – and they pay their debt, and they get it, and they made a mistake, and they’re unlikely to make that mistake again, how do we reintegrate them into society in a way that they can be productive? Hilary Gowins: Well, one of the biggest problems is that even when a person’s rehabilitated, and they serve their time, and they do their time and they get out, we’re telling them no to meaningful work. They’re not able to find jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families, and that’s the biggest problem: if you can’t find work, all of a sudden, it’s a lot easier to go back to what you know, and that might land you back behind bars. Dan Proft: You put them back in the desperate straits that maybe incentivized them to make a bad choice in the first place. Hilary Gowins: And it’s not hard to understand. Well, we’ve got a good case study in this, and this young lady spoke at an Illinois Policy Institute event recently; her name is Lisa Creason, she comes to us from Decatur, and Lisa, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Lisa Creason: Thanks, thanks for having me. Dan Proft: And so, on this issue of criminal justice reform and helping people that make a mistake reintegrate into society so they don’t make those same mistakes again, you have a particular compelling story to tell. Why don’t you tell us that story about making a bad choice when you were a young woman, then getting back to making good choice. Lisa Creason: Well, when I was 19 - that would have been back in 1993 - I was convicted and found guilty of attempted robbery. I had walked into a local restaurant, and told the cashier to give me the money out of the cash register. I was at a very desperate time of my life at that time; I was a single mom with a young child at home, and we needed some food, and I was about to be evicted from my apartment, and it was just a really bad time; in a moment of despair I made a very bad decision that landed me a felony conviction. Dan Proft: And just to fill the detail on this event, when you said ‘Give me the cash and the cash register’, were you armed at the time? Lisa Creason: No, I wasn’t very experienced in this field, thank God. I just really went in and made a demand the cashier refused and I split. Of course, I didn’t even make an attempt to conceal my identity when I went into the store, because I just really believed that my thinking was just so desperate at the time, that I really hoped something would change in my life to get me on the track I needed to be on. Hilary Gowins: And Lisa, I think what is compelling about your story is you’re so upfront about the fact that you were in a bad place in your life, and you made a bad decision, and you had to pay the consequences, but I know that a lot of people have been inspired by your story, because after you went through all of that, you came out and you worked hard, and now you got your nursing degree, and you just want to get back to work and put food on the table for your kids, but you’re being told no. Tell me about that. Lisa Creason: When I came home, I really wanted to give back to my community, because I felt like that was what I needed to do in order to pay back the little bit of trouble that I had given them; so, of course I started working with at risk teens and doing things within the community to reduce violence, but then I went to school so that I could be able to invest in my children’s future, as far as their college, their stability, and as you said, I graduated and then proceeded to take my state licensing test, and I received a not so nice leatherback that said that I was permanently barred from taking the licensure test due to a 22 year old felony conviction that I just spoke of. Dan Proft: And just to be clear, you did serve time in prison for the offence? Lisa Creason: I did, I was sentenced to three years, and I served one year in prison, and then was released to the Work Release in Decatur, Illinois, and I successfully completed that program, and just charged from there. Dan Proft: And then the subsequent two decades that are prior to wanting to sit for your nursing exam, no incidents with the law, just taking care of your family? Lisa Creason: Actually I had an incident in 1999 with a traffic situation, where I claimed the responsibility for driving a vehicle that I actually was not driving, but other than that, no. No further incidents other than that. Hilary Gowins: And Lisa, I know that your story is incredible, and it shows how frustrating this process can be, and what’s even harder, probably for you and for a lot of people listening to hear, is that there are more than 110 of these occupations that the state licenses, so you have to get permission from the state to work in these fields, barbers, beauticians, all different kinds of careers, and people like you, Lisa, who maybe made a mistake are being told no, even if you just want to be productive and get a job, you can’t get this license to work. Lisa Creason: Well, see, the crazy thing in my situation and like others like me is, in fact the state did tell us yes at one point in time; I was granted a waiver from the Illinois Department of Public Health, that granted me permission to pursue the nursing field in 2005, but then lawmakers came back in 2011 with this new law that restricted licensure for forcible felonies, and they didn’t allow any room for individuals like myself who had already went through the process, and been granted a waiver. Dan Proft: Now that’s given raise, that’s interesting: the state giveth and the state taketh away. Lisa Creason: You’re right. Dan Proft: It’s given raise to senate bill 42, which would allow ex-offenders like you the chance to petition the state like you did the Department of Health back in 05’, to petition the agency that regulates these professions, as Hilary was describing, the chance to get a waiver, so that if you’ve proven that you’re a contributing member of society, and you would make a great nurse, or whatever profession the state licenses, that you can get a waiver and pursue that. Lisa Creason: And that’s correct, and that’s why senate bill 42’s so important, because without this bill we’ll restricting hundreds of careers, from nursing to becoming a barber; I mean, it’s ridiculous, the things that are restricted with this law; but it’s been proven – it just makes more sense to Illinois – because it’s been proven repeatedly through research, study after study after study, that if ex-offenders are fully employed, with good substantial employment, then they are less likely to reoffend. It just makes more sense, to keep more people out here paying taxes, contributing to the economy, instead of taking more tax money away from the tax payers to warehouse people that don’t necessarily need to be warehoused, they just needed an opportunity and didn’t have one. Hilary Gowins: And Lisa, just like you said, this is common sense, this isn’t a republican or democrat issue, our system needs to get smart on crime, not hard on crime anymore, and give people a chance at work, and taking care of themselves. Lisa Creason: What being hard on crime has gotten us has become very cold hearted to the families that are involved beyond being hard on crime. Everybody makes a mistake in life, whether it’s a criminal mistake, whether it’s a mistake with our value system in life, everyone knows what it’s like to make a mistake and regret that mistake. We have to remember how to have empathy for the next person, and the family they’re bringing up, as we want to make the state better, because the cycle has stop somewhere. Dan Proft: Speaking of family, you mentioned you were a single mom when you committed that crime. What subsequently happened if you got out of prison with the child you had at the time and then subsequent children? How was your family? Lisa Creason: Well, my family’s great, thank you! I have a sixteen year old son and a ten year old son who are still at home, they’re both honor roll, they participate in sports. My daughter has grown. She’s a certified nursing assistant, and she currently attends college for dental hygienist, and then I also have custody of a long time friend of my son’s, who’s adoptive mother passed away a few years back, so I’ve got a lot of kids around, but that’s a blessing. Dan Proft: Wow, and it’s a great turn-around story too. Lisa Ceason, thanks so much for joining us and good luck. Appreciate it! Lisa Creason: Thank you, have a good day. Dan Proft: You too. Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins this week; she’s the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and Hilary, we were just talking to Lisa Creason about ex-offenders and criminal justice reform in the state of Illinois to give people who made a mistake but have paid their price, and set themselves on the straightened arrow, give them a chance to be contributing productive members of society. This is something the Illinois Policy Institute has taken up with some strange bedfellows, including the ACLU; can you give us a framework of what you were trying to do? Hilary Gowins: Yeah, we are doing everything to emphasize reforming bad policies that prevent people who have made a mistake and served their time from being productive members of society, essentially. So we’re going to talk to Jim Glasgow here in a minute, and the reason that we are working with Jim and the people on his program is because Jim, who is the Will County State’s Attorney, his group founded the first drug court in Illinois. So a drug court is a program that takes people who are charged with possession… Dan Proft: Not violent drug offenders. Hilary Gowins: Not violent drug offenders, no. So these people are charged with possession, they’re addicted to heroin, or whatever it may be, and instead of going to prison, which costs $38,000/year/inmate in Illinois, they put them through a rehabilitation program that costs $3000/successful graduate; so think about that: that’s $38,000 versus $3000, and we’re actually doing something productive, that gets people out of the system, gets the felony off their records, so once they’re rehabilitated, they can get back to work, they can get on with their lives, and they’re going to be out of the system. So this is the great program. Dan Proft: So let’s bring in the aforesaid Will County State’s Attorney, Jim Glasgow. Jim, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Jim Glasgow: Pleasure. Dan Proft: So you were a bit ahead of the learning curve on this – the Will County Drug Court you created back in 1999, so you have a pretty good body of evidence to suggest how this is working for non-violent drug offenders, not only in terms of helping them with their addiction, so they don’t commit petty crimes, or worse, but then also helping them get on a pathway to being productive citizens. Just give us a sense of what’s happened over the seventeen years now that this program has been in place in Will County. Jim Glasgow: That’s a tight timeframe, Dan, but back in 1998, I saw a grant come across the wire for half a million dollars for a drug court; but it was a judicial grant, so I went for the chief judge, and got his permission to write it, because I had the staff to do it. We didn’t know how to incite this – it’s on East Coast and on West Coast, and saw the courts in action – and when we opened our court in late 99’ – early 2000’, there were about 500 drug courts nationwide. Today there’s 3400. I think that is a resonating validation of how effective they are, and I always like to tout the fact that, 2000 we had a graduate of our drug court, that avoided a felony conviction. She went to college, she went to Law School, and I hired her as a prosecutor in my office, and then ceremoniously I had her attend drug court graduation, and make the motion dismiss the felony charges against the drug court graduates, just as she had it done for her. Now when you talk about the value of drug courts, just take that one person who’s not a lawyer, that could have been a convicted felon, take them out over a 75 year lifespan each way, Dan, tell me how many millions of dollars difference you have there. Dan Proft: Yeah, and is there any data on recidivism rates in terms of those that go through the drug court versus those that have been imprisoned? The non-violent drug offenders… Jim Glasgow: Our drug court’s been phenomenally successful. I’ve had great people personnel running the court; Julie McCabe-Sterr is running it now, and she’s – I call her Mother Theresa – she’s been running it since 2004 and the results have been phenomenal. We basically have a 95% success rate. Only 5% of the graduates have reoffended with a drug offence. That’s phenomenal. The normal recidivism rate is 65-75% on up. In the prior programs that were in place there were well intentions, and I won’t mention them, but they’ve pretty much put the individual on their on so that they’ll be good, and they weren’t; in fact, we still get people from those programs into our drug court, who failed there, give them a second chance, and with the intensive counseling that you get in drug court, first there’s incarceration, then there’s impatient treatment, then there’s constant – you know – urine drops, then we put you in a halfway house for six months, get you a job as we’re weaning you back into society. The total cost is about $3000. When you consider it costs $30,000 to lock someone up in prison during the same period of time; we’ve a Redeploy Illinois program we could talk about sometime, where we’re diverting non-violent property offenders who are just cycling through DOC into the work force, and that instrument has potential. Getting back to the drug court, we’ve had a tremendous increase in heroin overdoses, and but for our drug course, we thought it would be much worse if I had at least a half a dozen of the graduates come up to me after graduation, shake my hand and thank me because they said, ‘I’d be dead if it wasn’t for this court’, because the heroin that’s out on the street today, I’m sure you know, is so deadly, the potency is higher than we’ve ever seen it before, and here we were averaging single digit overdoses – maybe low teens and in 2009 we spiked the 29, and then we hit the highest 53 in 2012, and we repeated that last year; we’ve knocked it down a little bit for two years, but the drug court has been the bastion to keep us on task here, but there’s no way, once you’ve started using heroin - you’re not the same person. Your rational thought process has come undone. You’re basically – they call it – chasing the dragon. And sadly, we’ve had three fatal overdoses in our drug court; that’s how compelling… where you have the sword of Damocles over your head with a prison sentence or a felony conviction, you got the state of the art treatment, the state of the art psychological help, and you still can’t stay away from the drugs. Dan Proft: Well, I’ll tell you what, 95% success rate, it’s great, not just in terms of the expense that you’re saving taxes, but turning people’s lives around, which is more important, and frankly, with our prisons being about 30% overcrowded, it seems that that’s a much better path for law enforcement than the incarceration path. County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, thanks so much for joining us, good luck with the program, appreciate it. Jim Glasgow: Dan, thank you very much. Take care! Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins; managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and Hilary, this week, the Chicago Teacher’s Union telegraphed that they are prepared to strike, or maybe reiterate it – they’ve been saying that for several months now; maybe as early as April 1st if CPS goes through with the threat to stop making the 7% contribution to teacher’s pensions that it’s been making for the last 7 years – 7% of the total 9% that teachers contribute to their pensions, which – what’s the average pension for CPS teacher? Hilary Gowins: Well, I know the average salary is about $70,000, and lifetime payouts are about $2,000,000 for most workers. Dan Proft: And I saw that – I think the average pension for recently retired career teachers – $73,350; that’s – in real dollars, in present value – that’s more like a pension that’s north of $2,000,000 dollars. Hilary Gowins: Right. Dan Proft: So think about the average family man. I always try to put this into real dollars. The average family in Illinois, do you know how long it takes to save $2,000,000 dollars to pay yourself $73,000 dollars a year in retirement? Forever; infinity; you can’t do it. Hilary Gowins: Well, the medium household income in Chicago is $40,000, you know, so that’s something to think about, and what’s really sad is that instead of talking about kids and how we’re going to improve the 66% graduation rate that CPS has… Dan Proft: And I don’t even believe that number. Hilary Gowins: Right, well they’ve inflated it to 69% and since walked it back to 66%, but instead of talking about kids and how we’re going to improve education for 350,000 students, we’re talking about asking people to pay into their retirement, instead of us picking it up for them; since 1981, Chicago has paid 1.2 billion dollars in pension pick-up costs. Dan Proft: Well, it’s a third party administrator for the adults in the system, that’s just what CPS is, and it’s interesting that you know 350,000 kids in the system. I remember, not so long ago, that number was 400,000 kids; so you’re seeing people flee that system, people who can, and of course those that cannot are the ones that are treated the worst at exorbitant prices; the strike that CTU – Chicago Teacher’s Union – is talking about, why wouldn’t they strike, when they’ve struck three, four years ago, they rolled Tiny Dancer and City Hall, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing and receive the same benefit? They’ve got 300 million dollar increase in salary and benefits as a result of the last strike; why not continue on and that means CPS has to borrow money at Tony Soprano rates, or somebody has to be carved up to fund their guaranteed salaries and pensions, then so be in; and what disincentive do they have to do that, because who stood up and said no to them, except, perhaps, governor Rauner? Hilary Gowins: Right, and if you look at Illinois labor law, they’re actually not allowed to strike on April 1st, based on the steps they’d have to go into an actual strike, but that’s exactly what they did in 2012, so you know, the rules don’t really matter, I guess, to CTS and CTU. Dan Proft: Well, who’s going to stop them? Hilary Gowins: Nobody’s going to stop them. They’re saying that asking teachers to pay the full 9% toward their pension costs is an unfair labor practice, but the problem is that they’re not willing to come to the negotiation table in good faith; CPS is saying ‘We will give you raises if you just pay for your pension cost’, and they’re saying that that’s unfair; but truth is that Chicago teacher pensions have just half of the funding that they need to pay out for retirement costs now, so the system has to change. Dan Proft: And CPS; I don’t want to give anyone the impression that CPS is wearing the white hat in this story; CPS, the latest toddy in charge Forrest Claypool, they’re just as craven and disingenuous as the Chicago Teacher’s Union in terms of the finances. I mean, what’s Forrest Claypool been doing – and Tiny Dancer, by extension? They haven’t proposing structural reforms, they’ve been running down to Springfield with their ten cups saying ‘Give us half a billion dollars’. Hilary Gowins: Right, nobody wants to talk about structural reforms, they don’t want to talk about what it’s going to take to get kids an education; they don’t want to talk about that. They want to talk about ‘Well, give me this much money so that we can just make it by for another year’. Dan Proft: And another thing too, you mentioned the inflated 66% graduation rate; let’s even take that to be true, for the sake of discussion, what percentage of those 66% are coming out ready for the workforce or post-secondary education? Hilary Gowins: What’s really low, a lot of the kids who end up going to college after they graduate – whether it’s the city College of Chicago, or somewhere else – they end up having to take remedial courses anyway, because they weren’t ready to be in college in the first place. Dan Proft: Yeah, I remember when the consortium in Chicago School Research over at University of Chicago started looking at that; what is Chicago public school graduate? What’s really happening after they graduate, they found – this is about a decade old – they found initially that about 1/10 high school freshman CPS would get a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25. 1/10 – so, in 400,000 kids, now 350,000 kids – 1/10 will get a BA by 25. Now I think that number has moved up to maybe 1/6, but still, 50-60% of 350,000 kids that are going to get a bachelor degree by the age of 25, death of civilization numbers. Hilary Gowins: Right, I mean this is a system that is just churning kids out; it’s not good, something’s got to change, and when you consider that in neighborhoods like Englewood, unemployment is hovering somewhere around 20%, there are neighborhoods in Chicago that are really struggling, and a lot of those kids in those neighborhoods are stuck going to CPS schools. They can’t get out, there are no alternatives; the kids really suffer. They can’t leave these schools, and here we are talking about teacher pensions. Dan Proft: Discriminating against children based on their household income and their address, dis-proportioning minorities, same thing with employment. Wall Street Journal this week – story on the state with the worst employment for African-Americans in the country; the worst – Illinois, north of 40% in the forth quarter last year; under Chicago democrat rule, the black caucus in the city council, the black caucus in the general assembly, the Chicago democrats who have run the city of Chicago for 100 years; who’s being left behind? Hilary Gowins: Yeah, kids just don’t have hope. Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins; managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and Hilary, governor Rauner – got a little animated this week. I’d like to see him get off script and talk like the guy that was the candidate that people decided needed to be the governor, and really get after the legislative leaders in Springfield. You can only offer so many olive branches before you need to take those branches and woop some people with them, and that’s what he started to do this week, when he addressed the issue of higher-ed funding, and what Cullerton and Madigan are doing with a bi-partisan bill that is on the table to fund higher education. Here’s governor Rauner: Bruce Rauner: We’ve got a dictatorship of one individual who cares about politics over people. Dan Proft: And he’s talking about House Speaker Mike Madigan, of course. Governor Rauner went on on topic. Bruce Rauner: We have a bi-partisan bill to fund our universities with 160 million dollars right now. Speaker Madigan is managing this process for political games, political gain in the primary election, not to help our students. Dan Proft: And so the question is this war of words between governor Rauner and Mike Madigan, this war of wills too on matter like higher-ed funding, how do you think this plays out for the governor? Hilary Gowins: I think that Rauner is telling the truth, obviously; Madigan and Cullerton have been in Illinois politics for more than eighty years, so that just tells you how in trench they are with the status quo. Many in the media continue to shield Madigan, and I don’t know that this strategy is necessarily working out for Rauner right now. Dan Proft: And he went on, and he had – apparently – kind of a private conversation with Cullerton, that he decided to make public in a very entertaining way. It’s a rather incredible statement that he relayed Cullerton made to him. Bruce Rauner: And you know what the president Cullerton said to me in private? He said, ‘Bruce, I’ve lived in Mike’s shadow for 37 years, I’m not going to step out now’. Can you believe that? You wonder why Illinois is in such deep yogurt ladies and gentlemen? Dan Proft: No, I don’t wonder. I don’t wonder at all. It’s a real profile encourage down there with senate president John Cullerton, who lords over a super majority of democrats and is very comfortable in Mike Madigan’s shadow. Hilary Gowins: Yeah, here’s the problem, I think people like us, Dan, and a lot of our listeners, are very involved in Illinois politics; they read about Madigan and his antics, but there are tons of other people in Illinois who just, you know, they don’t know the nuances. I think Rauner is really missing an opportunity to change the conversation, to pull a down-draper, and instead of focusing on… Dan Proft: Oh, you went mad men on us. Hilary Gowins: The men behind the curtain, who are Madigan and Cullerton, I think he needs to start talking about the things that we were talking about at the top of this show, which include the breakdown in higher education funding, for example. He would be really smart to do that, and here’s a great opportunity, but right now we’re talking about two men who the most people in Illinois don’t really know exist. Dan Proft: So you’re suggesting he needs to do more explaining. This is – forget the competing bills, forget Madigan’s a dictator of one – although I think more and more people are becoming aware of Mike Madigan and it is difficult, especially for the left, to defend the idea of the guy who’s been here for twelve months is the problem; not the guy who’s been in charge for three decades, especially after they’ve spent the last eight years saying everything that’s happened during the Obama administration is George Bush’s fault. They put him in a little bit of a trick back, the left, but to your point, when you talk about higher-ed, or you talk about the Chicago public schools, or any other budget matter, system change is a nice phrase, but you got to drill it down so you can bring people along with you. Hilary Gowins: Right, and I’m not saying that he should avoid exposing Madigan and Cullerton for what they really are; and they’re people who are out for themselves, and out to protect the elite members of their inside circle, but he has to balance that with things that people understand. He has to speak to the people, and to do that he needs to talk about things like higher education in terms of look at how much tuition has cost us and it’s doubled in the last decade for Illinois public universities; why is that? Talk about loaded administrative roles, talk about pensions that take up more than half of the higher-ed funding; he has to break it down for people. Dan Proft: I think actually that’s an excellent point, and I think it’s underappreciated, particularly by republicans – they just want to play this democrat game rather – I think people viscerally know what’s happening, but they don’t know the details, and they want details; they want to understand it. You got a kid going to college, you want to understand it; why am I paying more to send my kid to U of I than my friends in Indiana are paying to send their kids to IU, or University of Iowa, or any other. I mean, people do want to be brought along and understand that, and if you do that then you turn people into proselytes just for your message, and can start to have a multiplier effect where you can – as you said – change the conversation and start to change some outcomes. Hilary Gowins: Right, this hits people at home. This hits families where it hurts. Rauner’s done a good job talking about things like property taxes, which everybody who owns a home in Illinois feels. We’ve talked to – at the Illinois Policy Institute – a woman in Crystal Lake – who is paying $1,100 for her mortgage and $1,500 a months for her property tax. Telling people numbers like that, it shocks them.

 

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Dan & Amy Interview CTU VP Jesse Sharkey

Chicago Teachers' Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey says Chicago Public Schools (CPS) need 25% more than the $15,000+ it spends per pupil in order to improve the quality of education the system provides. Sharkey also discussed the continuing possibility of a teachers' strike and the GOP idea of a state takeover of CPS.

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Proft: Jesse thanks again for joining us. Sharkey: As always, thanks for having me on. Proft: Let’s start with the prospect of the strike. Where does that stand? Have there been further discussion with Claypool and the CPS honchos. Where does that stand? Sharkey: We’re negotiating with them. And frankly, negotiations have been serious and productive. One of the big problems is obviously the overall funding picture of the district. So it does tie back in to what you guys were doing earlier in the segment. And we’re very aware that Cullerton moved the school funding formula. But to be fair to Cullerton and also Senator Andy Manar, who’s the one whose bill this is, they’ve been moving that bill in the Senate for the last better part of a decade. This is not a new issue. Chicago gets about $600 million in a block grant. And you talk about Peter and Paul, and I’m no theological scholar, but I think even Jesus recognized that the least among us should get a helping hand. Proft: Woah. Channeling John Kasich this morning. Intreresting. Here’s the rub, Jesse. Let me just give you an example. I’ve got all the numbers statewide. I mentioned this earlier in the show but I’d like to get your reaction. I’ve got all the numbers statewide in terms of the per-pupil expenditure, plus the local versus state versus federal distribution, or composition of that funding. So, for example, Matteson. Its a smaller community in south Cook County. Blue collar. Working to middle income. A lot of children that qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, like in Chicago. Here are the numbers. District 159 in Matteson, $15,159 per student Chicago, $15,120 per student So, basically the same. District 159, 70 percent low income. CPS, 87 percent low income. But here’s the difference. District 159 is funded 80 percent from local property taxpayers. CPS, funded 49 percent from local property taxpayers, getting two times more from the state than does Matteson. So you have Matteson District 159, with 70 percent of the kids from low-income families that are subsidizing CPS, that’s the basic fact. Sharkey: The issue Dan and Amy is that in Chicago you have huge concentrations of poverty, English-language learners, Special Education students. And those concentrations add up and are difficult to deal with and produce conditions that produce real challenges for educators. I’m not saying that places like Matteson should get cut. But Manar and Cullerton are right when they point out that even if you look at the block grant, which is the way Chicago’s schools are funded, it doesn’t really take into account just how difficult it is to educate students in places like Chicago. Chicago, like I said, gets $600 million from the state on a budget of $4.5 billion. Chicago in fact gets a lot of its money from the state and the feds through special education money, Title 1 funding. And it produces a real challenge. CTU has often said that if you compare the tax rates of Chicago to the tax rates of the collar suburbs, our local property taxes are actually lower rates. But I don’t think you guys are arguing we should increase the rate for homeowners in Chicago. Proft: That already did happen. And it’s going to continue. Sharkey: Not for the schools so much. That last increase, only like a tenth of it went to the schools. Jacobson: It went to fire and police pensions. Proft: Well, right. Because everything in the city is bankrupt. The numbers are the numbers. But one thing on property taxes. Let’s just understand something here. Cook County does property tax classification differently than the other 101 counties. So they use commercial to subsidize residential, whereas in the collar counties it’s all assessed at the same rate. Sharkey: Chicago has the ability to do that because it has a commercial district in a way that the collars don’t. Jacobson: From what I’m hearing from the teachers that I know at our Chicago Public School, they don’t think there’s going to be a strike because Karen Lewis made a great concession saying they will end the process of requiring contributions to their pensions Sharkey: I see what Karen was saying is that in a situation where there’s a real difficulty with the district’s finances. We obviously have debates among a lot of people, the mayor and you guys included about what the source of that difficulty is. But we see that there’s a financial crisis and there’s difficulty there. I think what Karen was trying to say is that everything’s on the table. What she wasn’t saying is that we’re going to go in and slash what’s effectively seven percent of our compensation and give that back to help other people solve the crisis on our backs. Jacobson: But you’re willing to take a hit, right? It sounded to me like ending the practice of picking up the bulk of the teacher’s required contributions to the pensions but-- so you’re saying that’s not true? That that was misleading in the media? Sharkey: What I’m saying is that you’d never accused us of not being shrewd bargainers and not trying to drive a hard bargain. Proft: No- we would not accuse you of that. Sharkey: What we’re saying is that everything’s on the table. And we’re trying to figure out if the district is committed to making the system work. There would have to be something in return for people who work for the schools. We’d have to have some assurances that there’s not going to go gutting the district, handing it over to charter operators, closing schools, stuffing kids in classes like sardines. There’s a whole series of things that we would want before you could talk about the pension pick-up and what would happen to it and what teacher’s compensation would be like in the future. There’s a whole conversation that complicates the negotiations right now. Proft: Do you think that the trial balloon floated by Governor Rauner and Republicans in terms of providing a pathway for CPS to reorganize under bankruptcy protection. Do you think that’s mean-spirited? Do you think there are bad intentions? Sharkey: I just think it’s not wise in terms of the reputational and financial investment that’s been made in CPS over the past 20 years. If you just look back at how much school construction. And can point to how far we have left to go in terms of student achievement rates and things like that. And that’s fair. No one ever said it was easy to educate in schools that have a 100 percent poverty rate and 80 percent mobility rate and things like that. But there’s been a lot of progress in the school system. There are lots of schools that do very well. There are whole neighborhoods in swathes of the city where people move to those neighborhoods for the schools. There are a number of ways where, despite everything, teachers and people who work in the schools have found success. I think the prospect of saying “the whole thing is broken, we’re going to flush it,” that’s a bad idea. Proft: Well, they didn’t flush Detroit they’re reorganizing it. There’s not flushing it they’re reorganizing it to rethink it and frankly to get out from underneath of some of the bills that you cannot pay, at least not at full freight. Sharkey: Ok, but what happened to Detroit is that a number of the vendors and creditors didn’t get paid. They took a haircut. Workers in the schools didn’t get paid and took a haircut. Proft: Yeah Bondholders. That’s what happens in bankruptcy. Right. Sharkey: So-- and look at the result. Jacobson: Are you just scared that if that happens, if they declare bankruptcy and that state takes control that you would lose control? Is that your biggest fear? Sharkey: Everybody loses control right? Sure. Who wants to have a federal bankruptcy judge with an up or down vote on a plan which the governor makes? I think the schools should be more democratically run, not less democratically run. We should have some local control. Proft: I want to go back to the per-pupil spending. $15,120 for Chicago. And you talked about the difficulty that a big urban school system presents. Maybe it shouldn’t be so big. But that’s a separate conversation. Have you guys determined what you think the actual number needs to be? The kind of resources you need on a per-pupil basis to do a better job educating children? Sharkey: We made a series of proposals, all of which have costs attached to them. The district made a pretty big point of that. The things that we would need, that we think would produce a better educational result. Can you drill down to a single number for me, per-pupil? Sharkey: Yeah I think for a billion dollars extra for year, you could probably do a lot. Proft: And the budget this year for CPS was? Sharkey: It was $4.5. Proft: So a 25 percent increase. Ok, well that’s a number. I appreciate it. Sharkey: I mean, look. Realistically, what’s likely to happen politically is those numbers are likely to move in the other direction. I like to point out that in the foundation world alone, which is being funded by Gates money and Walton money and Broad Money has spent that billion dollars in the last few years trying to advocate for charter schools. They’ll spend more than that much money on the presidential cycle, on ads and what not. There’s a lot of money- soft money that’s pouring in to super PACS. It sounds outrageous until you realize you’re talking about 400,000 of kids growing up in the most challenging environments in the country.

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