Blumenthal: Chicago Teachers Union's demands, strike threat 'selfish'
While an 11th-hour deal kept the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) from walking off the job as it settled contract negotiations with the city Tuesday, Martin Blumenthal, the Republican candidate in the District 58 state House race, was not surprised at the threat of a strike from the union and expressed disappointment over the union's ultimatum.
“Let’s take a look at their issues," Blumenthal told the Lake County Gazette. "Do they need better textbooks or better desks for the kids, or can the kids afford pencils and school supplies? No. It’s about them. It’s not about the kids. That’s typical.”
The CTU’s contract with the city expired over a year ago, and renewal talks were turbulent.
“Every agency is hurting financially, (but) they just keep raising property taxes to bail out Chicago Public Schools,” Blumenthal said. “I think they are being very selfish in striking. They know what a tough time Chicago and the state are having, and they are still demanding more. To me, it is not a moral thing to do.”
The latest round of negotiations centered on monetary issues, as the union demanded an 8.75 percent increase in teacher wages, gradual bumps in salary based on seniority and experience, and better pension and health care benefits.
Blumenthal said the union's demands are unfair to taxpayers.
“I’m not surprised that they are still getting around the intent of the law,” Blumenthal said. “It is obviously political favoritism at the expense of taxpayers. This is why our pension debt is so huge. They just keep bumping these year-end salaries, so their pensions get bumped up, adding millions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities to the taxpayers.”
Blumenthal said the union is playing politics with taxpayers' money.
“It’s not right what they are doing,” Blumenthal said. “They know it’s not right what they are doing, but it’s the nature of the political system throughout the state.”
Adding to the turmoil of Chicago’s problems is a recent credit downgrade of the Chicago Board of Education by Moody’s Investors Service. The firm reduced the rating deeper into junk level, to B3 with a negative outlook from B2. It cites Chicago Public Schools' dependency on borrowing money and turbulent financial management as its reasons for the downgrade.
Blumenthal said this reduction will affect taxpayers in two ways: debt and interest.
“Well, the main effect on taxpayers is they will be millions more in debt, but also the interest rates,” Blumenthal said. “The lower you go, the higher the interest rate. I haven’t seen the actual numbers, but it has to be millions more in interest over the life of these bonds for junk status. Taxpayers get a left and a right cross at the same time -- first, on the additional debt and then on the interest rate they have to pay.”
Blumenthal said taxpayers once again will bear the brunt of the Chicago Board of Education’s financial missteps.
“Someone has to pay for it, and guess who is going to do it?” Blumenthal said. “It’s going to be the property owners in the city.”
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