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- Rauner, Rahm, or Madigan—who’s lyin’ when he oughta be truthin’?
If we ever get around to having mandatory civics classes in public schools—and there’s a bill to that effect in the statehouse—I feel for any teacher who has to give a lesson on the recent CPS pension extension bill.
You’d need a degree in psychology and political science to explain how that baby went down.
If you weren’t paying attention, here’s what happened . . .
Mayor Rahm asked for an extension on making a $634 million contribution to the underfunded Chicago teachers’ pension fund.
With extra time, the mayor said, he’d have enough property taxes on hand to pay the pension bill and still have money for basics, like regular janitorial service.
Oh, wait, we’re already doing without that. Forget I mentioned it.
In any event, the extension looked like a sure thing since the state’s three most powerful politicians said they supported it.
That would be house speaker Michael Madigan, Governor Rauner, and Mayor Emanuel.
But in the house vote on Tuesday, the bill fell 18 votes shy of the 71 it needed to pass.
So question one in our civics class is: How can a bill fail if the state’s three most powerful politicians support it?
The short answer is that just because a politician says he’s for something doesn’t mean he really is.
That’s a tough lesson to teach, as it forces students to confront that, though lying is wrong, grownups do it all the time.
Especially elected officials.
So now the civics teacher must ask the class: Who’s the biggest liar in this debate—Rauner, Rahm or Madigan?
Lord, I hope these civics teachers have tenure.
Let’s start with Mayor Rahm. He claims he needs the extension because he’s exhausted all other options for funding the public schools.
Obviously, that’s not true. For one thing, he’s not exhausted the TIFs, which would be exhibit A in any discourse on lying by public officials.
The tax increment financing program is the one in which the mayor jacks up our property taxes in the name of funding schools and then diverts them to various slush funds that he controls.
Hey, teachers, good luck teaching the kids about slush funds.
That brings us to Governor Rauner, the top Republican in the state.
He swears up and down he favored the extension, but 24 Republican house members voted against it.
Put it this way, if those Republicans had voted yes, the bill would have passed.
One of the no votes came from state rep Ron Sandack, a Republican from Downers Grove, one of Rauner’s most enthusiastic supporters in the assembly.
In fact, it’s Sandack who introduced legislation that would enable municipalities to declare bankruptcy, which is what Mayor Emanuel says he wants to avoid by extending the deadline.
If I were teaching the class, I’d say it sure looks as though Rauner doesn’t give a hoot if the bill passes, and would be just as happy if the Chicago Public Schools went belly-up.
Of course, I don’t think there’s a school in the state that would hire someone like me to teach civics.
On the other hand, 22 Democrats voted against the bill. So it would have passed had Speaker Madigan really twisted some arms.
In fact, Rauner blamed Madigan for the bill’s defeat. Even though, he, Rauner, couldn’t even get Sandack to vote for it.
A point I’ll never tire of mentioning.
Allow me to quote Rauner’s spokesman: “Governor Rauner and Republican leaders supported this legislation, but the speaker had Chicago Democrats vote against it. The only reason the speaker’s Chicago caucus would vote against the mayor’s bill is because Madigan wanted to kill it.”
Actually, that’s not true. Only two Chicago Democrats voted against the bill. So it wouldn’t have passed even if all the Dems from Chicago had voted for it.
Most of the Democratic no votes came from suburban or downstate legislators like Katherine Cloonen, who represents the 79th legislative district in and around Kankakee.
In her last election, Cloonen eked out a victory over a candidate who was supported and funded by Rauner.
The governor has made it clear he’ll fund campaigns against vulnerable Democrats—like Cloonen—if they don’t support his antiunion legislation.
So another question for our civics class is this . . .
Had Cloonen voted for the extension, would Rauner have saturated her district with misleading flyers and commercials castigating her as a tax-and-spend liberal who voted for a $634 million property tax?
In other words, how does Cloonen know that Rauner’s not just setting her up?
You know, I’m starting to realize that teaching this class could be fun.
Now I know what you’re thinking . . .
You’re thinking that these politicians should put aside their petty differences for the children—because that’s what adequately funding our schools is really all about. The children.
I guess the first lesson in any civics class is that it’s never, ever about the children.
Especially when they’re low-income children of color, like so many of the students in CPS.