CHICAGO, Feb. 17, 2020—The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement in response to today’s budget address from Gov. JB Pritzker:

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the clear race and class inequities in our society. Those inequities show when Black and Brown Illinoisans have contracted and died from COVID-19 at significantly higher rates. Those inequities show when the same few ungrateful Illinoisans who made millions during the pandemic opposed paying a small increase in their state income taxes to ensure those families who lost jobs and loved ones at those aforementioned higher rates had a small fragment of a safety net.

Those inequities show at budget time, when we’re told again and again that there is no money to support recovery in a pandemic, even though Illinois as a state is one of the 20 largest economies on earth.

Gov. JB Pritzker has a challenging job even in good times, which the pandemic has made an even greater challenge. We hope he is successful in meeting this task, because his success benefits all of us. To that end, we offer an alternative on school funding, because now is not the time to keep education funding flat.

Recovery for the students throughout the state means we cannot return to the old normal, where hundreds of school districts at 70 percent of adequacy or less are structurally behind those districts with property wealth. Instead, recovery means real, sustained and predictable funding that can support sustainable community schools that provide mental and physical health supports; after school enrichment programs; social and emotional supports to recover from trauma; appropriate infrastructure for safe remote learning now and in the future; and school facilities upgrades to ensure that students can safely attend school in person.

Moreover, cutting out statutorily required increases in school funding just compounds problems in the future. That’s the approach that got us in the school funding mess in the first place, and that the State addressed just a few years ago.

The CTU encourages the governor and the General Assembly to forge a path forward that does not force false choices to cut schools or social services. Instead, Illinois government should commit to funding programs that we absolutely need in “normal” times, and desperately need now by raising progressive revenue from those who can most afford to pay. This means ending corporate loopholes as has been proposed, and decoupling from federal tax benefits, but also implementing creative measures like taxing carried interest at the state level and massive reforms of TIF programs that siphon off revenues that should go to our schools.

Illinois has options. Let’s not keep choosing the same old same old.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.