Last week on MSNBC host Ed Schultz’s radio show, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, indulged in one of her favorite habits: Ridiculously overheated rhetoric. Regarding Mayor Emanuel’s recent decision to close about 54 Chicago schools, Lewis said:
I don’t know what to tell you. I do not understand this man. I don’t understand how he can continue to lie to the public and say, you know, we’re doing this for the good of the kids, for the good of the kids. You know, he’s the murder mayor and we have a serious murder problem ‘cause we have a serious gang problem. And he has been completely delusional about how to solve that problem. He does not want to deal with the fact that we need a different approach. And, um, you know, the key is, if you keep bringing in people that tell you what you want to hear, you don’t ever have to hear a competing vision.
So, his real problem is that he’s in the middle of a murder epidemic, he is murdering schools now, he’s been murdering middle-class and working-class jobs every chance he can get.
During an extended statement at a press conference last week, Lewis suggested that the closures would force students to travel farther to school, putting them in mortal peril:
These actions unnecessarily expose our students to gang violence, turf wars and peer-to-peer conflict. Some of our students have been seriously injured as a result of school closings. One died. Putting thousands of small children in harm’s way is not laudatory.
The CTU president also repeated her sentiments from Schultz’s show, saying the following:
Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public-sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit. We are the city of big shoulders and so we intend to put up a fight.
Last week, the Chicago city government announced that it would be closing 54 schools that are underenrolled, affecting a total of 30,000 students. The move is intended to help close the school system’s $1 billion budget shortfall; it should save between $500,000 and $800,000 per school closure. At the above press conference, Lewis referred to such issues as “an ‘underutilization myth’ and ‘billion-dollar deficit lie,’” and said “we contend that no school should be closed in the city of Chicago.” The CTU has announced that it will be protesting the move this Wednesday, March 27.
Lewis’s rhetoric is nothing new: Within the past year, she has suggested that education-reform policies “kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation,” and explained to a labor-history association gathering that the violent tactics of the early labor movement are appropriate today, in an environment where wealthy Americans “think nothing about killing us . . . [and] think nothing about lethal working conditions.” In fact, at that same gathering, she specifically suggested that such shocking conditions are present in many Chicago schools because they aren’t air-conditioned — she’ll be glad to know that funds from closing the mythical underutilized schools will in part be spent on installing AC in the schools receiving the displaced students.