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CTU Blames CPS Crisis On Failed Leadership From Emanuel, Rauner

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With Illinois lawmakers unable to reach a deal on a state budget, and the head of the Chicago Public Schools warning schools might not open in fall without state funding, the Chicago Teachers Union said the problem could be solved "if people start acting like grownups."

Amid all the finger-pointing, name-calling, and buck-passing, CTU President Karen Lewis said teachers currently in contract talks and threatening to strike would consider accepting a deal with no raises if they kept so-called step and lane increases (based on seniority and experience), but would accept no more cuts.

"We could live, maybe, without a two or three percent raise," she said.

CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool has said schools won't open in the fall if the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner can't reach an agreement on education funding, and he believes many school districts across Illinois face the same predicament.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Claypool's warning is an "admission of failure" by CPS.

"Claypool can't open our schools on time at a time when children can't play in their own neighborhoods, for fear of being shot, and now won't be able to go to school," he said.

However, CTU has done essentially the same thing by threatening to go on strike.

Rauner has blamed House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton for the legislature's inability to approve an education budget for the next fiscal year which starts on July 1, and accused Democrats of holding schools across the state hostage to an effort to bail out CPS.

"We are fundamentally in decline, because of the control of Speaker Madigan and his Democrats. And we've got to get the folks here in Champaign County, and in Sangamon County, and throughout the state to stand up and vote for their districts; not for Speaker Madigan, and John Cullerton, and the Chicago political machine that they are loyal to. We need our General Assembly to be loyal to the people in Illinois, not to the people in the Chicago political machine," Rauner at an event in downstate Mahomet on Wednesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel criticized Rauner for trying to pit different parts of the state against each other.

"Yesterday people across the state were looking for solutions. Instead of uniting the governor was dividing. Instead of leading he was playing politics, pitting parents and students in one part of the state against parents and students in another. Right now schools across Illinois need a leader‎, and instead Bruce Rauner is following the Donald Trump playbook of demonizing one group of people for his political advantage."

Lewis said Emanuel deserves much of the blame for the funding crisis at CPS.

"We really feel that it's not right to just blame Springfield," she said. "The blame is in City Hall, on the fifth floor, not asking and not being consistent, or coherent, or having a real plan for funding."

Sharkey slammed Rauner and Emanuel for a failed leadership.

"The General Assembly is doing what it can to hold back a crazed governor who wants to bankrupt CPS. The mayor is not doing his part. He continues to be tone deaf when it comes to public education," he said.

CTU has proposed a list of $500 million in taxes the mayor and City Council could approve without the legislature to help fund CPS – such as a new tax on ride-hailing services, tripling the city's gasoline tax, increasing taxes on rental cars, and reinstating the city's head tax, which Emanuel phased out after taking office in 2011 – but the mayor has rejected those ideas.

Sharkey said the Emanuel administration has been able to find money for other things, and should do so for schools as well.

"We need revenue, not slogans," Sharkey said, standing in front of a sign with the slogan "CPS: Broke On Purpose."

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