Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign Demands That Penny Pritzker Stop Stealing Schools’ Money to Build a New Hotel

HYDE PARK–(ENEWSPF)–August 7, 2012.  As the city of Chicago struggles to pay its teachers and provide quality education to its students, Hyatt Hotels Corporation should not be benefiting from $5.2 million in Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funds used to build a new hotel. TIF districts divert local property taxes away from funding education and social services to instead subsidize corporate growth. The Hyatt Place Chicago will be the centerpiece of the Harper Court commercial development project, which in total will receive $20 million from the 53rdStreet TIF District. 

Meanwhile, seven public schools near this TIF district are slated to lose over $3.3 million in funding and 27 positions in the proposed 2013 CPS budget. Parents and students from these schools, alongside concerned community members, will picket the construction site of the new Hyatt to demand property tax dollars be used as intended to fund schools and other services, not to subsidize giant corporations. 

Penny Pritzker—Hyatt heiress and real estate mogul—is a member of both the Hyatt board of directors and the Chicago Board of Education. She is in a unique position to stop this defunding of neighborhood schools. As the 263rdrichest American and the former finance chair of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election (in which she raised more than $500 million), she clearly knows how to find investors. It is inexcusable that she is allowing her family’s business to take millions of dollars from students and schools in dire need of funding. 

Every year, about $500 million dollars of property taxes are diverted to TIF funds citywide. This year alone, more than $250 million that would have gone to public schools are instead under the explicit control of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also appoints the seven members of the Chicago school board. Chicagoans need Pritzker and the other school board members to take a principled stand to stop this systematic underfunding of our public schools. That remains unlikely as long as Chicago is the only district in the state with an unelected school board, shielding it from public accountability while placing it under the thumb of the mayor. 

The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign (CTSC) launched on June 26 when a diverse coalition of parents, neighborhood groups, labor unions, and working people across Chicago came together to support the teachers and fight for equitable quality public education. The CTSC opposes Mayor Emanuel’s efforts to make teachers scapegoats for years of financial mismanagement at CPS and policies that arbitrarily close neighborhood schools while channeling funds to nonunion charter schools and other private education companies.

The campaign also supports the CTU’s call for a fully funded education system, smaller class sizes and an enriched curriculum with art and music, as well as wraparound social services for students.

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