How To Save Chicago Schools? End Flat Tax, Say Community Members

Many parents, teachers and community activists say they are fed up with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s austerity measures and his shifting of funds from traditional public schools to charter schools. Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, meanwhile, say that they are addressing long-festering budget problems caused by their predecessors in public office. The situation grew worse on Tuesday, when CPS officials acknowledged that they had sent layoff notices to an additional 94 employees, due to funding shortages. Chicago community activists disgruntled with the city’s approach met at a town hall meeting on Wednesday to develop their own strategy to improve the public schools. Raise Your Hand, a parent-led education non-profit in Chicago cofounded by Katten, called the meeting. Speakers mostly agreed that CPS’s next crisis is its long-term finances, and that the immediate focus should be on ways to better fund neighborhood schools. The most-discussed solution: Raise money for schools through a progressive income tax to replace Illinois’ flat tax. Currently, every resident, from Oprah Winfrey to a fast-food worker, hands over 5 percent of her yearly earnings to the state.

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