Slick politicians know very well that it is best to use "proxies" to divide a community. Proxies are people who can say the things leaders cannot say. Remember the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" campaign that was launched during the 2004 presidential election? The GOP used a group of veterans to question candidate John Kerry's war experience because his opponent, George W. Bush could not as he had none himself. When questioned about the attacks, Bush could deny having anything to do with them.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been quoted in the past as using a certain four-letter word to express his disdain for the United Auto Workers. He may have learned from that experience and now saves that language for union leaders behind closed doors.
It would not be acceptable for Mayor Emanuel to say, "I'm turning over public schools to the wealthiest 1% of Chicagoans and cutting middle-class jobs by busting the Chicago Teachers Union." That's why he has Juan Rangel, well-clouted CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization -- a profitable charter school chain -- at his side.
At a recent speech to the City Club of Chicago, Rangel went on a tirade about the CTU and defended Chicago's billionaire elites in the face of criticism by Chicago's hardworking taxpayers:
[CEO Rangel] praised the work of wealthy charter school supporters -- and mayoral allies -- like Bruce Rauner and the Pritzker family. "Do we have the resolve to embrace Chicago's wealthy community... and support them as a focal source of energy that fuels the school reform movement with their money? Or will we shy away from them and allow the silly talk that currently passes for debate about the so-called one-percenters privatizing our schools?"
Rangel's speech to the City Club
Why would he be kissing up to the wealthy that support the efforts to break the unions and privatize schools?
Rangel's annual salary is around $266,000.
Although the charter school law explicitly states that charters are subject to Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings laws, private citizens neither have the time nor money to fight UNO's legal staff to see the records. Taxpayers do not know where money shifts to give Rangel a salary larger than the CEO of all 600+ Chicago Public Schools.
The more schools he opens, more state money is funneled into his system as his patronage chest bursts at the seams.
Actually, some of that money must go to lawyers who work their legal magic to ignore Freedom of Information Act requests from Chicago taxpayers. One of those lawyers left City employment over a "hiring scandal" prior to thwarting pleas for transparency.
But how does Chicago Teachers Union play into Rangel's game?
Unions require management transparency. If Rangel's staff were unionized and could negotiate over wages, benefits, and resources he would have to show the budgets of his schools to counter their proposals. Without the pressure of an organized workforce , he could do whatever he wants with that money like line his own pockets and the pockets of his connected friends.
When CTU started its push for smaller class sizes in 2010, Rangel called the move "racist."
I'm not sure what was racist about wanting all children in Chicago to receive smaller class sizes -- a proven reform that improves student learning, but he did his job of smearing the CTU for more clout points.
Rahm was shrewd to make Rangel his campaign co-chair mere days after meeting the man. In Chicago-machine fashion, Emanuel later appointed Rangel to the Public Buildings Commission. What get-rich-quick scheme needs public buildings to operate? Charter schools.
Now Rangel has the clout to push his schools through communities that do not even want them, which increases his market share of schools. His clout in city council comes from the connected 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis who was the founder of the UNO.
UNO's credibility comes from years as a true grassroots organization, but years later:
Organizers and reporters know UNO as a politically connected community group that traded its confrontation tactics of the 1980s for insider access at City Hall in the 1990s and today. It... now holds fundraising banquets to which the mayor lends his name.
Unfortunately, this type of opportunism is whittling away at the credibility of the organization that at one point led the charge for local school councils and other real school reforms.
I guess credibility doesn't pay.
Leaflet from 1987 announcing UNO's endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union strike.
Sarah Hainds contributed to this blog.