“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

From Day 1, that platitude has been the subtext of the Rauner administration, which has worked tirelessly to create and maintain financial crises in order to achieve the governor’s goal of silencing unions, including education employee unions that advocate for quality teaching and learning conditions in public schools.

The theory is that, if you can convince people things are really bad, radical proposals, like eliminating union rights and benefits, can become (in the public’s mind) acceptable.

For example, Governor Rauner insisted the state income tax increase be allowed to expire on January 1, thereby creating an immediate multi billion-dollar budget hole. This manufactured financial crisis is how he hoped to convince lawmakers to approve his attack on average Illinoisans, aka the Turnaround Agenda.

It hasn’t worked. The Rauner agenda remains unpopular. But the governor may think he’s found a new way to get what he wants.

Noting that the Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) has a huge budget shortfall, Governor Rauner is dangling a $500 million state bailout for CPS.

There are just a few conditions.

Specifically, Rauner wants CPS to end the long-standing (and widespread) practice of paying the employee share (7 percent) for his/her pension, believing this is an opportunity to damage, not only the Chicago Teachers Union, but also IEA and IFT, which represent teachers statewide. Mark Brown in the Sun-Times reports…

“…both school and labor types tell me that maybe half the school districts in the state pay at least a portion of what is designed to be the employees’ share of their pension contributions.

It’s regarded as part of a teacher’s overall compensation in collective bargaining negotiations.

The governor wants to see the “pick up” of the employee pension payment by ANY Illinois school district eliminated.

Ironically, the governor this week charged CTU with wielding “dictatorial powers” over financial matters.

In psychology, this is known as “projecting.

Meanwhile, there have been claims that Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel might not be so sad about the imposition of conditions for a bailout, but, according to Brown, that might not matter.

The mayor’s reliance on getting the $500 million from Rauner for CPS, plus other relief measures the city needs, puts him in an extraordinarily weak bargaining position to resist Rauner’s larger anti-union agenda.

Until now, the thinking was that House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats, would object to Rauner’s encroachment on collective bargaining rights even if Emanuel didn’t.

Rauner, though, seems to see his opening.

We believe it’s crucial that all IEA members stay in touch and stay informed about new developments that could affect their careers and their union.

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