Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix American Schools by Steven Brill Yale Law School graduate and Court TV founder Steven Brill brings his legal perspective to the debate on education reform in "Class Warfare." The book--a series of briskly written vignettes--grew out of a 2009 New Yorker article on New York's "rubber rooms" and has sparked some controversy since its publication, mostly because of its argument against teachers unions. But, no matter where reader sympathies lie, "Class Warfare" is an eye-opening read that will surely elicit a dialogue among its audience.
The anti-union Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago is out with a new Internet ad aimed at dividing teachers along generational lines. Standing in a classroom is an actress, far too well groomed and well dressed to be a teacher herself.
“I want to talk to you about basic math,” she says. “Your pension fund is in big trouble. There’s not enough money to pay benefits to current retirees, much less you, when you retire. That money deducted from your paycheck each month, that’s going to current retirees. So who’s going to pay for your retirement? Look at the faces of the kids in your class.”
That’s right, teachers. Look at the kids in your class. Don’t look at attorney Tyrone Fahner, president of the Civic Committee, or Abbott Labs CEO Miles White, vice chairman of the Commercial Club. Those millionaires are tired of being taxes for public employee pensions. That’s why they cut this ad. (White is so tired of supporting public employees that he’s been telling legislators he’s thinking of expanding on Abbott-owned land in Wisconsin, where the governor doesn’t coddle unions. Last month, Abbott donated $8,000 to the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee and $5,000 to the House Republican Organization.)
The ad goes on to claim that the $31 billion fund needs $49 billion to pay retirees and $27 billion to pay current employees.
“Ask yourself,” the actress says, “‘How can Illinois overcome a $140 billion pension deficit by the time I retire?’ If that’s in the next 10 years, you’ll probably see a pension check. But if you’re planning to retire in 25 years, there’s no guarantee.”
(The ad doesn’t explain what basic math it used to come up with $140 billion. Using its own numbers, I count $45 billion.)
The actress comes off as particularly insincere, probably because pretending to care about the fortunes of teachers when you’re actually being paid to care about the fortunes of CEOs is a thespian feat not even Helen Mirren could pull off. Trying to turn pinched younger workers against coddled older workers is basic union busting.
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