A rally outside a still-under-construction building on the city's south side on its surface may seem to be an odd location, but teachers and their supporters say the choice was a strategic one.
Those gathered at East 53rd Street and South Lake Park Avenue on Thursday held signs saying "TIFs are for Kids."
"The mayor [gave] Penny Pritzker $5 million in TIF money to build this hotel," said teacher Daryl Reed. "They're saying that they don't have money but they're giving billionaires five million dollars to build a hotel."
Chicago's Department of Housing and Economic Development in March approved $5,215,162 in Tax Increment Financing for a developer operating under a franchise agreement with Hyatt Hotels, city records show.
Pritzker is on the board of Hyatt Hotels, and the company stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually due to "royalty fees" associated with the franchise agreement.
The protesters' argument against TIFs isn't a new one. A June report by Roosevelt University explains:
"... critics of TIFs note that each district diverts revenues from the public school taxing body, thus depriving them of revenues that would have otherwise gone to them. TIFs capture about $500 million in tax revenues each year, about half of which is diverted from the public school system. ... "
But others say those projects that are funded by TIFs ultimately benefit school systems. From the same Roosevelt University report:
"Since 1983, 46% of TIF revenues have been allocated for public works projects, with 47% of those revenues going towards Chicago Public Schools construction projects."
And it's not just the use of Tax Increment Financing that teachers and their supporters don't like. Pritzker is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education and a contributor to a group called Stand for Children, which has been criticized for opposing teachers' unions and for promoting standardized testing.
A group calling itself the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign last month called for her to step down from her post "because she has proven unable to secure funding for CPS due to a conflict of interest."
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