Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis spoke about education reform at the City Club of Chicago on Tuesday.

In the wake of recent school closings and teacher layoffs, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis took aim Tuesday at the two R’s of her education reform effort — racism and revenue.

Lewis, speaking to the City Club of Chicago, did not directly criticize Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But she went after his kitchen cabinet of educational advisers as wealthy “elites” from the venture capital and corporate world and questioned what “rich white people” know about what’s in the best educational interests for minority children.

“Members of the status quo, the people who are running the schools and advising the mayor on how best to run our district, know what good education looks like because they have secured it for their own children in well-resourced public and private institutions,” Lewis said.

“When will there be an honest conversation about poverty and racism and inequality that hinders the delivery of an education product in our school system? When will we address the effect that rich white people think they know what’s in the best interest of children of African Americans and Latinos, no matter what the parents’ income or education level.”

Moreover, Lewis asked, “And when did all these venture capitalists become so interested in the lives of minority students in the first place? There’s something about these folks who love the kids but hate their parents. There’s something about these folks who use little black and brown children as stage props at one press conference while announcing they want to fire, layoff or lock up their parents at another press conference.”

Several of Emanuel’s unofficial education advisers come from the world of high finance, including wealthy money manager Bruce Rauner, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor. Rauner and others have sought more charter schools and the GOP candidate has been an outspoken critic of the teachers’ union.

Lewis also sought to tie critics of the union to the need for the Chicago Public Schools to find new sources of revenue, though she questioned whether the system truly faces a $1 billion deficit.

“We clearly have a resource issue in this city for our schools and statewide,” she said. “So people that have been making decisions about education are the ones we’re going to start looking at the most since they have all these great ideas.”

Lewis called for enactment of “progressive taxation” that would tax the wealthier at a greater rate compared to the state’s flat-rate income tax. She also said “bold leadership” would end corporate tax subsidies and loopholes. And she repeated earlier calls for a reform of tax increment financing districts and enactment of a financial transactions tax.

Asked if the city schools also should boost property taxes, Lewis said, “Yes.” But, she added, ““If you look at a majority of the tax base for property taxes in Chicago, they’re mostly white, who don’t have a real interest in paying for the education of poor black and brown children. We don’t want to say that out loud.”

Lewis maintained the city’s public schools have made investments in schools closer to downtown at the expense of other neighborhoods.

She said she feared the announced layoffs last week of 850 workers, including about 500 teachers, as a result of public school closings makes her fear “it’s just the tip of the iceberg” for a system facing a $1 billion deficit.

“Where will this impact be felt the most?” she asked. “In predominantly African American communities.”

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