June 5, 2008
BY ROSALIND ROSSI
A raucous debate -- likened by some to an episode of the "Jerry Springer
Show'' -- erupted Wednesday over a Chicago Teachers Union budget that
critics say reflects the loss of millions of dollars from a once-fat reserve
Even CTU President Marilyn Stewart has admitted that the union -- the
state's largest -- faces a "financial crisis.'' Stewart traced the situation
to "actions of four former CTU presidents and the current leader,'' past
financial practices and a membership drop. Plus, Stewart said an audit
indicated she had been given "erroneous" information.
Against that backdrop, critics -- including former union president Deborah
Lynch -- tried to block passage of the latest budget, saying they wanted
more details. Lynch contends she left the union with $5.4 million in
reserves after Stewart defeated her in 2004, but by last year, that amount
had dwindled to $188,000. And she said the CTU had to take out $2 million to
$3 million in loans to stay in the black.
"We've never been in this bad of a financial shape," Lynch said. "They have
squandered the reserves.''
Screaming and shoving broke out Wednesday during the heated debate in the
union's house of delegates, Lynch said. She said critics demanded specifics
on the loans and union officers' salaries, but didn't get many answers.
"It was a wild ride,'' Lynch said.
Kennedy High School teacher Rick Navarro, a third-year teacher, said he
asked people if this was a typical budget debate.
"It was like watching a Jerry Springer Show. People were yelling. People
were shouting each other down. People were pulling mikes away from people,
shoving people,'' Navarro said.
During the budget vote, "yes'' votes were asked to stand on one side of the
room and "no" votes went to the other side. Stewart forces said the budget
passed narrowly, but Lynch said several CTU members in the balcony counted
heads and agreed it lost by about 30 votes.
CTU spokeswoman Rosemaria Genova insisted the budget count was accurate, the
debate was "healthy," and the parliamentarian managed to "keep order.''