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Penny Pritzker Resigns From Board Of Education

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 14, 2013 10:30PM

Billionaire Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker resigned Thursday from the Chicago Board of Education, fueling speculation she’s set to be appointed as President Barack Obama’s new Commerce Secretary.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker wouldn’t comment on why she resigned, nor did she offer a reason in the brief letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

”I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the City of Chicago, its children and families, during these last two years. Education is critical to ensuring every child has an opportunity to succeed, and I wholeheartedly support the work that you are doing to improve Chicago schools."

The Chicago Teachers Union isn’t sad to see Pritzker go. Although Pritzker was a longtime supporter of educational programs and reforms, her advocacy for charter schools often put her at odds with the CTU. Pritzker was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the state law that was supposed to make it harder for teachers unions to strike by requiring 75 percent of a union’s membership to vote for authorize one. CTU overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike last spring and formed picket lines for the first time in 25 years last autumn.

CTU President Karen Lewis, in a statement released to media, minced no words and shed no tears.

“Penny Pritzker has a long and storied history as being an anti-labor, anti-worker kind of boss. She has supported policies that have had an adverse impact on working-class families and their children. As a member of the Board of Education she has worked to close schools, destabilize neighborhoods and disrupt the economic lives of thousands of public school employees.

“In addition, Prizker’s luxury hotel chain, the Hyatt, has benefited directly from the TIF program which takes money away from schools and gives it to wealthy developers, and she’s allowed this to happen despite the conflict of interest and the damage it does to our schools. We cannot imagine that someone who has a long history of bludgeoning Chicago’s working families and destroying public schools would be given a platform to continue these sorts of business practices on a national level” Lewis said.

“She has been the subject of countless protests because of her business practices and for her support of policies that are harmful to students in Chicago Public Schools. The Chicago Teachers Union has certainly been quite vocal and visible in those demonstrations.

“Now that there’s an open board seat, perhaps taxpayers will get a replacement who speaks to the plight of those who rely on our school district. The public has been advocating for an elected, representative school board for some time now. Perhaps the mayor will take heed to this call and finally appoint someone who is compassionate and dedicated to truly giving our students the neighborhood schools they deserve and not just become another rubber stamp for his failed school reform experiments.”

Pritzker was under consideration for Commerce Secretary four years ago, but bowed out due to family matters.