Real Stories

Pat Knazze

I grew up in Chicago during the Civil Rights and the Women’s Rights Movement. I upheld the legacy of these movements by teaching working-class minority students on the South Side of Chicago.  For 35 years, I taught my students that if they worked hard, they could overcome their environment.

Despite class sizes that could reach up to 48 kids, I tried my best to reach every one of my students. I’m so proud of my work— I remember reaching one student from a disadvantaged home who overcame the odds to earn a Ph.D. from Northwestern in mathematics. It’s stories like that, that kept me going through the hard parts of the job – buying lunch and school supplies for my students when they couldn’t afford it, seeing my wages frozen, and facing cuts to my retirement.

As a retiree, I rely on my pension to pay my bills. I worked hard, made payments into the pension system from every paycheck, and I deserve the modest income I earned.  Instead of standing behind teachers like me, Mayor Emanuel is trying to cut my pension by saying we can’t afford it. But, he’s still diverting tax dollars to fund pet projects for his corporate backers.

To me it’s a question of priorities. These cuts have a real impact on people like me. If Mayor Emanuel’s cuts stand, I would have to get a second job to pay my bills. The cuts will lead to the cruelest of ironies- after dedicating my life to educating Chicago’s sons and daughters, pension cuts will drastically change my life.