As we discussed in last week’s podcast, it’s been a hectic couple of weeks for Chicago Public Schools. The Board’s agenda includes approval of debt payment, a renewal of Aramark’s food contract with CPS, transfers ranging from $4 to $19 million to fund some capital improvement projects, and what promises to be an interesting public participation portion. Here’s a rundown of the issues confronting CPS heading into today’s Board of Ed meeting at 10:30 a.m.
Last Wednesday: Republican Bailout Illinois Republican leaders Sen.Christine Radogno, Rep. Jim Durkin and Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a State Board of Ed takeover of the Chicago Board of Ed, and possible municipal bankruptcy legislation. As we reported, Radogno tied the change to the governor’s Turnaround Agenda. Democratic leaders in the legislature shot the proposal down almost immediately. Senate President John Cullerton (D) called the proposal “mean-spirited.”
Last Thursday: Democratic Retort Illinois Democratic state legislators, along with some aldermen, held a press conference saying they’d push legislation re-allocating Chicago’s TIF surplus to CPS. Chief bill sponsor and Illinois House Democratic Leader Barbara Flynn Currie asserted that the city has anywhere between $150 and $350 million in uncommitted funds that could be declared surplus. She said in this emergency situation, instead of those funds being dispersed to local taxing bodies like Parks and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, all of those TIF funds would be given to CPS. Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) introduced a similar city resolution calling for full TIF surplus accounting at the January 13th full City Council meeting. He plans to testify at the Board of Ed meeting today on the issue.
Last Friday: Pink Slips CPS announced a round of layoffs at its central office heading into this past weekend. 227 employees received layoff notices, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. 57 were on teams being downsized, and can reapply for 35 positions. The Sun-Times reports special education programs were hit especially hard: a total of 69 were let go, and another 18 positions were eliminated.
Monday: Cullerton Fair Funding Pitch Illinois Senate President John Cullerton proposed a statewide revamp of school funding at a short speech in front of the City Club. “Our state has the most inequitable system of school finance in the country. We give less to the students who need more and cover barely a third of the total cost of public education when most states cover half,” he told the crowd. “If the National Football League operated like our school funding system, the Super Bowl champ would be guaranteed the top draft pick.” He said, echoing Rauner’s frequent reference to Illinois’ status quo, that the state’s funding system is the perfect one to break. Here’s the full speech text, video, and other info from IL Senate Democrats.
Yesterday: Claypool Org Chart Redo CPS announced an organizational overhaul, including, according to Catalyst, a separation between CPS CEOForrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson; new offices being headed up by old Claypool colleagues from the Chicago Transit Authority; a whole slew of new names and the elimination of some offices.
Today: Bond pricing, debt payment approval, and Gov. Rauner’s State of the State Address The Board’s first agenda item is a resolution to allocate 2016 tax collections to debt service funds. The second is to move about $95,000 in debt service interest to the Education Fund. At about the same time, the bond market is expecting pricing of CPS’ latest offering. As we reported last week, the Board will use the timing of this month’s bond offering to get through a major cash crunch. Yvette Shields, a reporter with The Bond Buyer, yesterday characterized pricing talk as all-caps “BRUTAL” for CPS. Pre-marketing interest rates were offered at 7.7%, she tweeted, “more than 5% what top rated folks pay and 4% than lowly BBB govs.” Talk of possible bankruptcy legislation from Gov. Bruce Rauner impacted spreads, Shields said. Gov. Rauner is scheduled to make his State of the State address at noon today, fresh on the heels of a possible pension deal Cullerton mentioned at his City Club talk.
Tomorrow: Emanuel Q&A Mayor Emanuel will be on “Chicago Tonight” withParis Schutz to take questions from viewers tonight. A brief glance at the comments section, where WTTW will be pulling some questions, shows a lot of CPS focus.