Happy Saturday! I enjoyed Illinois’ great Amtrak connections and shuttled between Chicago and Springfield this week. Chicago’s education issues are tied up with Springfield, while Springfield is weighed down by Chicago’s education demands. But first, some business from last week…
Editor’s Choice It Is: Results Of The Great Twitter Poll
A mad onslaught of thirty-two people converged on our Twitter account last week to cast their votes on what this email should be focused on for future editions. And you said for it to neither focus on Chicago or Springfield, but to be “Editor’s Choice”. I’m supposing that the thousands more of you reading this every week, according to our email statistics, are so confident in our ability to please your need for good reading, that you’re comfortable with casting this email’s fate to the the winds.
So let it be, O Thirty-Two Deciders! It shall be Editor’s Choice from here on!
The Education Special Session: Springfield’s Chicago Problems
There was plenty of he said, she said going back and forth in the state capitol this past week, as Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic legislative leaders hurled invective at each other over the school funding bill. Let’s skip to the conclusions.
1. SB1 is going to end up as a veto
Gov. Rauner’s talk about an amendatory veto is really focusing on procedure. Rae Hodge and I talk about why at length here, but the reality is that unless the Senate Democrats suffer a group breakdown, Gov. Rauner’s changes to the school funding bill, SB1, won’t be accepted by the Senate, and we’ll end up with a dead bill, forcing everyone back to the table again.
Recognizing this reality, on Friday both Democrats and Republicans announced new legislative negotiators. On Thursday, both sides were openly listing the items they think will end up on the table.
2. It’s the Chicago pension payments, stupid
SB1 is referred to as a school funding bill, but it also has a section that provides annual funding to Chicago Public Schools to help pay Chicago teacher pensions. More than any other part of the bill–even the hundreds of millions of dollars more to CPS–the payments to Chicago teacher pensions upsets Republicans.
Democratic legislators, aware that Chicago teacher pension payments are the brick weighing down their bill, openly talk about stripping the pension component as a negotiating point. So it seems almost certain CPS will get less money from the state than it had planned for it’s 2017-18 budget.
3. Most legislators aren’t aware that CPS finances are in Grade A, emergency meltdown
In off the record conversations with a dozen or so non-Chicago legislators this past week, all knew that CPS was in financial trouble, but few comprehended the true magnitude of the problem. More than a few eyes popped when I said that without state help or a significant property tax increase, CPS was looking at a nearly $1 billion operating deficit.
4. Non-Chicago legislators think Chicago needs to start raising its own taxes
Even knowing how big Chicago schools’ money problems were, non-Chicago legislators, Democratic and Republican alike, seem to agree that the city needs to start raising its own property taxes. Most knew Chicago’s TIFs were diverting a large portion of property tax revenue for schools and that Chicago has kept property taxes lower than other parts of the state. In their minds, Chicago should be solving its own problems. The city’s internal TIF struggles and fights about equitable property assessment are entirely irrelevant to them as they look at Chicago’s tremendous property wealth in comparison to the rest of the state.
5. CPS needs to start looking for authority to raise its property tax cap