CPS Unveils Budget Under Cloud of Uncertainty, Pensions & CTU Contract Remain Wild Cards; CTU & Rauner Respond
by Claudia Morell – claudia@aldertrack.com and A.D. Quig – ad@aldertrack.com

Chicago Public Schools leadership says they need another $480 million to stay open after this school year’s first quarter. But statehouse politics makes it unclear if Springfield will simply cut a check to help, raise Chicago property taxes, or a combination of both.

During a Monday conference call that coincided with the release of its proposed $5.687 billion operating budget, CPS officials suggested the situation is out of their hands. “If Springfield fails to do its part, we’ll make more unsustainable borrowing and deeper cuts,” CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said in Monday’s call, but said he was encouraged by the direction of talks in Springfield. (Press release – fact sheet 1 – fact sheet 2)

Some budget numbers of note:

Cuts:

  • $65.5M to operating budget
  • $288.3M to capital budget – what CPS is calling an “austerity budget”
  • $65.2M to debt budget

Layoffs:

  • 204 high school teachers and 275 elementary school teachers – CPS says there are approximately 1,450 teaching vacancies expected
  • 1012 additional non-teaching position layoffs

Borrowing:

  • $255M in “scoop and toss”
  • $1M line of credit

Revenue:

  • $87M TIF surplus
  • $80M in property taxes
  • $480M from pension reform in Springfield

Nearly every other sentence from CPS officials on their August 10th press call included mention of Springfield or state government, but Claypool says he has no intention of lobbying in Springfield directly. He says even with an additional property tax levy and TIF surplus money, CPS will be in big trouble without reform at the end of this school quarter.

The proposed FY16 budget will be made available for public comment and review on Aug. 18 at three meetings around the city (6:00-8:00 p.m. at Shurz High School, Olive-Harvey College, and Malcolm X College). The final budget is expected to be presented to the Board of Education for a vote at its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 26.

(Also, immediately before the CPS press conference, schools leadership announced new changes to school bell times, where 34 schools will have their bell times reverted back to their original settings. The final 48 schools with start time changes will save $5 million a year, CPS leadership claims.)

CTU Springfield Allies Introduce ESRB Legislation

At the same time as the CPS budget release call, supporters of an Elected Representative School Board (ESRB)–including state legislators, Chicago Teachers Union organizers and aldermen–gathered to call for passage of House Bill 4268. Filed August 6, the legislation would establish a 13 member school board with members from four regions of Chicago, to be elected in March 2016.

A press release from CTU distributed at yesterday’s ESRB event called the appointed Board of Education a financial failure. “This long record of ineffective governance is not because ‘Springfield’ has made mistakes but is rather because the Board has made decisions in the interests of private contractors, charter schools, big banks, and bondholders rather than the interests of students and families.” (CTU fact sheet)

The bill’s chief co-sponsors include Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Chicago), Rep. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), and Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), and 28 other co-sponsors.

Rayner Holds Response Presser; Talks CPS, Elected School Board and CTU Power

In a last-minute press conference called in Chicago yesterday afternoon, Governor Bruce Rauner said he doesn’t support an elected school board for Chicago and described the power of the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) as “overwhelming.”

After spending six minutes reiterating his position that Chicago has benefited from special treatment and suggesting he is “cautiously optimistic” the General Assembly and CPS officials are warming up to his statewide reforms, the Governor refused to comment on specific CPS budget projections because his office is still “crunching the numbers”.

He did comment on two CPS related issues: the teachers’ union contract and the movement for an elected school board.

“The power of the teachers union is overwhelming. Chicago has given and given and it has created the financial crisis that Chicago schools face now,” Gov. Rauner said about the stalled contract negotiations between CPS and the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

Gov. Rauner also said Chicago doesn’t need an elected school board because Mayor Rahm Emanuel was elected into office and was given a mandate to appoint members to the board, “And the Mayor has shown a willingness to stand up and advocate for taxpayers and has taken on some of the entrenched interests, so I’m not a supporter of the Mayor losing his ability to drive reforms.”