The Crusader Newspaper Group

CPS threatens to end year early because of funding

By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool made a stunning statement earlier this week when he announced the current school year might end 20 days sooner on June 1 because of the CPS financial crisis that he is blaming on the state. Claypool said without funding from the state, operational budget monies will be depleted. He said only an emergency court order to make the state give CPS money or lawmakers in Springfield agreeing to do so will solve the problem, something Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also stated.

“This is a worst case scenario that I hope we never come to,” Claypool said. “We still have a few options left.”

The plan will include canceling 13 days of instruction. Claypool was reluctant to say when exactly the final decision would be made. Gov. Bruce Rauner had no comment to Claypool’s threat. However, the Crusader received the following statement from Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis after our story published:

“It seems that the history of mismanagement at CPS continues, because this proposed “solution” hurts students, teachers, and reduces state funding to CPS by $45 million. Instead of blaming someone who’s been in office for two years, it would be helpful if the Mayor was asking why his district’s chief created a budget that depended on revenue that hadn’t been appropriated by the General Assembly.”

Teachers and students alike, however, were shocked at the announcement with the students elated, but the teacher’s union concerned.

“As Rahm and Rauner continue their policies of budget cuts at the state and city levels, our school communities are scrambling to provide wrap-around supports for students dealing with unprecedented levels of trauma as a result of the threats of deportations and violence in their neighborhoods and the severe cuts to special education services for some of our most vulnerable students,” read a statement in part from the Chicago Teachers Union. “By our count, Chicago school communities have suffered over $2 billion worth of cuts under this Mayor’s ‘leadership’.”

The CTU went on to say that CPS is broke on purpose and that hundreds of millions of dollars remain untouched in TIF surplus funds that can be used at the Mayor’s discretion.

“It is criminal that we have a mayor that would rather wait out Rauner’s hostage situation….The mayor behaving like this has zero solutions is incredibly irresponsible,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.

But not everyone agrees the problems with CPS’s funding falls with the state or even the Mayor. Many believe high teacher benefits and pensions are ruining the state’s educational finances. Add to that corruption and mismanagement within CPS and it leads to a big mess.

“Advocates of tax increases and higher spending don’t want to be held accountable for poor educational outcomes and fiscal mismanagement in Illinois, so they blame the state and a lack of funds,” said Vice President of Policy for the Illinois Policy Institute Ted Dabrowski. “Reforms that could unleash those dollars to benefit Illinois’ classrooms and children are blocked by the very advocacy groups calling foul. They’d rather demand billions in additional taxes on Illinoisans to protect the status quo and their bureaucracies.”

CPS has also filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state in an attempt to get more funding. The case is still proceeding through the courts.

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