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Rauner Accused Of 'Political Terrorism' As CPS, Pastors Seek Fairer Funding

By Alex Nitkin | April 19, 2016 3:31pm
 CPS CEO Forrest Claypool announces the
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool announces the "20 for 20" advocacy campaign alongside district officials and community leaders.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

BRONZEVILLE — Facing a deepening budget crisis and a looming teachers strike, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool reached for reinforcements Tuesday in his renewed campaign to demand more funding from Springfield.

Flanked by elected officials and religious leaders from around the city, Claypool spoke at Drake Elementary School, 2710 S. Dearborn St., to call for changes in a statewide funding formula he's repeatedly called "unfair and discriminatory."

Claypool and his allies sharpened their rhetoric against Gov. Bruce Rauner, who last week unveiled a 2017 budget proposal that would shave an additional $74.4 million from CPS' revenue stream. One speaker, Woodlawn pastor Byron T. Brazier, called Rauner's agenda an act of "political terrorism."

"Given what I have heard from community leaders, I have become more convinced that Gov. Rauner has been focused more on money than people," Brazier said. "It is more than apparent that his intent is to continue the racial and economic practices of the past and to further accelerate the differences between the haves and have-nots in this state."

Claypool says the state doles out less than 15 percent of its education funds to Chicago schools, despite drawing 20 percent of its overall budget from Chicago taxpayers. That gap accounts for more than $500 million in lost revenue every year, he said, "enough to save our schools."

Claypool used the event to announce a new "grassroots" campaign, centered around the hashtag-ready slogan "20 for 20," to lobby state officials for a new formula. CPS even launched a new website devoted to helping parents lobby their state representatives.

"It's time that we stand together," Claypool told the auditorium full of parents and community groups. "This is how we put an end to the separate but unequal education funding system that treats Chicago so unfairly and threatens our schools."

Earlier this month, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) introduced a bill to redraw the state's funding formula. Claypool called the formula a "positive step."

Hobbled by a billion-dollar budget deficit, the district faces potential insolvency if it doesn't make a $700 million payment by June. Claypool says he's determined to pass a balanced CPS budget by the end of the year.