CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel cheered a six-month stopgap spending agreement in the General Assembly Thursday to fund Chicago Public Schools and make sure they open in the fall.
"We have a stronger future today than we had yesterday because of the action in Springfield," Emanuel said after what he called "an honest compromise" between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislators passed the General Assembly.
"I think the agreement is fair to taxpayers, to students and to teachers here in Chicago," Emanuel said earlier in the day at an event in Bronzeville.
Emanuel acknowledged that the $250 million property-tax hike the Board of Education will have to pass as part of the deal will not go down easy with city residents, but he insisted, "We as a city and the taxpayers had to step up."
In exchange, he added, the city received more state funding for pension payments, and the state moved toward providing more education funding for low-income districts, including CPS.
"There's no doubt CPS will have to continue to tighten its belt," said CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool, who joined Emanuel in a City Hall news conference after the bill's passage. Yet he expressed relief district finances were on stronger footing with the state relief after CPS completed a necessary $667 million teacher pension payment earlier in the day.
Board of Education President Frank Clark said the deal cobbled together in Springfield made CPS' financial situation "truly manageable."
Emanuel also touted how he had now worked to make police and fire pensions solvent, with those for teachers and municipal employees to follow.
Although he didn't mention the name of his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Emanuel said the former mayor had left those pension funds "financially upside down."
Previously city leaders "never did the tough things, the necessary things, to be honest with people," he said.
Emanuel also touted Springfield action that cleared the way for a $1 billion federal transportation infusion to complete the CTA Red Line rehabilitation on the North Side, and potentially extend it to the south. He said that would create up to 2,500 jobs a year for the next four years.
"Progress came out ahead," Emanuel said of the day's dealings in Springfield.
Earlier in the day, while launching a mobile technology program for summer learning in Bronzeville, Emanuel said, "The last six months has worn on people's patience," Emanuel adding that the "uncertainty" surrounding state education funding was "about to come to an end."
Even so, the mayor called the deal "fair" and said it would "keep the financial pressure away from the classroom" in CPS.
Emanuel made the statements while touting an expanded Chicago City of Learning program this summer. Founded three years ago and led by DePaul University's Digital Youth Network, it organizes multiple city agencies in keeping students engaged over the summer and "combating the summer slide," in the words of Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon.
The library, he added, would be giving out 1 million books this summer as part of the annual Rahm's Readers program, in order to keep children reading and retaining the things they've learned in the school year just ended. Each child enrolled in the program will get 12 books to keep.
The Digital Youth Network and the Chicago Housing Authority are also partnering on a pair of new "mobile maker labs," which will travel to dozens of Park District programs over the summer with a bank of 30 computers and instructors to teach computer skills and coding.
"The summertime is not a time to lose any of the academic gains our students are making," Emanuel said.
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