NEAR NORTH SIDE — Plans for a high school that was once to be named after President Barack Obama have been stalled in the wake of the Chicago Teachers Union tentative contract.
Moving forward with the school, which was once to be called Obama College Prep, has been postponed, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) told reporters Tuesday.
Burnett said the school had been postponed because of the deal struck between teachers and Chicago Public Schools to stop a strike, aided by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's volunteering $175 million in Tax Increment Finance funds.
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner confirmed the deal Tuesday.
"Many parties agreed to compromise to help Chicago Public Schools students and teachers in this contract deal," she said. "In this case, the mayor and Ald. Burnett spoke about the importance of reaching an agreement with the CTU leadership that keeps students in classrooms, protects teachers’ pensions and stabilizes the district’s finances. With the magnitude of issues facing Chicago Public Schools, Ald. Burnett stepped up to lead in the effort to provide additional resources by delaying the construction of a high school on the Near North Side."
The high school formerly named after Obama was to receive $60 million in TIF funds, but the deal with teachers will require the city to dip into TIF funds.
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said other projects could be derailed as well with the loss of TIF funding, but he said it was worthwhile.
"I don't know that any of us have details on what projects will be put on hold," Reilly said Tuesday following Emanuel's 2017 budget speech. "My ward is typically one you look to for the TIF surplus for budget priorities."
Saying he usually takes a "conservative approach" to allocating those funds, Reilly said, "That gives us the flexibility to allow for larger surpluses." And it's worthwhile in this case, he added, calling CPS "our most important investment."
The school originally was planned to open on the Near North Side in 2017.
@AldermanBurnett says elite h.s. once known as "Obama Prep" will be postponed indefinitely as part of TIF deal that staved off CPS strike.— Fran Spielman (@fspielman) October 11, 2016
Alderman Burnett says it's postponed for now so the TIF money can be surplused for schools https://t.co/dmrDupyhe7— Lauren Chooljian (@laurenchooljian) October 11, 2016
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