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School Will End 20 Days Early Without More Money From The State, CPS Warns

By Heather Cherone | February 27, 2017 2:54pm | Updated on February 27, 2017 4:59pm
 CPS CEO Forrest Claypool
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — School for Chicago Public Schools students will end June 1 — 20 days early — unless CPS gets more money from the State of Illinois, school officials warned Monday.

CPS officials will have no choice but to end school nearly three weeks early unless the state agrees to give the district more money — or a court orders it to do so, CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said Monday afternoon.

"This is the worst-case scenario," Claypool said of the plan to cancel 13 days of instruction. "We have very few good options left."

Claypool declined to tell reporters when school district officials will make a final decision on whether the school year will end early.

Earlier this month, five families sued the state on behalf of CPS, claiming that the state has violated the civil rights of their children by giving Chicago schools less funding than other districts.

Claypool has repeatedly accused Gov. Bruce Rauner of supporting a "wrong and immoral" school-funding system that "cements racial discrimination that violates the civil rights of our children and threatens their very future."

CPS will ask a judge to fast-track its lawsuit against the state, officials said.

Chicago's students face "imminent and irreparable" harm, Claypool said.

"A judge must act when the politicians refuse," Claypool said.

Illinois Education Secretary Beth Purvis said in a statement that Claypool should "engage in a constructive process to pass a balanced budget with changes that would help schools across the state, including those in Chicago."

Ending the school year early would roll back Mayor Rahm Emanuel's much-touted efforts to lengthen the school year. In 2012, his push to extend it by 10 days helped trigger a seven-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union, along with a host of other issues.

Shannon Breymaier, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said the longer school year boosted students' test scores and the district's graduation rate.

"CPS has been forced into an impossible situation because of Governor Rauner’s careless veto," Breymaier said. "Our first choice, and the right choice, is to have Springfield equitably fund schools and teacher pensions, but while nothing is final and set in stone, CPS has to be forthright about its financial position and its options."

A statement from the Chicago Teachers Union said the city should use money from Tax Increment Finance districts and institute a tax levied on corporations based on the number of employees.

“The mayor behaving as if he has zero solutions is incredibly irresponsible,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. "[Emanuel] needs to look at his wealthy friends and at the TIF money he has already collected to provide what our schools need."

The fiscal crisis for CPS began in November, when Rauner veoted a bill that would have given Chicago schools an additional $215 million to help cover CPS pension obligations.

Rauner blamed Illinois Senate President John Cullerton for torpedoing a compromise inked last June that allowed schools to open in September. Part of that deal promised more money for Chicago schools in return for statewide "pension reform," a long-held goal of the governor.

CPS must pay its employees' pension fund $721 million by June 30.

CPS would save $91 million by ending school June 1 instead of June 20 and save another $5 million by canceling summer school for all students except those in high school, according to its court filing.

Even with the additional state money, CPS will "have to borrow hundreds of millions" to pay its bills, according to the court filing. Claypool declined to say how much the district will have to borrow.

Last month, Claypool ordered four unpaid furlough days for all CPS employees to save $35 million. Earlier this month, Claypool cut $5 million by canceling professional development events for its central office staff and slashed charter school budgets by $15 million by the end of the year, officials said.

Claypool cut another $31 million by freezing a portion of schools' discretionary funds, which can be used to purchase textbooks and technology as well as to pay for after-school programs, field trips and hourly staff.

Those cuts leave a deficit of $129 million, officials said.

In a message to legislators, Rauner said in November that he did not sign the school funding bill because it would amount to a "bailout" for CPS.

Cullerton denied breaking the agreement and said he was willing to continue working on pension reform with the governor.

Rauner and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan have been locked in a bitter fight over the Illinois budget.

The governor wants lawmakers to adopt his agenda, which he says will spur business growth in Illinois as part of a budget agreement. Democrats have refused, and the impasse has lasted nearly two years.

Motion for Preliminary Injunction by Ariel Cheung on Scribd