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Chicago Public Schools Asks City For $269 Million To Bridge Budget Gap

By Heather Cherone | August 11, 2017 12:57pm | Updated on August 11, 2017 3:10pm
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NEAR WEST SIDE — Chicago Public Schools officials Friday released a $5.7 billion spending plan for the 2017-18 school year that relies on $269 million from the city that has yet to be approved by the City Council — in addition to approximately $300 million that has already been vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner as a "bailout" for Chicago.

The Illinois Senate is expected to meet Sunday to consider whether to reject Rauner's changes, and a similar vote could come next week in the Illinois House. Until the General Assembly acts, schools will get no state funding, threatening the ability of some districts to open on time and remain open the entire school year.

Emanuel has said repeatedly Chicago schools will open Sept. 5 as scheduled — regardless of Rauner's actions.

"When the dust has cleared in Springfield, like many other districts, CPS will release a budget that incorporates any changes or revisions required, if necessary at that time," according to a statement from district officials.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool repeatedly declined to say where the new city money the school district needs would come from, adding only that there were "many options."

District officials did not pinpoint where the additional city funds would come from, saying in a statement they were "working with the City of Chicago to identify potential sources."

Matt McGrath, a spokesman for Emanuel, said he could not "give you an answer today about CPS finances," and blamed Rauner for the uncertainty, even though roughly half of the funds the district is couting on would need to be approved only by the City Council, not state lawmakers.

"Our focus remains on ensuring that the state acts and properly funds education in Illinois," McGrath said. "What I can tell you is that any local solution will not come at the expense of the City's long-term financial stability."

A statement from the Chicago Teachers Union — which again blamed both Emanuel and Rauner for the fiscal crisis engulfing the district — said the CPS budget relied on "phantom money."

"This entire ordeal reinforces the need for an elected school board and educators to lead CPS instead of bean counters who still can't count beans," CTU President Karen Lewis said. "Will the money they're talking about restore cuts to our schools? Absolutely not."

This is the third year that CPS has built its spending plan — which must be approved by Sept. 1, according to state law — on funds officials do not have in hand.

The acknowledgment that CPS needs $269 million from the city this year is in addition to the budget gap of $114.2 million detailed earlier this month by city budget officials that aldermen will have to fill by Nov. 1.

While schools will get slightly more money for each student during the 2016-17 school year than during the 2015-16 school year, the CPS budget will shrink by about $43 million, officials said.

Most — if not all — of that increase was required to fund the labor agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union reached last fall, Claypool said.

The CPS budget has been cut because officials expect enrollment to drop by 8,000 students. Last year, enrollment dropped by more than 13,800 students, data shows.

In addition, CPS officials expect the district to receive $40 million less in federal funds designed to help low-income students because of the district's declining enrollment and a lower concentration of poverty in Chicago.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) has long urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster schools' budgets by dipping into redevelopment funds and taxing big firms.

Rosa and 29 other aldermen have backed a plan to send tax increment financing funds to Chicago's schools.

TIF districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.

Ramirez-Rosa has also called on the mayor to tax firms with more than 50 employees $33 per worker per month. That would add $106 million to the city's bottom line to be used for CPS, the rookie alderman said. Eighteen aldermen support that measure, short of the 26 needed to approve the tax.

Employers would not have to pay the tax for employees who live in one of the 20 Chicago community areas that have the highest rates of poverty and unemployment — an attempt to encourage companies to hire Chicagoans from disadvantaged neighborhoods, Ramirez-Rosa said.

However, Emanuel frequently touts the elimination of the $4-per-employee monthly tax by the City Council in 2011 at his request as a key reform that helped spur millions of dollars of economic activity in the city and prompted dozens of companies to relocate to Chicago.

Emanuel has not ruled out the tax on the number of employees or using TIF money.

As recently as Thursday, Emanuel refused to discuss whether he would support using additional city money to bridge CPS' deficit, or where he would find that additional money.

"It would be a mistake for us to discuss any alternatives to allow Springfield to continue to do what it has done for 25 years, which is underfund education and underfund the children of Chicago," Emanuel said.

Members of the public can weigh in on the proposed budget at two at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at district headquarters, 42 W. Madison St.

RELATED:

CPS School Budgets: Here's What Every School Is Getting For 2017-2018

CPS Will Spend More Cash On Kids Next Year — Whether Rauner Likes It Or Not

How Will 956 CPS Layoffs Affect Your School? Here's The Whole List

Read the full budget proposal here:

CPS FY18 BudgetBook by Heather Cherone on Scribd