Parents taking school funding fight to Mayor Emanuel's backyard


Parent protests*

Chicago Public School (CPS) parents, Parents 4 Teachers, will show their support of teachers by taking their efforts to influence Mayor Rahm Emanuel on school funding to his own backyard on Monday at 10 a.m. Their gathering and rally location, the former Courtenay Elementary School, 1726 W. Berteau (corner of Berteau and Hermitage) is down the street from Emanuel's Ravenswood home. 

Within hours of when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) may announce a strike, parents will briefly gather before fanning out into Emanuel's neighborhood explaining how Emanuel can avert a CTU Tuesday strike.   

Parents believe that Emanuel has it within his power to get the Chicago Public Education Revitalization Ordinance out of City Council's Finance Committee and voted on in City Council. That ordinance sets forth a way for the City to directly assist CPS by declaring certain  Tax Increment Finance (TIF) monies as surplus and then giving a supplement grant from the City's share of said declared surplus to CPS. 

Proposed Ordinance
Unlike the current random approach to determine and distribute TIF surplus, this ordinance requires the City to annually calculate and distribute available TIF surplus based on incremental tax collections, existing contractual agreements and financial obligations, excluding potential future project obligations, which may or may not occur.  

Under this, funding to CPS would be in addition to the 53% distributed to them now. The Ordinance also requires the City to encourage other taxing districts, such as Cook County, Chicago Park District, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and City Colleges of Chicago, to contribute their respective proportional shares of TIF surplus to additional Public School Revitalization Grants. 

When the Ordinance was introduced at the Finance Committee on July 20, there were 38 sponsors. At a Sept. 9, some alderman battled over the possible (TIF) surplus being used as it would negatively affect their economic development. 

Alderman George Cardenas, 12th Ward, pointed out that the ordinance codifies last year's surplus of $113 million which was distributed with about half going to CPS as being an annual event in years when CPS is declared o be in "distress."

Of the approximate $371 million collected and fund balances from the Fall 2015 TIF collections, the City declared TIF surplus of $116 million through June 30, 2016. CPS could receive an estimated $61 million (53% of surplus distribution) for operations from that surplus. 

According to the Cook County Clerk's office, the 2016 Fall collections are to be $89 million greater, a total of $416 million. If the 2016 were distributed as per the proposed ordinance, CPS could receive an estimated $150 million (73% of surplus distribution) for operations, according to the CTU. 

Aldermen Walter Burnett Jr., 27th Ward, whose ward is still in economic recovery mode since the closing of Cabrini-Green and Henry Horner housing projects, withdrew his support of the ordinance after the Committee's Chair Alexandra Holt pointed out that the ordinance would rule out projects that do not come before the Council, including road improvements, streetscapes and libraries. 

Calling it "a quick-fix solution to play to the crowd," Joe Moore, 49th Ward alderman, implied that this was not a real solution.

Proponents had different opinions. Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward Alderman, said that the nay-sayers were "fear mongering." Others argued that it is vital to give CPS whatever relief is possible.

Harry Osterman, Alderman of the 48th Ward, pointed out that it was all about priorities. "Streetscapes can wait but second grade, kindergarten, librarians and special-education teachers cannot wait." Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Alderman of the 35th, expressed the same opinion about priorities, "The Number One priority for our City should always be our children. 

Five Aldermen Propose Specific TIF Surplus
Also on Sept. 9, five aldermen offered that as a minor stop-gap to alleviate the ongoing CPS budget crisis, that they surplus funds from the Fullerton/Milwaukee TIF district, which spans their five wards.

The aldermen were Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Waguespack (32nd) and Ramirez-Rosa (35th) sent a letter to Holt requesting that she help "include the it's 20 percent share to CPS, bringing CPS' total share of the surplus to over 70 percent."

The aldermen and figured that there is a potential of $6.4 million in their TIF district for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. That would provide $4.5 million over the three years. 

Parents Friday Press Conference
Several parents groups, including Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Northside Action For Justice, Raise Your Hand Action and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, were joined by elected officials. They included Aldermen Matt O'Shea (10th), George Cardenas (12th), Waguespack (32nd) and Osterman (48th) as well as Cook County Clerk David Orr and Illinois State Representatives from Chicago,Will Guzzardi and Ann Williams. 

CPS Layoffs
While it has not been announced what staffing counts are at charter schools currently, CPS announced that 237 teacher and support staff are to be layed off due to a 3.5 percent drop in enrollment.

According to the CTU, "With more than 1,200 layoffs since January, and nearly 1,500 since Claypool's appointment, the mayor and the CPS CEO are choosing to take even more from the students, educators and families who have already sacrificed so much."

*Photo courtesy of Parents 4 Teachers 




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