Potential State funding will provide relief to Chicago schools…maybe


Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn announced that a limited amount of school funding has been restored to the State's 2011 budget. However the state budget has not been approved by both the State House and Senate and it is uncertain when that vote will be completed.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) project that the state announcement means that the CPS 2011 budget deficit will drop from $427 million to $370 million. Annual increases represent more than $300 million of the deficit: $135 million for contractual increases mandated by union contracts; $34 million in new expenses generated by rising healthcare costs for employees; $86 million in operational increases, including energy, transportation and utility costs; and $47 million in debt service increases in order to fund critical construction and repairs to schools. State education funding cuts in 2011 add at least another $70 million.

CPS officials are quick to point out that this deficit does not include the $352 million the state currently owes CPS for 2010.

The impact of the cuts include: maintaining K‐8 classroom size, but increasing average high school classroom size to thirty-three students; decreasing funding for magnet, Montessori, gifted and IB programs;  reducing bilingual education programs; reducing after‐school and summer school programs; cutting non‐mandatory transportation; reducing funding for charter schools; and continuing cuts in CPS Central Office and district administrative offices.

Last week the Office of the Inspector General announced that $1.2 million was found via the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Expenditure Audit. The source was a defunct Central Loop TIF district.

The Raise Your Hand Coalition congratulated the Inspector General on the find, commenting that:

"At a time when the state is in financial crisis and the Chicago Public Schools are still facing massive teacher lay offs and program funding cuts, we find it very telling that an audit of just two of 159 active TIF districts could reveal such a significant amount of 'unused' funds.

This revelation clearly calls into question whether additional 'hidden' money might be found in Mayor Daley's TIF pocket. We support the Inspector General's recommendation to return the $1.2 million to the original taxing bodies, from which these funds came. This would equate to approximately $600,000 in funds to Chicago Public Schools - equivalent to the cost of approximately 10 new teacher salaries.

By opening the TIF books, the Inspector General's report has shed light on a disgraceful abuse of funds that is happening at the cost of our children's education."

Over a month ago, Raise Your Hand Coalition sent a letter to Mayor Daley requesting a meeting to discuss funding for public school education.  That letter has gone unanswered. The Coalition is questioning the siphoning off of more than $250 million annually from education funding, generated from property taxes.


For more info: CPS; Additional School issues covered in Our Urban Times


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