Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool has said that CPS will not be able to open in the fall if state lawmakers cannot approve an education budget:
“Chicago schools would not open, and I suspect most of the schools in the state would not open.”
The divisions among Democratic legislators who have control over the Illinois House and the Senate had prevented the school funding plan passage before the legislature ended its session this week, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick.
Claypool explained that CPS has little cash and no capability of accessing capital market because of its low credit ratings. But CPS is not alone, as many districts in the state are facing financial problems and will probably be forced to deal with the same issue if the state does not come up with funding.
Even if there are schools that could open in the fall, they could remain working for only 30 to 60 days, added Claypool.
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is crossing the state telling Illinoisians that the House and the Senate plans are both primarily CPS bailouts.
Claypool disagreed and said that the proposals would only get CPS a bit closer to equal state funding without helping districts with high numbers of low-income students.
The governor wants a funding plan that would, in fact, raise overall state spending for education by $55 million. But officials of CPS say the proposal would cause a $74 million decrease in their state funding and average school spending cuts of 26%.
Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) backs an overall budget that is billions of dollars short. Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) supports a stand-alone plan set on keeping elementary and secondary schools functioning. Rauner has said he is agreeable to a temporary idea to keep schools running and social services operating.
Now the difficulty of coming to an agreement is at a higher level than ever and will take a super-majority of lawmakers to pass any proposal. That amount of bipartisan cooperation would be very unlikely, especially with November elections looming.
While the governor is away, Claypool is spending his time attempting to convince parents across the state to lobby the governor, according to Lauren FitzPatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We still need them to stay involved because we have another obstacle to overcome, and that’s Gov. Rauner. They should remind the governor of his pre-gubernatorial history as someone who supported education funding, equality and reform. And I’d like to see that governor come back,” Claypool said by telephone. “The strategy of trying to divide the state around the issue of education just isn’t going to work.”
But State Education Secretary Beth Purvis defends Rauner by pointing out that he has been focused on getting enough money for schools to allow them to begin in the fall.
She added that Republican leaders Rep. Jim Durkin (R-District 82) and Sen. Christine Radogno (R- District 41) introduced a measure that would raise state education spending overall and would ensure that no districts would receive less money for at least one year if they were scheduled for current cuts.
CPS faces more than a $1 billion budget deficit next year and has been digging for money to use for a $676 million pension payment due before July 1.
Lauren Petty, reporting for NBC Chicago, quoted CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner, who said in a statement:
“Now we need the governor to end his strategy of pitting one region against another and fix the funding for all the districts suffering under Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation approach.”