Chicago Public Schools are taking steps to address its $700 million budget deficit by drastically cutting back on spending. CPS has proposed a capital spending budget of only $110 million for the upcoming fiscal year, a mere fraction of the $660 million capital spending budget this year. Of this $110 million, nearly $40 million will be provided by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, money earmarked for energy saving schemes such as high efficiency lighting.
The reduction in capital budget means that only the most urgent problems are likely to be addressed. Currently, 98 elementary and middle schools in the CPS system are without an outdoor playground. While this year 39 schools got new playgrounds, there is only $3.6 million proposed in the new budget to continue this work. This translates to 15 new or replacement playgrounds in the coming year.
“This year’s capital budget reflects our commitment to investing in infrastructure projects that address the critical and immediate needs facing schools as well as student learning,” schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizardsaid in a news release, acknowledging the “difficult fiscal climate.”
The five year plan for the district to gets its budget deficit under control means there will be even less in the capital spending the following year, but the final three years are anticipated to see a budget of just over $200 million each year.
While CPS is working hard to get its budgetary problems resolved, there is still the ongoing problem over compensation negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Unions. While the city has offered a 2% pay increase for the coming year to offset the lengthened school day and then a switch to merit based pay in 2013-14, the CTU wants a 30% pay raise over the next two years. A fact finding panel is currently reviewing proposals from both sides and will offer recommendations in early July. This is part of the legally mandated process that needs to be followed before CTU can call their first strike since 1987.
Rebecca Nieves Huffman, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, discusses why a teachers strike would be a disaster for the city and the children it’s trying to educate. In an increasingly competitive workforce marketplace a strike negatively impacts both parents who have to take time off work, and the children who will be less equipped to succeed.
Strikes are extremely dangerous, which is what makes them effective as political tools.
This is why it is so upsetting that the Chicago Teachers Union has been so reckless about playing the strike card. This does not sound like a union that has any respect for the principles of collective bargaining, where both sides work in good faith at the bargaining table. Rather, union bosses like Karen Lewis seem intent on thuggery and intimidation to get their way outside of the process.