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CPS to Return Nearly $35M Federal Grant

CTU calls initial acceptance of funds a "fraudulent action"

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CPS to Return Nearly $35M Federal Grant

Getty Images / Joe Corrigan/Stringer

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Chicago Public Schools on Friday will return $34 million received from a federal grant two years ago because terms that came with the funding could not be met.

The Department of Education doled out the money with the stipulation that CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union collaborate with each other on how to implement a pilot Teacher Incentive Fund, a merit-pay program.

The current leadership of the CTU has been a vocal opponent to any sort of merit-pay program and said CPS' acceptance of the money was a "fraudulent action."

"You knew when you accepted the first federal dollar that your actions were in violation of the terms of the grant, which was supposed to include Union 'buy-in,'" reads a portion of an email, shared with the media, that CTU President Karen Lewis sent to CPS Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winkler.

Previous leadership at the Chicago Teachers Union had agreed to work with CPS on the merit-pay pilot program, CPS reported in documents provided to NBC Chicago.

According to CPS, the Department of Education awarded the grant in 2010 with the stipulation that the two parties come to terms within a year. Then, due to the amount of time it took to create a teacher evaluation system, the DOE extended the deadline to June 1, 1012.

CPS is now blaming the CTU for the loss of funds.

"Because of the CTU’s refusal to work in partnership with us we’re forced to return $34 million that otherwise would have been used to support and reward teachers for the incredible work they are doing on behalf of our children in the classroom every day," said Becky Carroll, CPS' Chief Communications Officer.

Even so, Lewis said the CTU did try to work with CPS and repeatedly asked the system to share its correspondence with the DOE about the grant on three separate dates in March. They apparently received none of the correspondence.

Lewis also rejected the claim that she was to blame for the loss of the money.

"You asked for a last-minute discussion about the grant, yet you refused to provide the Union with your correspondence with the DOE since 2010," Lewis said in the email to Winkler. "In essence, this entire discussion, prompted by a deadline, has been dealt with like so many other initiatives in your department - throw something together, slapdash and hope no one notices that it is a train wreck."

Lewis on Thursday called for Chicago's Inspector General to launch an investigation into how the money was accepted and how nearly $1 million of it was spent. She said she'd also request a probe from the Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education said it's working with CPS to see if another program can be devised so the schools can hold on to the Teacher Incentive Fund grant, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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