In his second appearance on "Chicago Tonight" since he was re-elected in April, Mayor Rahm Emanuel carefully placed a good chunk of blame for Chicago Public Schools' financial crisis on the state of Illinois and past mistakes made in Chicago.
“The reason we’re here is between 1995 and 2004, not a single payment was made (to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund) either by the Chicago Public Schools or the state into the pension fund, and half the problem we have today is because of those pension holidays,” Emanuel said right off the bat in his interview with Paris Schutz Tuesday night.
While Emanuel never mentioned anyone by name — not even Gov. Bruce Rauner, former Gov. Pat Quinn or former Mayor Richard Daley — he hinted that the school district's current lack of funds, to put it lightly, is not his fault.
The timing of the interview could not have been better, as the Illinois House had just rejected a bill earlier that day that would have delayed the district's deadline to pay $634 million to the pension fund by six weeks. The bill was supported by both Emanuel and Rauner and was expected to pass easily. According to Rauner, Madigan is to blame for its rejection, but it remains unclear exactly why the bill did not pass.
"Welcome to the mystery of the legislative process," Emanuel said on "Chicago Tonight."
The mayor did not offer any clear-cut solutions to fix CPS' crisis, but he did accuse the state government of "structural inequality" that prevented them from providing the necessary funds to the Chicago Public Schools district.
Emanuel cited data that showed that students in other districts — naming Kenilworth and Kankakee as two examples — receive an average of $2,000 worth of state investment, whereas Chicago students receive an average of only $157.
“Every school system if they received the same support that Chicago does, they would be at the breaking point,” Emanuel said.
The mayor said legislators chose Aug. 10 for the extended deadline introduced in the bill for a very specific reason — it's the same day the state hands out aid to all the other school districts. It seems Emanuel is hoping Illinois will bail out Chicago — or at least its schools — despite Rauner's speech to City Hall in May when he said Springfield did not have the money for such a move.
Lawmakers will vote on the bill again on June 30, the day the pension payment is due, in the hopes of helping CPS avoid a potentially disastrous outcome that could include a lawsuit or even bankruptcy.
As to what Emanuel and the rest of them plan to do with the extra six weeks if the bill passes the second time, the mayor did not offer a clear answer on that front either, saying only that they will "discuss a more permanent solution."