Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday unveiled his plan to fund keeping Chicago Public Schools open through the end of the school year, a promise that has so far been met with more questions that answers.
Twice in the last two weeks, briefings on the mayor’s funding plan have been postponed, but details were released Friday, including a plan to borrow millions of dollars.
Emanuel said he plans to use $389 million in Grant Anticipation Notes secured by state block grants. He added that there would be no budget cuts through the end of the school year.
"We are not going to let the hard work and record progress of Chicago students, teachers, principals and families be derailed by failed leadership in Springfield," Emanuel said in a statement. "The State of Illinois is dead last in education funding, has among the most inequitable school funding formulas in the country, and owes Chicago Public Schools $467 million in payments. While we work with state lawmakers on long-term solutions to Illinois' education funding challenges, in the short-term we are doing what is necessary to keep our students in the classroom and on the path to a brighter future."
While the solution from Emanuel is only short-term, Chicago continues to look to Springfield to change the education funding formula.
"Governor [Bruce] Rauner is forcing Chicago’s students to pay the price for his failure to pass a state budget and end the racially discriminatory funding that jeopardizes their futures,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement. “Governor Rauner wants CPS to get by on ‘baling wire and chewing gum,’ the words of his representatives, and this plan does exactly that – bridges CPS through the next few months, keeping schools open until June 20, making our pension payment that no other district in the state has to make, and meeting our obligations until we receive more funding later this summer. Until the State of Illinois funds Chicago’s minority students at the same levels as the rest of predominantly white Illinois, our financial challenges will continue.”
Illinois has been without a budget for nearly two years.
A spokesperson for Rauner, however, said state funding is not to blame for the current issues facing Chicago schools.
"Instead of engaging with leaders and lawmakers to find solutions to this crisis, the mayor continuously chooses to lay blame on others instead of taking responsibility for his own massive failure of governance,” Eleni Demertzis said in a statement.
The Chicago Teachers Union also criticized Emanuel's plan, calling it "terribly irresponsible."
"This deal is akin to a payday loan that will take years to pay off at the expense of our school communities, while bankers continue to profit off the school district—a scenario that has, in part, led us to where we are today," the union said in a statement. “Instead of taking advantage of unused tax increment financing (TIF) funds or undoing a corporate tax break that the city can ill-afford, the mayor’s solution to CPS debt is to increase that burden through predatory loans from the same banks and investors that helped cause this problem. If the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results, we have to wonder where we are headed under current city and CPS leadership."