Illinois Education Secretary Beth Purvis penned an open letter Tuesday to Chicago Public Schools parents, blaming the district’s precarious financial situation on “continued mismanagement” and calling recent cuts “curiously timed.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a $215 million CPS funding bill in December, claiming Democratic leaders backed out of a deal to pass comprehensive pension reform. CPS was counting on the $215 million to fund an upcoming teacher pension payment, due at the end of June.
In order to close the funding gap, CPS announced Monday that the district would freeze as much as $69 million in spending, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Additionally, CPS announced four unpaid furlough days last month, a move that is expected to save the district $35 million.
The $215 million in CPS funding is now attached to the Illinois Senate's bipartisan budget package, which includes a comprehensive pension reform plan. In her letter, Purvis called CPS’ decision to freeze spending “a shock to us all,” noting the ongoing nature of the Senate proposal.
“CPS doesn’t have to make its full pension payment until June 30th,” Purvis wrote. “The Illinois Senate is currently considering a balanced budget package that would include comprehensive pension reform, including funds for CPS pensions, and a new school funding formula.”
“Why would CPS arbitrarily create a crisis and hurt its students and teachers rather than work to pass the Senate’s balanced budget reform package,” she asked.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool faulted Rauner Monday for the district’s latest financial troubles, comparing the Republican to President Donald Trump, the Sun-Times reports.
“He’s clearly adopting Donald Trump’s tactics of attacking vulnerable citizens in order to score political points,” Claypool told reporters. “Just like Trump, he’s attacking children of immigrants, he’s attacking racial minorities, attacking the poor here in Chicago.”
“In this case it’s the children which is particularly shameful,” he added.
On Tuesday, Purvis urged CPS to “work with all parties to enact a balanced budget package" that would include comprehensive pension reform and a revamped school funding formula.