Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday broke his silence and defended a proposed $150 million property tax increase to fund Chicago Public Schools.
"I have no tolerance for an overblown bureaucracy, and I have no tolerance for inefficiency in the city budget and other agencies, and I'm glad they followed the cut-and-invest strategy. I think they've made the touch choices," the mayor said at an event trumpeting 400 new Chase bank jobs.
The proposal was quietly released last Friday afternoon. It calls for an extra $84/year -- the legal maximum -- on a home valued at $250,000. Several aldermen pushed back on the plan Monday, claiming it was ill-timed given the struggling economy, and that there was still too much administrative waste.
But Emanuel disagreed, and in his comments Tuesday said CPS had made $400 million worth of cuts to work toward shoring up a $712 million budget deficit.
Even while cutting and reforming, the mayor said CPS had budgeted every dollar possible to investing in children, including:
- Expanding full-day pre-kindergarten to an additional 6,000 kids
- Expanding the charter program to another five schools
- Opening up 2,500 magnet school slots to children
- Expanding the number of teaching academies in the city
- Dramatically increasing the level of security at 14 schools
- Holding the line on class sizes
"Before we actually we went to taxpayers, we did everything we could first to scrub as much as we could from central office, from back office operations [and] from everything we thought was not as essential to students," CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said at a separate event Tuesday.
The proposed budget does not include financing for the longer schools days or school year for which Emanuel and Brizard are both pushing.
Brizard met privately with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis earlier in the day in an effort to keep that hope alive.
"We're talking," Lewis confirmed.
However, it's unlikely a deal would include a reinstatement of a four-percent annual pay raise for teachers if they stay longer each day. Those pay raises, while in the last contract, were rescinded by the Chicago Board of Education back in June.
"That's not right... longer school day and get what you were already entitled to? No, I don't think so," said Lewis.
Several public hearings are scheduled to discuss the proposed budget:
Wednesday, Aug. 10
Lane Tech High School
2501 W. Addison Street | 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 11
Westinghouse High School
3223 W. Franklin Blvd. | 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 12
Simeon High School
8147 S. Vincennes | 7:00 p.m.
Residents can also provide thoughts and suggestions on the proposed 2012 CPS budget on a new "CPS Ideas Forum" website that launched Tuesday.