The state’s ongoing budget stalemate has crippled Chicago Public Schools and community stakeholders are demanding fairer methods of funding public schools.
Shortly after an April 19 court hearing on the school district’s lawsuit against the state for civil rights violations, a group of parents, teachers, elected officials, and community stakeholders held a press conference outside of Spencer Technology Academy, 214 N. Larvergne Ave., to voice their concerns about a lack of funding for public schools.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was unavailable for comment.
Forrest Claypool, the school district’s CEO, said a final decision on whether to shorten the school year could come as early as next week pending a ruling by a Cook County judge on two motions in its lawsuit.
Several elected officials attended the press conference. They included U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), state Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th), Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Dorothy Brown, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia (7th), Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) and state Sen. Daniel Bliss (9th), who is a Democratic candidate for governor.
“I am here because I care about education. I am also here because good schools have a long history of activism around education,” said Davis. “Unless children get the opportunity to fully participate in the educational process they are going to be behind other children throughout the country.”
In its lawsuit, CPS said the state contributes more money to teacher pensions in the suburbs and Downstate than Chicago and “that’s unfair,” said Garcia.
One way to improve the state’s poor, financial condition is to start making wealthy residents pay their fair share of taxes, contends Bliss.
“We have to find the money where it is and that’s taxing the richest residents, who have gotten away without paying their share [of taxes],” Bliss said.
But Ford said that beyond a lack of state funding parents should also worry about the safety of their children if CPS is forced to end the school year three weeks early.
“Students will lose opportunities to learn if CPS closes early and children’s lives would be put at-risk,” explained Ford. “How could a city [like Chicago] that is already violent even think about shutting down schools early and not having after school programs? It makes no sense. A child without an education is like a bird without wings.”
Ford added that he plans to introduce legislation this month in the General Assembly that would make $215 million available to CPS to keep schools open until June.
Moving forward, Brown said a long-term solution is needed to avoid children being shortchanged in the classroom.
“We [the community] are calling on the governor and the State Legislature to properly fund ‘our’ schools every year,” said Brown. “We [CPS] get 76 cents of every dollar to fund our schools. That’s discrimination and it must stop.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner was unavailable for comment.
Davis was asked if there was anything the federal government could do to ease the funding problem for CPS.
“I am afraid looking to Washington for relief is like looking for light in dark places,” added Davis.