Democrat lawmakers reject reform in favor of CPS bailout

While Republican lawmakers and the Governor seek to provide the deeply indebted CPS with much-needed oversight, financial flexibility, and accountability, Democrat lawmakers are lobbying against these common-sense reforms as Democrat leaders continue to push for a $500 million bailout of CPS. 

A number of downstate and suburban Democrat lawmakers have opposed recent Republican proposals to ensure CPS is subject to the same financial oversight and elected school board requirements as other Illinois schools. They refuse to compromise on a GOP proposal that would allow the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to temporarily take over oversight of CPS—but never its debt or responsibilities—with the ultimate goal of making the system financially accountable to a school board elected by the people of Chicago.

Legislative Democrats also stood silent when Senate President Cullerton threatened to hold hostage the upcoming K-12 education budget for downstate and suburban schools until Chicago schools receive an additional $500 million in additional state dollars. This is on top of the $600 million in sweetheart deals CPS already receives, but which aren’t available to other districts. That’s the real Chicago bailout, say Republican lawmakers and Gov. Rauner.

With CPS facing a $480 million budget shortfall, the ISBE has initiated an investigation into CPS’ “financial stability.” These same concerns previously prompted Republican legislative leaders to push for an overhaul of CPS. Their proposal would allow the ISBE to replace members of the current CPS Board of Education until the district’s finances are fixed, and in the future allow for an elected school board at CPS. The current process allows the mayor to appoint CPS school board members. The plan offered by Republican leaders brings CPS in line with current state law governing all other school districts in Illinois. The legislation makes it clear the state is not liable for the school district’s debt.

Additional legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would give Chicago the financial tools to declare bankruptcy, if necessary, and to give CPS the power of bankruptcy protection as well. Two dozen other states have enabled struggling municipalities to file for bankruptcy.

Chapin Rose

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