Does CPS really have to cut one billion dollars from its budget this year? Here’s how Greg Hinz (Crain’s) sees it, starting with Mayor Emanuel: “His school team is stumbling and bumbling and in my opinion not being completely honest here. Yes they have a big budget deficit. Is it the billion dollars they’re talking about? Probably not… they’ve got some stuff in mind that will cut it down to nowhere near as big a number as a billion.”
A combination of early tax collections, some additional state aid and other factors have already reduced that goal by about half, he says. And not to worry – they still have millions and millions more to find as they “cut the bureaucracy” in the waning days of the budgeting process. “Ten of the last seven school board heads have gotten up at the beginning of the year and said, we’ve cut to the bone. We’ve gotten rid of all those bureaucrats. And then, lo and behold, they find another fifty, sixty million dollars the next year,” he says, concluding, “It’s a con.”
There are real budget issues, and they are responsible for mass layoffs and disruption. But there’s very little transparency about the budget process. Budgets are now given to the local schools, and they have to do their own cutting. But how much? Reporters can’t say for sure. “It’s taken the reporting of LSCs and parents and principals brave enough to leak what their budgets were,” explains the Sun-Times’ Lauren FitzPatrick.
Even without seeing the whole picture, it’s becoming clear, says FitzPatrick, that it will be very difficult for Mayor Emanuel to keep his promise to fill his hard-won longer school day with meaningful instruction. The principals, she says, are faced with impossible choices. “We can’t give the mayor what he wants,” she explains,” because we’ve lost four million dollars at Kelly High School, for example, so do you think the math teacher’s gonna go before the music teacher? Probably not. It’s the longer-day-positions, the “fuller-day” positions, that are going.”
Also on today’s show: yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling effectively ending DOMA may have positive impact for gay couples in Illinois, according to Hinz, but not immediately.
And Governor Quinn may be a bit stronger than he currently appears for getting re-elected, especially if he can steer a path through the impasse and craft a long-term pension solution.