CHICAGO An ongoing funding battle between
Illinois and its biggest public school system moved to court on
Tuesday with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) accusing the state
of discriminating against its largely black and Hispanic student
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, uses the
state’s Civil Rights Act to seek to invalidate Illinois’ school
“Chicago students, who are overwhelmingly students of color,
are learning in a separate but unequal system,” CPS CEO Forrest
Claypool said in a statement. “The message from the state is
that their educations matter less than children in the rest of
Illinois, and that is both morally and legally indefensible.”
Claypool and other CPS officials have been critical of a
move last year by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner to veto a
bill that would have provided the district with $215 million in
state money for pensions. The move punched a hole
in the district’s already shaky budget, leading to spending cuts
and unpaid furlough days for teachers.
The nation’s third-largest public school system is
struggling with pension payments that will jump to $733 million
this fiscal year from $676 million in fiscal 2016, as well as
drained reserves and debt dependency. The fiscal woes have
pushed its general obligation credit ratings deep into the junk
category and led investors to demand fat yields for its debt.
CPS has also railed against the fact that it maintains and
funds its own teachers’ pension system, while districts in the
rest of Illinois are in a state-wide retirement fund that is
heavily subsidized by the state.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent attempt to revamp
the way Illinois funds schools and the willingness by state
Senate leaders to include a new funding formula in a bill
package to end the state’s nearly 20-month budget impasse.
Since the 1960s, six attempts have been made before the
Illinois Supreme Court to challenge inadequate school funding.
In most instances, the cases contended disparities between
wealthy and poor school systems created unequal learning
opportunities for students.
None of the legal challenges succeeded, with the state high
court in at least three cases determining lawmakers should
decide what represented adequate funding, not the judiciary.
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