Chicago schools seeks immediate halt to ‘discriminatory’ state funding

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By Karen Pierog | CHICAGO

CHICAGO The cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools
(CPS) asked a state court on Monday to order an immediate halt
to what it called Illinois’ practice of monetarily
discriminating against the city’s students.

The nation’s third-largest public school system sued
Illinois officials on Feb. 14, claiming the state’s method of
education funding discriminates against its largely black and
Hispanic student body in violation of the state’s Civil Rights
Act.

On Monday, CPS asked a Cook County Circuit Court judge for a
preliminary injunction immediately barring Illinois from funding
CPS differently than “predominantly white school districts in
the rest of the state.” It also requested an expedited schedule
that would have the court rule on the matter no later than the
week of April 24.

CPS warned it could be forced to end the school year on June
1 instead of June 20 and cancel some summer school programs as
it deals with a lingering $129 million deficit in its $5.41
billion budget and a looming $721 million pension payment. Unlike all other Illinois public school districts,
which participate in a teachers retirement system heavily
subsidized by the state, CPS maintains its own pension fund for
educators.

“This fiscal year alone, the state’s discriminatory funding
has shortchanged CPS and its students by approximately $500
million,” the district’s court filing said.

CPS also warned that a balanced budget “is essential to
allow CPS access to the capital markets to continue to borrow
massive amounts of money to fund CPS’s cash flow.”

The district expected that borrowing, which includes money
needed to make its pension payment, to total $1.55 billion in
the fiscal year that ends June 30, up from $1.1 billion in
fiscal 2016. Debt dependency, drained reserves and escalating
pension payments have pounded CPS’ credit ratings deep into the
junk category.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto in December of $215
million in one-time funding for teacher pensions blew a hole in
CPS’ fiscal 2017 budget, which the district has partially filled
with spending cuts and unpaid furlough days for teachers.

The state’s Education Secretary Beth Purvis, issued a
statement on Monday urging CPS Chief Executive Forrest Claypool
to pitch in to help Illinois pass a balanced budget that
addresses “a broken school funding formula.” Illinois is limping through a record-breaking second-straight
fiscal year without a complete budget due to an impasse between
the Republican governor and Democrats who control the
legislature.



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