Chicago Public Schools to Springfield: 20 for 20

Twenty for 20: that's what Chicago Public Schools is saying it needs from Springfield.

District CEO Forrest Claypool renewed his calls for lawmakers in Springfield to not only help the district bridge it's budget gap, but adequately fund education.

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Claypool laid out his case at the City Club of Chicago today. He’s been calling on Springfield for support since he took office four months ago.

In fact, the school district's budget is counting on $480 million from Springfield to help fill that billion-dollar budget deficit.

“Chicago children receive dramatically fewer resources for their education than all the other children in the state of Illinois. That is a system that cannot stand.”

–Forrest Claypool

But today, Claypool couched his argument a bit differently. He told the City Club that if Chicago Public Schools students make up 20 percent of the state's enrollment and their families pay 20 percent of the income tax money that funds public education, then students should be receiving 20 percent of the state's spending on education.

Claypool says that would amount to about $458 million for CPS–just under the $480 million the district says it needs.

Forrest ClaypoolForrest Claypool “Chicago children receive dramatically fewer resources for their education than all the other children in the state of Illinois,” Claypool said. “That is a system that cannot stand. That is a system that is not equal–especially at this time. We’re not even saying we need more because of poverty. We’re saying treat us the same. Give us the same resources on a per-people basis as every other school district in the state. If we do that, we can protect our classrooms, protect our academic gains, and with all the other hard work and partnerships, dig our way out of an unprecedented fiscal crisis that threatens the very foundation of Chicago’s public school system.”

Claypool has repeatedly said that everyone involved here will have to give a little, so that no one will have to give too much.

For his part, he says the district has already cut more than $10 million out of the bureaucracy, and though he promises that over the next year additional contributions to fill the budget hole will become clear, he's keeping mum on the details for now.

Chicago Teachers Union reaction

Claypool has asked teachers to join the district in Springfield in lobbying for better funding for CPS.

But Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey says that's a bus to nowhere–the legislation that passed the senate, Bill 318, is likely going to die in the House in Springfield, and CTU opposes it anyway.

Sharkey says they of course support funding equity, but until they get it, there are plenty of ways the district could remedy its funding situation.

Jesse SharkeyJesse Sharkey “There are things that you can do to raise progressive revenue that even the governor has talked about in the long term,” said Sharkey. “I’m talking about making a progressive tax on income, taxing certain kinds of luxury services, taxing financial transactions. Those are long-term solutions that are now too late to implement because they’ve been dragging their feet on those kind of solutions for months, years even. If they wanted to get busy on some of the long-term solutions, and start putting them in place now, we could borrow against them and use that to get through. But they’ve set up a crisis of their own creation.”

Next week, the Teachers Union is planning what they expect to be a massive rally in Grant Park.

He says as contract talks and budget problems continue, we can expect to see a lot more red as the union intends to keep up with those demonstrations.

Charter school closures

Many critics have complained that the district continues to open and support charter schools in this time of financial crisis–but tomorrow, the district is actually recommending the closure of some charter schools.

Last month the district announced plans to implement a new charter school quality policy, holding those schools more accountable for underperforming.

Some schools were immediately placed on an academic warning list, and tomorrow, four schools are being recommended for closure altogether.

One of them is Betty Shabazz International Charter's Barbara Sizemore Academy in the West Englewood neighborhood.

The district says if schools are recommended for closure, it's because they've failed to meet the goals stated in their remediation plans–the ones submitted last year when the schools learned they were placed on the academic warning list.

But the staff at the Sizemore school says they're floored by the move–they were told if they moved from a Level 3 to a Level 2 school, they'd be allowed to remain open, and they feel this new policy is being applied retroactively.

What's more is their concern for the students.

Makita KheperuMakita Kheperu “A large number of them have come from schools that have been closed previously. The sense of instability for them, especially when they found a school that is growing and improving in the way that we are,” said Makita Kheperu of Betty Shabazz International Charter.  It’s very sad. It’s heartbreaking for them. Many of our students have repeatedly said to us that they are really afraid to go back. They don’t want to go back to the schools that they transferred here from because they’re learning more and they feel safe. I think in this community in particular that’s an important factor to take into consideration.”

The four schools the board is expected to vote on tomorrow are the Sizemore Academy, Amandla Charter High School, CICS–Larry Hawkins High School, and Bronzeveille Lighthouse Charter Elementary School.

Meanwhile, the staff at some of those schools says they and their students' families are working to show their opposition to the school board before tomorrow's vote.

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