Parents, Advocates Want Details On CPS Plan For End of School Year

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool speaks in Dec 2016 at a Chicago Board of Education meeting. During Wednesday’s meeting, he offered no new details on the district’s plan for the end of the school year. (Chicago Tonight)CPS CEO Forrest Claypool speaks in Dec 2016 at a Chicago Board of Education meeting. During Wednesday’s meeting, he offered no new details on the district’s plan for the end of the school year. (Chicago Tonight)

With a ruling expected Friday in its lawsuit against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state, Chicago Public Schools has still not provided any update on its path ahead if it is indeed forced to close schools nearly three weeks early this year.

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The Chicago Board of Education and district officials offered no new details Wednesday in their final meetings before a Cook County Chancery Court judge is scheduled to rule on a pair of motions from the district and the state.

“This could be a critical week for the future of our schools,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said during prepared remarks at the board meeting. “We are grateful to the court for making this case a priority because we know how anxious our families are about the rest of the school year. Ending school early would be a tragedy for Chicago students and we hope … that this drastic action can be avoided.”

If CPS does not receive immediate funding from the state, it says it may end the school year on June 1 rather than the original scheduled date of June 20. But the district has not yet commented on what it will do in the event its motion fails.

That didn’t sit well with parents and education advocates attending Wednesday’s board and Finance and Audit Committee meetings.

“As parents we really need to know what you’re going to do with this current situation. We need some revenue solutions and smart spending from this board,” said Joy Clendenning of the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand. “We really need to know, our parents are asking us if they need to make childcare plans, and what is happening.”

CPS and a handful of Chicago families sued the governor and other state officials in February, claiming Illinois’ education funding system discriminates against CPS’ predominantly minority student population.

CPS has since filed a motion seeking injunctive relief from the court, asking a Cook County judge to order the state to help fund its existing budget shortfall, while Rauner’s attorneys have sought to have the case dismissed.

District and city officials are reportedly working on an emergency bailout that could include additional cuts and borrowing to keep school doors open through June 20 if the district motion fails and that state aid does not come through. But details of that plan have not yet been made public.

With the threat of a shortened school year on the table, 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza said her office has been inundated by calls from parents asking about what’s going to happen after June 1.

“I have no answers, you have no answers,” she said. “The governor blames the city, and the city blames the governor, and our kids are caught in the middle again.”

Sadlowski Garza, like the Chicago Teachers Union, called on the city to use new revenue options to fund the cash-strapped district, specifically mentioning $675 million in Chicago’s rainy day fund.

She also joined with parent and community organizations before the meeting in a rally outside the board offices, calling on the board and district to support other progressive revenue streams such as a corporate head tax or the city’s tax incremental financing surplus.

While an answer is not yet clear, Claypool did note the district will provide an update to families following the ruling Friday afternoon. That hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Follow Matt Masterson on Twitter: @byMattMasterson

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