Chicago Teachers Union, CPS Leaders Travel to Springfield to Lobby State Lawmakers for More Funding


The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools traveled to Springfield May 15, 2024, for a joint lobbying day. (WTTW News)The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools traveled to Springfield May 15, 2024, for a joint lobbying day. (WTTW News)

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Chicago Public Schools teachers and administrators aren’t shying away from Mayor Brandon Johnson’s claim the city’s schools are “owed” $1 billion from the state. But they dramatically scaled back their immediate demands during a rare joint CPS and Chicago Teachers Union lobbying trip to the state Capitol on Wednesday.

“When you hear the billion-dollar number, to be factual, that is actually the amount that we are underfunded based on the state’s own formula,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez told WTTW News. “So that’s just the fact … and we want to make sure that that’s always top of mind, that we’re not fully funded.”

Even so, he said, “we’re not expecting that this all gets solved immediately all at once.”

Martinez said CPS isn’t alone in missing state funding according to a 2017 Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) law that uses a formula to direct more money to the neediest schools — though he noted CPS is by far the state’s largest district and among those with the highest needs.

Martinez said in meetings with lawmakers and a team from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, the request wasn’t for the $1.1 billion it would take to bring CPS to fully funded according to the EBF formula.

Rather, Martinez said, he advocated for an increase of $550 million to be poured into EBF and distributed among schools statewide; Pritzker proposed a $350 million increase in his budget plan. That higher increase, Martinez noted, is in accordance with what some legislators are also pressing for as they negotiate the state’s next spending package.

Though the additional $200 million would be spread around the state, Martinez said because of how the complicated formula works, CPS would receive a greater portion of the funding. If Illinois adds Pritzker’s proposed $350 million, Martinez said, CPS would get less than 10% of it, but if the state adds $550 million more, CPS would get “closer to our fair share, which is anywhere between 15 and 20%.”

According to the governor’s office, CPS this fiscal year is getting more than $1.7 billion via EBF, which is roughly 21% of the statewide disbursement even as CPS enrollment accounted for 17% of students statewide.

Martinez said CPS is deserving of the greater percentage because the data put into the EBF formula is “lagging.”

“So, for example, it doesn’t take into account that our enrollment is up almost 7,000 students and these are students that are migrant students, they’re homeless, they’re in poverty,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he also advocated for $180 million in money specifically for migrant students statewide, of which CPS would receive approximately $55 million — a line item not included in Pritzker’s plan — as well as the restoration of $51 million in the funding of the 21st Century after-school learning program, which would net CPS another $15 million.

In what’s believed to be a first, Martinez made the trip along with CTU leadership including around 200 teachers, who did not have to take a day off to lobby. Martinez defended paying the teachers and staff, saying it was helpful for those who see students’ needs firsthand to be able to share those stories with legislators in the final waves of making budget decisions.

CTU executive board member Carrene Beverly-Bass, who said she’s worked in CPS for 43 years, said that with an infusion of COVID-19 funding the past several years, she has seen a “marked difference” in students and that students deserve to keep the momentum going.

“We demand, because it was promised and the kids deserve it, we have to fund our schools,” Beverly-Bass said. “Fully fund them. We need that funding. We’re demanding it. It was promised to us.”

She said money would help retain teachers and add literacy programs, library books and sports programs that would give students something to strive for outside of the classroom.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R- Morris, however, said it was inappropriate for teachers to “take a taxpayer-funded day off to come to Springfield to protest” instead of staying in their classrooms teaching.

Bargaining is underway on a new CTU contract with CPS, and the union is demanding 9% annual pay increases as well as housing assistance, expanded dual language programs and more staff in schools.

“The money grubbing, of course, is absolutely shameless,” state Sen. Don DeWitte, R-West Dundee, said. “The scales have been tipped in the Chicago Public School systems’ favor with regards to funding over the years. For the mayor and now his minions in the Chicago Teachers Union to come down here, try to bully lawmakers into more money they claim they are being shortchanged, is absolutely outrageous.”

DeWitte said CPS has received a “disproportionate” share of state education funding through “carve-outs and unique grants,” including a unique block grant for CPS that was grandfathered into the EBF formula, meaning the district begins with a $200 million base that other districts don’t receive.

The EBF formula separates districts into four tiers, with the first being the neediest.

Since the 2017 EBF law was passed, CPS moved from the first to the second tier, and according to the Pritzker administration’s EBF calculations, is ranked the 425th district in terms of relative need.

State Sen. Seth Lewis, R- Carol Stream, said Chicago residents need to pay more in property taxes to support CPS, just as suburban residents do to fund their schools.

“We’re tired of paying higher property taxes in the suburbs than the city of Chicago does,” Lewis said. “We’re paying more than our fair share, and when we suggest so, we’re called names. Those of us who represent the suburbs, we are not intimidated. We are not swayed by the bullying tactics by Mayor Brandon Johnson and CTU President Stacy Gates and their members. We’re actually tired of it.”

Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in the legislature, and so will largely craft the budget. 

Their deadline to decide how much schools receive is the end of May.

Contact Amanda Vinicky: @AmandaVinicky[email protected]


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