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The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes / Posted on July 2, 2015

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday detailed the fallout he attributes to Chicago Public Schools making good on a $634 million pension payment: 1,050 workers will lose their jobs, 350 vacant positions will be eliminated and several education programs will be slashed as a result of $200 million in budget cuts," the Tribune reports.

"Emanuel also proposed a $175 million property tax increase to help pay for teacher pensions - but only if the state and Chicago's teachers chip in as part of what the mayor described as a 'grand bargain' to put an end to the district's perennial money woes."

I'm not sure that's either grand or a bargain, but let's continue.

"Emanuel, who has warned that without help from the state, district cuts will start to affect the classroom, insisted Wednesday that is not yet the case.

"While we still have not affected the classroom, they are now beginning to affect what I refer to as operations at the schools themselves, and that is a different ill," Emanuel said.

Okay, the way I read this is that Rahm wants to threaten that cuts will affect the classroom, but he doesn't want cuts to the classroom on his political resume, because the fact is that CPS budgets have already affected the classroom - you simply cannot quarantine the classroom from the rest of the district's operation. If CPS had higher budgets - or, let's say, diverted dollars from consulting contracts - class sizes would be smaller, books and technology would be newer, and teachers wouldn't have to pay for supplies out of pocket. For that matter, schools would be cleaner, after-school activities would be more plentiful and better funded, and teachers would be happier. All of those things affect the classroom. School food would be healthier; transportation routes would make more sense. Neighborhood schools wouldn't be closed. I wish someone would ask Rahm what he means, exactly, about "the classroom." The budget line for chalk won't be affected?

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"Although class size will not be impacted and 'very few' of the 1,050 layoffs are teachers, schools will feel the pain, the mayor said," the Sun-Times reports.

"CPS' high school day will begin and end 45 minutes later to save $9.2 million in transportation costs."

Apparently this will save money because it will allow some routes to be consolidated, though I'm not exactly clear how and why. Also, if this saves $9.2 million, why haven't we already done it? What is the downside? (The only one I can think of is that it could impact some students' after-school jobs.)

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"An additional $2.3 million in busing costs will be cut by consolidating stops for magnet school students to "within two miles of students' homes" instead of at their local attendance school."

So kids will have to walk further to bus stops? That's not necessarily terrible, though maybe some Safe Passage routes will have to be extended.

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"Another $17.4 million will be cut from network offices, reducing funding for teacher development and start-up funding for new turnaround schools."

What does it mean to cut millions from network offices? Less support for teachers and principals? If none of these items affect the classrooms, then why are we paying for them?

See, I have a feeling they do.

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"An estimated $15.8 million will come by eliminating start-up funding for newly authorized charter schools. That doesn't necessarily mean a moratorium on new charters. It simply means new charters either have to find their own start-up funding or not open."

Good. Fuck 'em.

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"Although school cleanliness was an issue last year, about $11.1 million will come from reducing facility repair and maintenance budgets by 25 percent. Schools will be asked to 'share' engineers. Privatized positions will be reduced by 'limiting access to unused space' at some schools."

Okay, so dirtier schools.

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"In a cut that could cut off the pipeline that feeds high school athletics, CPS will save $3.2 million by eliminating central funding for elementary school sports teams and ending stipends for 5,300 grade school coaches. That doesn't necessarily mean no elementary sports. But if schools want to keep them and pay coaches, they'll have to raise the money themselves."

So elementary sports for schools with affluent parents only, now.

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"CPS said it planned to overhaul special education services and staffing after conducting an 18-month review," Catalyst reports.

So the following cuts are merely coincidental to the budget crisis?

"The review found that CPS 'currently exceeds the state's standards for special education staffing,' which the district said was due to 'mismatches between shifting enrollment and staff hiring.' CPS said the special education overhaul would save $42.3 million, including $14 million from not filling 200 vacant positions."

So CPS has been spending too much on special education? That seems implausible.

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"Other cuts that didn't have price tags included reducing funding for software licensing, freshman orientation, attendance grants and academic competitions."

So in other words, they just made some shit up.

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"Emanuel also proposed eliminating CPS's pick-up of 7 percent of teachers' pension costs, leaving them with a 9-percent contribution. Right now teachers pay 2 percent. The 7 percent pickup began decades ago in lieu of salary raises one year.

"'Everybody would have to give up something,' Emanuel said.

"Sharkey said eliminating the pension pick-up was 'troubling' to the teachers union because it appeared CPS was 'backsliding' on a commitment it had made previously at the bargaining table. He said cutting the pension pick-up amounted to a salary decrease."

Indeed.

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"These pension problems stem from 15 years of neglect and mismanagement at CPS and the city," WBEZ reports.

From 1995 to 2004, CPS did not make a single payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and instead used revenues to pay for operations. From 2011 to 2013, the school district got a "pension holiday" that temporarily shrunk payments, but didn't make a dent in the unfunded liabilities.

Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the district should be "front and center taking blame" for "using the pension system very much like a credit card, running up debt and deferring payment of it until now."

"The City of Chicago has known that more money was going to have to go into the pension systems in 2015," he said. "They had four-and-a-half years to plan for it and they did nothing."

Emanuel disputes that he's been putting the pension problem off, telling reporters Wednesday that over the past few years, "we negotiated with the laborers and municipal fund, we negotiated with police and fire and we negotiated with park district employees and reached pension agreements and passed a number of them . . . so I would slightly beg to differ the characterization that we were passive."

Martire didn't place all of the blame at the mayor's feet. He said state lawmakers are equally at fault for not contributing to Chicago teachers' pensions, like they once promised and by generally underfunding public schools.

"When you have such significant underfunding from the state, the mayoral administrations and the administrations of the CPS are going to look to beg, borrow and steal," he said. "And just simply write an IOU into the system saying, 'We'll pay you back someday at compounded interest.' And someday has arrived."

Again, let's name names of every official responsible - and bill them.

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CPS Covers Madonna
Including such classics as Express Yourself (In Two Minutes Or Less At Our Monthly Board Meetings).

Rahm's Plan C
CPS kids work off pension debt as Aramark janitors.

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Exclusive! Inside Amtrak's New Union Station
Now to be called Right to Work Station . . .

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BeachBook
* Fire Garry McCarthy - But For The Right Reasons.

* Lawsuit: Illinois Women's Basketball Coach Is Incredibly Racist.

* Chicagoans Ax Property Taxes.

* Chicago Rents Rising Fastest In Wicker Park, Logan Square & Avondale.

* Where's The Respect For Women's Sports?

Evan F. Moore strikes again.

* Farewell To America.

The Guardian's Gary Younge is going home - but not before telling us a few things about our country we need to understand.

* Florida Man, Accused Of Terrorism Based On Book Collection, Set Free.

* Frank Bruni Loves Corporations.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Comic News Network.

Permalink


MUSIC - CPS Covers Madonna.
TV - Rainbows Of Flavor & Fun.
POLITICS - Rahm's Plan C.
SPORTS - Fantasy Fix: Closing Arguments.

BOOKS - Superheroes Meet Superkids.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Exclusive! Inside Amtrak's New Union Station.


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