Rahm Emanuel doesn’t face reality


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently revealed a plan to spend $24 million on additions and improvements to several of the city’s schools.

Emanuel’s school projects are reported to include playground upgrades and a brand new school on the city’s southeast side — Emanuel has categorized this initiative as “school modernization.”

But the mayor’s latest spending scheme is shocking in light of the dire fiscal situation facing Chicago Public Schools, or CPS.

Earlier this year, citing a $1 billion budget shortfall, the mayor announced the closing of nearly 50 Chicago schools and laid off nearly 3,000 CPS workers — 1,456 of them teachers.

But the district’s billion-dollar shortfall is just a symptom of the district’s underlying financial crisis.

CPS has a total debt of $16.7 billion. This includes long-term debt, and unfunded health insurance and pension liabilities.

The Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, or CTPF, which serves as the pension fund for CPS workers, faces nearly $8 billion in pension debt. And the expiration of a three-year pension holiday is forcing the district to come up with an extra $400 million in pension payments this year, for a total of $613 million. That means $1,000 per pupil is going to cover pension obligations; not students.

The district’s debt is attracting attention from ratings agencies — and not in a good way.

Moody’s Investors Service recently lowered the Board of Education’s credit rating — now just four notches above junk-bond status — citing the district’s budget gap and pension debt.

Making matters worse, CPS is running out of funding options to cover its growing obligations. For each of the past two years, CPS has raised property tax rates to the maximum amount allowed under current law. Because CPS’s ability to further increase property taxes is limited, it will have to look elsewhere for additional funds.

Without help from Springfield in the form of a pension fix, CPS will continue to face tough choices: cut services or increase taxes.

Lost in the shuffle are Chicago families who have no control over their children’s futures. The city has become a place where it seems the only way to get a good education is to be smart enough to get into a magnet school, rich enough to afford a private school or lucky enough to win the charter lottery.

School closings have forced these families to cross gang lines to get to school — and many of these schools are failing to educate students once they get there.

These families wouldn’t be at the mercy of CPS if Illinois had passed the school voucher bill of 2010.

Three years ago, then-state Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, proposed legislation that would have created a school voucher program in Illinois, giving parents control over their children’s education.

The legislation passed the Illinois Senate with bipartisan support. Then it died in the House. It hasn’t seen the light of day since.

But it’s not too late to break the failing education status quo. It’s time state lawmakers revisit vouchers and give Chicago families the chance at success they deserve.

Ted Dabrowski
Vice President of Policy
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One thought on “Rahm Emanuel doesn’t face reality

  1. It is not so much that Emanuel doesn’t face reality as it is that Emanuel who’s strings are attached to George Soros and is following the rules of Saul Alinsky is on an agenda to destroy the system!

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