Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Is the nation’s third-largest school district in danger of collapse? - The Washington Post

Is the nation’s third-largest school district in danger of collapse? - The Washington Post:

Is the nation’s third-largest school district in danger of collapse?

In September 2015, the Chicago Tribune ran an editorial that wondered whether the Chicago Public School District would collapse under the weight of its mind-numbing financial problems. It hasn’t yet, but money mismanagement, inadequate funding and failed education policy are combining with a host of other factors to raise the issue of whether the nation’s third-largest school district is in existential danger.
The governor of Illinois is fighting with the mayor of Chicago over funding; the mayor is in a long-term fight with teachers over a controversial pension system, charter schools and other issues, and many parents remain furious with the mayor for closing dozens of traditional public schools three years ago while promoting the expansion of charter schools. Teachers are working under an expired contract and may soon stage their second strike since 2012, when their week-long walkout had public support.
Dozens of principals, including some from the district’s best schools, have decided to leave, but those who are staying were warned recently that they could see 39 percent cuts in funding. That goes for teachers, after-school programs and enrichment programs. Chicago public schools, long in dire financial straits, face a budget deficit of more than $1 billion and must contribute $676 million to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund by June 30, which, the Chicago Sun Times says, would leave only $24 million in the district’s coffers.
Long accustomed to borrowing its way out of financial ruin, the district has seen its credit ratings drop to “junk.” Earlier this year, the district cut the size of one of its bond offers and, asReuters said, agreed “to pay interest costs rivaling Puerto Rico’s in order to lure investors into the deal.”
Everyone agrees the state’s funding formula needs to be updated, especially since a 2015 reportby the nonprofit advocacy group the Education Trust, found that Illinois’s funding gap between poor and wealthy districts “stands out for its unfairness,” with the highest-poverty districts receiving nearly 20 percent less in state funds than the lowest-poverty districts.
Meanwhile, there is a budget impasse in the state capital between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and the Democratic-controlled legislature. District officials — who say that the Chicago district has 20 percent of the state’s students but only gets 15 percent of its funding — just warned that the public schools won’t open in the fall if the budget for the next fiscal year isn’t passed soon. While several hundred students skipped class — risking detention — last Friday to protest the budget fiasco, Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel keep exchanging insults. WGN.TV reported recently:
Governor Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were back at it, trading nasty barbs. The war of words escalated when the governor said this:
“When you look objectively at the status of Chicago Public Schools, many of them are inadequate. Many of them are woeful and some are just tragic. Many of them are basically just crumbling prisons.”
Not long after Governor Rauner spoke, Mayor Emanuel hit back.
“Now it sounds like he’s auditioning to be Donald Trump’s running mate.”
 Outraged CPS parents chimed in, tweeting images of children with the hashtag,“#Notaprison.”
Cuts are being made at schools and in the central office during the school year, and even the Is the nation’s third-largest school district in danger of collapse? - The Washington Post:

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