MEDIA WATCH: Huberman ignores his last round of lies as the Board's Audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) becomes public... CPS ended FY 2009 with 6 percent surplus, but Huberman claims even bigger 'deficit' for FY 2011

Although most Chicago education reporters know little and understand less about the complex accounting and financial reporting that go into the annual CPS budget, one publication that should not be as gullible is Crain's Chicago Business. The supposedly hard ball business weekly prides itself on accuracy about the complexities of Chicago's businesses. But on January 13, Crain's went in the tank for Ron Huberman with as much dishonesty as Chicago magazine had with its August 2009 feature "Numbers Guy." In an interview with Ron Huberman, CEO of CPS, Crain's Greg Hinz simply provided Huberman with a soap box to continue lying about CPS finances. The difference was that by the date of the interview, Crain's could have reviewed a complete CAFR for FY 2009 (the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009). The report had been provided to the Board of Education at its December 16, 2009 meeting, as is traditional, and was published both on the Board's Web site and in print by January 13, 2010, when Huberman continued his breathtaking record of scare stories based on phony numbers with Greg Hinz providing him with the same megaphone he got from Chicago five months earlier.

Below is the complete Huberman interview as it appeared on Crain's on line.

Huberman ready for hardball on city teachers' contract?

Posted by Greg H. at 1/13/2010 11:15 AM CST on Chicago Business

Ask Ron Huberman what he's been up to as he nears the end of his first year as CEO of Chicago Public Schools and uses an unusual word: "accountability."

It sounds and is a bit bureaucratic and wonky, as befits a self-styled data freak who believes that technical evaluation is the track to success. But it has a much tougher meaning: Produce results or hit the road.

Mr. Huberman, indeed, has been up to much in the 11 months since he succeeded Arne Duncan, now the U.S. secretary of education.

He's revamped CPS' vocational education system, emphasizing fewer but better programs that bring real jobs closer to the kids. He's replaced much senior staff, launched a much-touted program to pour resources into protecting and mentoring the 1,200 students deemed at highest risk of being shot, and taken a few media hits -- for instance, for having not one but two company cars. (A "wrong" and "misleading" story, he insists.)

But all of the above is pretty much just a warm up. "My job is to improve system performance," he says. "The numbers have got to move."

"Numbers," of course, means test scores and graduation rates, and I'll get to that in a minute.

But the number that really counts is $900 million. That's the projected budget deficit CPS faces in the school year that begins in September.

The question is just how tough Mr. Huberman is prepared to get with the Chicago Teachers Union to close that hole -- and how tough Mayor Richard M. Daley will allow him to get.

CPS sources say Team Huberman is seriously considering reopening its contract with the union this summer, invoking a clause that allows CPS to declare a financial emergency.

Doing so could put a halt to the 4% raises CTU members are scheduled to receive each of the next two years. It also could spark a nasty strike just a few months before the February 2011 city elections in which Mr. Daley, if he wants to re-up, will have to run.

Would Mr. Huberman really play that card, risking 20 years of relative labor peace?

"Our goal would always be to avoid a strike because of the hardship it creates," he replies. "This budget year is going to be exceptionally difficult. Without meaningful concessions by all the parties involved . . . there will be a significant detrimental impact on our children."

Interesting. And reminiscent of what happened when Mr. Huberman was boss of the Chicago Transit Authority, and used a financial crisis to get unions to make major pension concessions.

For the record, teachers now make a minimum of $45,450 in their first year and $69,060 to $78,504 in their tenth year, depending on what degree they hold, according to CPS. Teachers can retire with full benefits at age 60, presuming they have at least 34 years on the job. The union considers that barely adequate. CPS seems to think it no longer is affordable.

A related item on Mr. Huberman's list is "basic (teacher) accountability," by which he means the ability to replace underperforming teachers.

"Merit pay is important, but I'm equally concerned about basic accountability," he says. "Many of our principals tell me it's an arduous process" to remove bad teachers now."


In an interview, Mr. Huberman also hinted that changes may be coming in the vaunted Renaissance 2010 program to open 100 alternate schools under the sponsorship of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club.

"Overall, there's been great successes," he said. "But there's also been lots of lessons learned. . . .We can improve on outcomes."

Translation: The new, usually smaller schools generally are doing much better than their predecessors. But only about a third meet or exceed national norms on student tests -- not good enough, in his view.

At that point, Mr. Huberman called our interview to a halt and headed out to his next meeting.

According to the Civic Committee, just half of those who enter a CPS high school graduate in four years, and virtually none who attend regular -- as opposed to magnet -- schools emerge prepared to handle college-level work.

Strikes, huge budget holes, gang violence, lousy scores. Mr. Huberman has a lot to be accountable for.


January 17, 2010 at 9:24 PM

By: kugler

stop rolling over

if chicago teachers give the next union election to stewart again, there will be furloughs and wage cuts as in other distrists and states no mater what the bargaining agreement or laws are. with stewart in it will be easier and cost less(legal), with stewart out it will be much more difficult and the teachers could possibly push huberman out of his politically appointed position. and make life miserable for daley. that is why huberman/daley is working with stewart to fix the election so she wins.

John Kugler

PS did huberman get the person responsible for getting him that second car yet? that dirty rotten scoundrel forcing a second car on the poor unwitting ceo!

"That department is responsible," Bond said. "I don't want to implicate any individual, but we found out that policies were not followed ... Those found to be responsible will face severe disciplinary action."

"Ron is upset that proper procedures were not followed," she said. "He's troubled. He's embarrassed, and he's angry."

Bond defended Huberman's use of two vehicles, saying he works long hours and it made no sense for a driver to make trips to his home.

"At this time, he is not going to have two cars," Bond said. "He's given up the SUV."

January 18, 2010 at 4:44 AM

By: kugler

cash balance of $1.2 billion

CPS was able to end the fiscal year with a healthy general operating fund cash balance of $1.2 billion, an increase of $143 million over FY2008. (p. 19)

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