Response to Sun-Times editorial

My immediate response to the Sun Times editorial is that Tom Mamee, Kate Grossman, Thomas Frisbie, and Mary Mitchell who form the Chicago Sun Times editorial board must either be mathematically challenged or intellectually dishonest. I expect more from Ms. Grossman who did graduate from Cornell as a history major and has a master's degree in public policy and journalism. She has been known to challenge the City budget, but apparently accepts without question the various budget scenarios developed by CPS.

The Sun Times editors see only two choices cut salaries or layoff teachers and raise class sizes. The editorial does not even give its readers an estimate of exactly what a 35 student class room would save CPS. On March 15, CPS gave a Power Point presentation titled "FY 2011 budget briefing." Does anyone at the Sun Times recall that? (It is still on the CPS website in case no one at the Sun Times has looked at it.) In that briefing, CPS estimated that going up to an average class size of 37 would save CPS $160 million. So let's assume the 35 student classroom will save CPS about 5% less or about $152 million.

The CPS can save around $80 million by closing for 2010 and 2011 the summer bridge program; the CPS can increase property taxes to the maximum allowable by law. In June 2006, for the FY 2007 budget when CPS increased property taxes to the maximum it generated approximately an additional $55 million. Assuming, such a tax increase today would generate a similar amount we can see just with these two measures CPS could generate $135 million which would cover all but about $17 million of what would be saved by the class size increase.

I would suggest that CPS cut its expenditures for turnaround efforts for FY 2011 to fill that $17 million dollar gap.

Now how hard was that? Apparently very hard for the Chicago Sun Times editorial board whose clear agenda it to attack the CTU contract under the guise that there is no other option. This is an old tactic used by the media to turn parents against supposedly highly paid teachers, all the while crying as this editorial does: " A better answer — and we take no joy in promoting this — is union wage concessions." Hopefully teachers will elect a new leadership, one that is not mathematically challenged. The first thing this new leadership needs to do is to force CPS to marshal resources to prevent layoffs and class size increases. Once CPS does this then maybe there should be discussions about shared sacrifice.

Rod Estvan


June 12, 2010 at 1:44 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Well written, Rod

Thanks for your analysis, Rod. I think the citizenry of Chicago is beginning to catch on about the CPS fuzzy math. At some point in the future, perhaps the Sun-Times will also recognize that CPS has many viable alternatives to solve its self-created current budget crisis. Many good ideas exist, including the ones you articulated.

June 12, 2010 at 4:48 PM

By: Vinicius

Forensic Audit Needed To Move Beyond Speculation and Monique Bond

I think it is important to pursue the opening of the books to move forward in an intelligent way. There is too much speculation due to CPS not opening up the real books. Too much BS coming from Monique Bond's CPS All Spin Department. We need to hammer on point!

June 12, 2010 at 6:19 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Forensic audit plus a people's audit

While a forensic audit would certainly help (provided that the auditor was independent and professional trained like the federal auditors who do corporate crime testimony), it only goes half way. CPS needs an ongoing "people's audit" as well. Every time the Board of Education votes to approve an expense of the people's money, the people have to be consulted. For 15 years, the only God at CPS — over both the seven members of the Board of Education and the so-called "Chief Executive Officer" — has been Richard M. Daley. What will be needed will be daily and monthly scrutiny of both revenue and expenses in a popular way that goes far beyond what we will get (necessarily, it is true) from a professional forensic audit.


The suggestion only gets us half way. Until we institute a comprehensive, regular, ongoing popular examination of how the Board of Education's budget operates, both annually at the time of the new budget and routinely at the time of each Board meeting, we will be only half way there. Chicago citizens know less about their public school budgets than the citizens of the smallest towns in Illinois. That's deliberate on the mayor's part in Chicago, and one reason why we are so discredited in the eyes of legislators from all the rest of Illinois.

They gasp at the lack of transparency and accountability at the top of CPS — especially in CPS finances. It's a joke to pretend that CPS can hire an FNG "Chief Financial Officer" (at a salary of more than $200,000 per year) who knows nothing about education finances and nothing about Chicago's public schools and then, with a straight face, proclaim that Huberman's budget is real and credible.

June 15, 2010 at 12:44 PM

By: Diana Lauber


Rod, thanks for taking the Sun Times to task for their lazy coverage of the CPS budget. Instead of regurgitating CPS press releases, the editorial board should be demanding a more open budget process. A good start would be to create a CPS board budget committee that would meet monthly as it did prior to the mayoral take-over. These meetings provided an on-going opportunity for the public, press and board members to learn about district financial issues and just as importantly, to understand and question the assumptions upon which projected revenues, expenditures and deficits were based.

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