SUBSCRIPT: More 'deficit' fictionalizing by the 'Numbers Man' who was always really the English major writing stories... Ron Huberman without a Power Point is like a baby without a diaper

For the second time in less than two years, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education (with only six present; Norman Bobins, the multi-millionaire banker and conservative ideologue, was absent) allowed themselves to be given a public presentation on the "budget" and "financials" without once asking the presenters for spreadsheets, Power Point or other numbers behind the narrative. Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman, at the Board's August 25, 2010 meeting, had returned to the days of his undergraduate work in fiction (let's not forget, most of the Hubercrew are either literary majors or nothing at all experts) while presenting the Board of the third largest public school system in the USA with the "final" financial information on the "Proposed Budget 2010 - 2011."

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Ron Huberman was flanked by the CPS "Chief Human Capital Officer" Alicia Winckler (above left) and "Chief Financial Officer" Diana Ferguson (above right) during his all-narrative presentation to the August 25, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. No spreadsheets or Power Points were utilized during the more than one hour while Huberman and his two top financial and personnel aides told their latest version of the CPS financial picture and answered questions from the six Board of Education members present. None of those telling the latest version of the financial story has any training or qualifications in public education or education finance. Ron Huberman was appointed CEO of CPS in January 2009 by Mayor Richard M. Daley following a career as Daley's protege that took Huberman from the Department of Emergency Management to the Chicago Transit Authority and then to the school system whose mission is supposed to be educating the city's 410,000 public schools children. Ferguson was appointed CFO in December 2009, reportedly coming from several jobs in the "private sector." Winckler became the Orwellian "Chief Human Capital Officer" in January 2010 after a private sector career that included helping to synergize the ill-fated marriage of Sears Holdings and K-Mart. None of them holds an Chicago or Illinois teaching or administrative license, but under Illinois law (the Amendatory Act of 1995 that brought in mayoral control), none of them has to have any training, certification, or experience in public education. All they need is the mayor's nod. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.There was a kind of irony to the presentation, given that it was taking place on the first anniversary of the Chicago magazine puff piece on Huberman ("Numbers Man...") that had appeared in August 2009. Another irony to the entire budget cycle at CPS was that Huberman, with the close collaboration of all the numerically challenged talking heads in Chicago media, had been able to bring off that "billion dollar deficit" lie that he had first put forward tentatively in January 2010, when the first round of Huberman's Chicken Little version of CPS financial reality hit the daily newspapers and airwaves.

What happened following Huberman's January 19, 2010 presentation on the "budget deficit" was simple: Huberman told the print reporters present that CPS was facing a "deficit" (or "shortfall", or "hole" or whatever deft phraseology he was using for a particular conversation) of $900 million, and he just let the Sun-Times, Tribune, and the TV talking heads round the number up to "$1 billion" for the purpose of the screaming headlines.

Anyone with a knowledge of the history of CPS 'deficit' claims knew that Huberman's version of fiscal reality was as much fact as fiction from the day he allowed the city's major media mavens to extrapolate from his January 19 version of reality. After all, as every person who's ever raised a family on a middle class family's income knows, a "budget" is simply a projection of future reality, the relationship between projected revenues and projected expenses. If you want to project a "deficit" in your family's budget, assume you are going to have steak for dinner every night, drive a new BMW, and send a couple of kids to Yale while paying full tuition. Then just leave your current family income the same. Bingo: Huge "deficit." Of course, when the fiscal year is over and you've eaten a lot of burgers and macaroni and cheese (with maybe a steak once a month), you're still driving that old Chevy (at least it's made in the USA by union workers), and the kids are at UIC, suddenly your "deficit" is no more.


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