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Chicago Board of Education Audit and Finance Committee to meet for the first time in nearly two decades on November 9, 2010!

Without a press release from the expensive CPS Office of Communications, the Chicago Board of Education quietly announced, at the end of the work day on Friday, November 5, 2010, that the Board’s newly created ‘Audit and Finance Committee’ will be meeting for the first time at the Board headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. on Tuesday, November 9, 2010, at 4:00 p.m.

Above, the agenda for the Chicago Board of Education's public meeting of its newly established "Audit and Finance Committee", to meet on November 9 at CPS headquarters.The Audit and Finance Committee was established by the Board after more than ten years of requests by a number of budget analysts and students of the Board’s finances. Although the committee was established by the Board during the tumultuous summer of 2010 (during which the Board was claiming it still faced a huge “deficit” and laid off more than 1,500 school-based teachers and PSRPs, most of them veterans), no further action was taken at the August, September, or October Board meetings. Then, in the week after Halloween, the Board quietly announced the first public meeting of a Board committee in more than a decade.

The agenda for the meeting states that the committee will choose a chairman and co-chairman and hear three reports from the Chief Financial Officer: “Status of CPS Financials,” “Status of Fiscal Year 2010 Audit”, and Quarterly Report of Board Purchases.

For more than a year, the Board has failed to report in its public agendas all of the executive level appointments being made by outgoing “Chief Executive Officer” Ron Huberman. Beginning in June 2009, and continuing, Huberman was putting people in positions paying upwards of $90,000 per year without reporting his actions for Board approval, as had been the case prior to Huberman’s appointment as CEO in January 2009.

At the same time, Huberman’s budget people have refused to provide the public with accurate copies of the CPS Position File (a listing of all full and part-time people working for CPS), instead referring to the Law Department, which then stalls the release of all information under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The last Position File obtained by Substance was dated November 2009. Since then, CPS lawyers have stalled the release of a later Position File, claiming, inaccurately, that a truncated document called the “Position Roster” is the Position File.

The cover letter announcing the first meeting of the Board's Audit and Finance Committee on November 9, 2010. The agenda for the meeting does not provide for public participation, indicating that the Board members intend to continue their 15-year practice of secrecy despite the pretext of "transparency."The “Postion Roster” was a document compiled on Huberman’s orders in the summer of 2010 to mislead the public about CPS employees. Whereas the Position File, which Substance had obtained routinely for more than 20 years, gives all of the basic budget information about each employee of CPS (full-time and part-time), the so-called “Position Roster” merely provides some summary information, and included, for the first time in history, the name of the union which represents each worker in the vast system.

Repeated requests by Substance for accurate and timely copies of the Position Files have been denied by CPS Freedom of Information Officials, on orders from Huberman and his Communications Chief, Monique Bond. The result is that at least two inaccurate versions of the Position File are now in circulation. The most dramatic one, which was published by Substance in September 2009, misleadingly put dozens of million dollar “Positions” into the CPS files. No investigation was ever held to determine how the unprecedented breach of data integrity took place. Someone in the Board’s budget office had loaded ghost “positions” into the data document, adding the names of recently retired CPS principals and other officials, making it appear that the positions were real. The positions in the million dollar lines were scattered randomly throughout the budget, indicating that each had to have been placed in the Position File manually (as opposed to by a program), and deliberately.

When Substance published the information and asked for more information, CPS denied it had a problem with the integrity of its central data base, and got the Chicago Sun-Times to ignore the story after the Sun-Times had been provided with the data by officials of the Chicago Teachers Union, which was then headed by Marilyn Stewart. The story still appears on the Substance website and will remain there until an explanation is given by Ron Huberman or other CPS officials, on the record. Huberman has refused for nearly two years to answer Substance budget questions.

Less than three months after he was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley as the third "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, Ron Huberman, on March 11, 2009 (above) held a press conference at CPS headquarters at which he announced that CPS was facing a huge enormous "deficit" in excess of $300 million. By the time the books were closed and audited for the fiscal year in question, the "deficit" had become a surplus (in the various CPS "reserves" of more than $400 million. But Chicago's corporate media, which simply recycles the words of Huberman as "news", wasn't paying attention, so the following year, in January and February 2010, Huberman was able to get away with claiming that another "deficit", this time nearly $900 million, was looming. With Huberman (above) during the March 2009 event were three people who are no longer with CPS. Michael Scott (left, behind Huberman) allegedly committed suicide in November 2009. Barbara Eason Watkins (who was "Chief Education Officer") resigned in May 2010. Pedro Martinez (right), who at the time was "Chief Financial Officer" was pushed aside by August 2009, first into a job as a "Chief Area Officer," and then to Colorado, where he is reportedly working today. Huberman's entire financial team has been in office less time than he has. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Whether the public will be provided with complete, accurate and timely financial information at the November 9 Audit and Finance Committee meeting remains to be seen. Top CPS officials receive a quarterly financial report from the Board’s Controller, but the report has never been provided to the public. Reports for the first three quarters of FT 2010 were significantly different from the lurid picture of CPS finances that Ron Huberman was presenting to selected media and the public (including the President of the Illinois Senate) during the months leading up to the melodramatic summer of 2010. In January 2010, Huberman claimed CPS “might” be facing a deficit of about $900 million for FT 2011. Huberman’s claims were based in every case on worst case scanarios that had never materialized in history.

Nevertheless, the headline grabbing scare tactics became the center of the news. One of the reasons the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pat Quinn meekly acquiesced to Huberman’s demand for a massive raid on the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund was that Huberman told House and Senate leaders, based on his misleading budget projections, that “school will not open in September” unless he got his way against the pension obligations. Without demanding a further investigation of Huberman’s deficit claims, Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan supported Huberman’s raid, which took $1.2 billion from the CTPF over the next three years. The legislation was signed by Governor Pat Quinn based on the same information and claims from Huberman, according to reliable sources. Quinn almost lost the endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union in the 2010 election because he signed the pension raid into law over the objections of representatives of the pension fund and the teachers union, both of whom asked him to veto the law.

Ron Huberman's highly politicized versions of CPS financial data resulted, on June 15, 2010, in an unprecedented emergency meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. At that meeting, Huberman continued (above) to present the Board with a worst case scenario, even though both history and political reality showed that the numbers for the "deficit" Huberman was claiming were as inaccurate as those he had presented to the public a year earlier, when he talked about his first major "deficit." Despite Huberman's questionable numbers, the Board approved draconian cuts which resulted in the firing of more than 1,000 teachers, a major lawsuit won by the Chicago Teachers Union, an massive disruption in the lives of the city's schools, teachers, and children. Among other results of Huberman's distortions was the fact that the city's high schools were forced to program for September 2010 classes three times, each time based on different class size maximums proclaimed by Huberman. Even after the federal government ended the last speck of claims of a "deficit" requiring massive teacher layoffs by the passage of the Educator Jobs Act in August 2010, Huberman still played games with the numbers, and the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education all supported him. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Whether the establishment of the Board’s Audit and Finance Committee begins to restore some credibility to CPS budget claims remains to be seen. Since Mayor Daley gained control over the city’s public schools in 1995, a major public manipulation of CPS budget projections has been an annual event, supported by the city’s corporate media. Huberman’s budget projects and claimed “deficit”, though more massive than those claimed by his predecessors Paul Vallas and Arne Duncan, was standard operating procedure. Only in 2008 did CPS claim that its finances were in such good shape that there was no problem. In August 2008, one month before the global financial collapse that followed from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan (who was then CPS CEO) stood before the media at a City Hall press conference and announced that the finances of the city’s public schools system were so good that the Board of Education did not even have to submit a modest property tax increase, which it has the power to do on its own. Less than one year after that, Huberman was claiming the largest deficits in memory, and in January 2010, he began claiming the largest projected “deficit” in Chicago history — a “billion dollars” by the time he wrote his introduction to the Board’s Proposed Budget for FT 2011 in August 2010. Prior to the era of "mayoral control" in Chicago (later expanded around the nation based on the false claims of success for the model in Chicago), the Chicago Board of Education had a large number of standing committees, each of which met publicly at least once a month to discuss and review major policy questions with the public. These committees included facilities, operations, finances, desegregation, and instruction.

With the beginning of mayoral control in 1995, the Chicago Board of Education slowly shrouded virtually all of its work in secrecy.

A major example of that shroud of secrecy is the vote, every six months, by the Board to seal its record of deliberations from its executive sessions. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, the Chicago Board of Education members have rarely discussed the public's business in public. Instead, after public participation at each monthly meeting of the Board (the Board used to meet twice a month), the Board recesses into executive session, where all serious discussion takes place. Then the Board comes out of executive session, usually very late in the afternoon, to vote unanimously in favor of its entire agenda. The complete agenda, which runs in length from 150 to 300 pages each month, is usually dispatched in less than 15 minutes. There has not been discussion of any agenda item following executive session in more than a year.

The agenda for the Audit and Finance Committee meeting scheduled for November 9, 2010, does not mention a public participation section. Prior to the passage of the 1995 Amendatory Act (which established mayoral control) by the Illinois General Assembly, public participation was built into the meetings of all Board committees. For a few years after 1995, the Board has to host the Desegregation Monitoring Commission, until Paul Vallas, working with the Chicago Sun-Times, slandered the work of the Commission and it was abolished on the road to ending desegregation in Chicago. A committee called the "Academic Advisory Council" also met publicly into the late 1990s, but then ceased to exist. (The last chairman of the Academic Advisory Council was Martin Koldyke). Like the Desegregation Monitoring Commission, the Academic Advisory Council allowed public participation prior to its meetings.



Comments:

November 6, 2010 at 12:33 AM

By: Interesting Article

Too Much Corruption!

In my opinion,the Chicago Board of Education is more corrupt than Al Capone's gang of the past. The "position file" is not being given to the public because the board has to hide all their illegal actions. I would not be at all suprised if their were ghost payrolls.

In fact, I believe many high ranking people are leaving their positions before they get caught.

I know of one school where the principal was said to have retired in June 30, 2010. That is what he is believed to tell staff members. Yet his retirement is not posted in the Boards Actions anywhere as other principals who retired. In addition, that principal has an assistant principal who worked in this school for years without even having a type 75, and she is still working as an assistant principal. All the teachers would talk about how they believed these to were having an affair because they would always be in closed doors for long periods.

In addition, he had many of his friends and retired friends working at the school.

I wonder how the board is listing this principal and all his friends because this man is one of the most corrupt individuals I ever met. There are other friend's of this principal that he said won't have jobs because they did not have seniority or the qualification. Yet, these teachers are still receiving full pay with insurance.

Last year, I tried to obtain information regarding positions employees of CPS hold, and I found Championnews.net interesting along with other Republican news Reports. I don't consider myself a Republican, however I believe some of their findings and beliefs interesting.

I wonder if the federal government or some neutral agencies or lawyers can get involed

in making the CPS release all records, including "position files" because I am sure they would find many wrong doings. Maybe that is why CPS made up the lie that they must fire the "bad teachers," so they can have money to hire more executives. Maybe the money from the Edujobs went to also pay executives and for board members to get raises and to create more charters, and not what it was intended for to hire back all the teachers who were fired.

I do appreciate substance for its exposure to CPS and their hidden and corrupt practices. I do hope justice happens for many people who endured unfair and illegal losses because of the board and corrupt principals. I do hope these corrupt people endure the pain and suffering with severe legal consequences. Hopefully with enough exporsure they will be caught and be punished.

November 6, 2010 at 7:38 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Inaccuracy in The Champion.org

One of the reasons Substance has used the CPS Position File to check the accuracy of positions, job titles, and salaries is that it is the current data base tracking all CPS employees (not contract workers; just employees, so it misses anyone getting a 1099 working as a consultant, like many retired administrators and principals). See our article in the old Substance on what we called "Zombie Payrollers." Those aren't ghosts, because they are actually reporting to work and doing work. Some Zombies are doing work that nobody in the "reform" generation can; after all, an MBA or a JD -- even from an Ivy League school -- doesn't give you a clue how to program a large high school with constant turnover, like Schurz or CVS. So the more overeducated, overpaid and undercompetent drones hired by Arne Duncan and Ron Huberman, the more Zombies CPS had to keep on payroll, even for the supposedly simplest jobs.

But back to The Champion. For one thing, for every school district it lists, it calculates in the "Pension Pickup" as part of the salary line. As a result, every teacher is, according to The Champion, paid more than he or she is really being paid. And, of course, The Champion doesn't want to mention that the reason for the Pension Pickup is that teachers deferred real salary increases years and even decades ago in exchange for the enhanced pension.

Now that the Republicans (and Democrats who've been brainwashed by the "New Democrat" version of reality, or who've read "Atlas Shrugged" too many times since high school) are attacking pensions, the trap there has been sprung. After all, if they wanted Chicago teachers to be paid enough to save on their own for retirement, they would have paid Chicago teachers (and our colleagues across Illinois) in cash at the time. Instead, they played games with the pension, then raped the pension fund, then got The Champion to provide the public with exaggerated information about how much teachers are overpaid.

So Substance will continue to report the corruptions of CPS under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hope this helps.

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