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BOARDWATCH: Lies. Damned Lies. And CPS 'Deficits' ... As usual, CPS promised to publish its budget information and then refused to do so

From about 4:30 p.m. until after 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 8, 2010, I sat outside the Chicago Board of Education chambers on the 5th floor at 125 S. Clark St., waiting for the Board's Communications Department to bring copies of the budget Power Point that had just been presented to the first public meeting of a Board Audit and Finance Committee. After their quickie meeting, Board officials refused to take questions from the press. Board officials refused to discuss anything specific about the numbers they had just thrown out, quickly.

So Substance, the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ radio reporters (the only ones who covered the event) sat and waited for someone from the 6th floor offices of the "Department of Communications" to bring the complete Power Point to us on the 5th floor. There was no explanation about why CPS hadn't made copies of the Power Point for the public prior to the meeting, nor why no questions from the public or press were permitted. So, the Chicago Board of Education, the third largest in the USA, again got away with spinning numbers that should be very precise in the way they wanted them spun.

Monique Bond (above, at the May 26, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) told reporters on November 8, 2010, that CPS would put the information from the Power Point used by CPS budget officials at the November Audit and Finance Committee meeting on the Board's Web site (www.cps.edu). As usual, CPS officials lied. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.When Bobby from Communications finally brought us the Power Point, he told us that they would also be posted on the CPS Web site by the next morning. That would be Tuesday, November 9. As of Thursday, November 11, nothing about the meeting was at www.cps.edu, the Board's public Web site.

Since last January, when CPS CEO Ron Huberman first got away with telling the public lurid tales about the looming CPS "deficit", CPS officials have refused to answer specific Substance questions about their budget numbers. In February 2010, I gave Monique Bond, Huberman's propaganda chief, a copy of the Board's latest CAFR and said that I needed to interview Huberman about the Board's investments in derivatives. I'm still waiting for that interview. During the intervening months, CPS officials lied every time they were confronted with specific questions about their budget. While they gave private briefing (which amounted to strategy sessions about how to raid the teachers' pension fund) to the corporate propaganda group called the "Civic Federation", Huberman refused to answer to the public.

After each of the budget hearings (August 17, August 18, and August 19), CPS budget officials told the public (the largest in history for those events) that they weren't there at the hearings to answer questions, but that all questions would be answered on the CPS Web site. That, too, proved a lie. Fewer than half the questions that were raised by the public during the six hours of budget hearings were finally answered on the CPS Web site. Anyone can read the complete transcripts of the hearings (which Substance obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, then posted at www.substancenews.net) and compare the "answers" provided by CPS with the questions that were asked.

Now Chicago is able to read in the Sun-Times another lurid "deficit" projection, this one based on a simplistic rendering of the numbers CPS passed out (reluctantly) on Monday night, November 8. Already CPS is getting the headlines it wants ($700 million "deficit" based on some really bad reporting and equally bad math).

Apparently, until more people seriously demand that CPS actually provided the public with information and make its officials available for precise questions, this type of spin will continue. We will be publishing the complete Power Point here slowly, just as we published the complete transcript of each of the August budget hearings.



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