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Chicago Board of Education refuses to publish proposed budget in print for public review... First time in history CPS budget hearings will be held without budget being available to millions of people

Chicago Public Schools officials announced on the morning of August 5, 2011, that the Chicago Board of Education will not publish any print editions of the "Proposed Budget for 2011 - 2012", and that only people who can access the enormous document on line and read it on a computer will be able to review the budget prior to the hearings, which are scheduled for August 10, 11, and 12. The CPS position was confirmed by CPS Communications officials on the morning of August 5, 2011, after repeated phone requests for copies of the large document, which has traditionally been available a week before the budget hearings.

Chicago Board of Education officials not only refused to provide the public with physical (book) copies of their 1,900 page "Proposed Budget 2011 - 2012", but released the document at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, as late as possible before the weekend began. Additionally, CPS has not held a press conference for the media to ask questions of CPS "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard (above at podium), increasing speculation that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unwilling to trust his new education team on its own before the press. Emanuel, whose carefully scripted media events are being compared to Hollywood productions, kept an eye on Brizard three days before the release of the massive CPS budget (which is considerably larger than that of the City of Chicago). Brizard was speaking to the media in the photo above following a brief walkabout on the block adjacent to St. Sabina's church on Chicago's South Side on August 2, 2011. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."No budgets are being printed this year," CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan told Substance. "They will be available for download this afternoon after 3:00 p.m."

Shuftan also said that the cost of printing the budgets would have been $15,000. "Not printing the books saves $15,000," Shuftan also told Substance.

CPS officials have not confirmed that Brizard and others are to hold a press conference on the proposed budget late in the afternoon of August 5. Rumors began circulating among some in the press that CPS would hold its press briefing on the proposed budget as late as possible on Friday afternoon to minimize press coverage.

The total budget (Operations and Capital) for CPS for FY 2012 will probably reach $7 billion. The requirement for public review of the proposed budget is governed by state law. Prior to 2007, CPS held its annual budget hearings in June, since the fiscal year ended and the new budget year began June 30 at midnight. The last June budget hearing was held at Harlan High School in June 2006, and was attended by more than 100 people, as reported in Substance at the time. Beginning in June 2008, CPS officials (first, CEO Arne Duncan; followed by CEO Ron Huberman; and now CEO Jean-Claude Brizard) postponed the hearings until August. Prior to this year, however, copies of the proposed budget were available in print and on line.

August 2011 is the first time in Chicago history that the public will not be able to pick up and read a book containing the financial information from the largest and most expensive governmental body in Chicago.

On June 22, the Chicago Board of Education raised the salaries of top officials, including Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard, to levels unsurpassed in CPS history. The total difference between what Brizard's top cabinet people are getting and what was paid to their predecessors is more than triple the amount it would have cost for CPS to print the budgets.



Comments:

August 5, 2011 at 5:15 PM

By: Danny Van Over

At least they've learned how to alphabetize!

In this year's proposed budget, I was able to find Taft under "T," rather than under "W" (for William H. Taft), as it's been listed the last couple years. That was a time-saver, as there is only one "Taft," but over 20 schools named for someone with the first name "William." This is progress.

As you point out, it's ridiculous that the Board is distributing a "proposed" budget 36 days after the current fiscal year began (and another 19 days until it's approved). In this case, I don't see what else the city can do.

It was, after all, the last day of May when the state passed a budget. And that's a misnomer, because the legislature abandoned its constitutional duty and just named an amount, then let the governor decide how to arrange it among the various claims for expenditure. That didn't happen until mid-June. So it is quite a task for the Board to propose a budget by June (as it should be done) when the state doesn't have one until the same time.

Of course, as the sagacious Sister Grim writes, "Once upon a time it was *insert month here* in the city of Chicago, which was still stuck, saadly enough, in the sorry, scandal-ridden, cheapskate state of Ill-A Noise."

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