Does Chicago's 'Mayor Transparency' even know how much financial fog is oozing out of his public schools team? CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard burying huge cost increases in hidden budget documents... 'Office of Autonomy' to increase 'Contractual Services' from $97,987 to $3,049,879!

Not only has the newly appointed Chicago Board of Education and the administration of Jean-Claude Brizard refused to make the Proposed Budget for the 2011 - 2012 school year available to the public in book form (it went on line on Friday, August 5, 2011, and CPS officials told Substance they were not printing it in book form), but the new administration is also burying huge costs increases across the more than 2,000 pages of budget information that most members of the public can't access.

It may be that Chicago's energetic new mayor will be surprised to learn how completely his handpicked public schools team is messing up its first budget. Transparency may be the talking points of the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but cover up and confusion are the actual praxis of the Chicago Board of Education and its new "Chief Executive Officer," Jean-Claude Brizard, as shown by the way in which the Proposed Budget has been put out. Emanuel's school board has refused for the first time in history to print a budget for the public to read at libraries and ward offices and has buried millions of dollars in hidden expenses throughout the 2,000 pages of budget materials that it put on line on August 5, 2011. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.An ongoing examination of the CPS budget by Substance and others has revealed that Brizard is trying to increase the budget for what are called "Contractual Services" in one central office unit (the "Office of Autonomy") from $97,987 to $3,049,879. While this particular cost increase, not explained in any of the narratives in the first part of the budget documents, is one of the largest, it is not the only inconsistency in the material Brizard released to the public without holding the traditional press conference to answer questions about the material.

Although Brizard claims that the school system has replaced the "Area Offices" with some other thing ("Chief Area Officers" — the CAOs — are now called "Chiefs of Schools" for reasons that are vaguely explained), the budget still contains budgets for all of the old areas (including those which Brizard supposedly abolished in his new organizational plan, which was brought before the Board of Education on July 27, 2011.

In the past, members of the public were able to read copies of the proposed CPS budgets at local libraries, at ward offices, or by going to CPS headquarters. For the past two years, CPS has refused to print enough copies of the Proposed Budget for libraries and Ward offices. Now CPS is refusing to print copies of the Proposed Budget at all, and is apparently getting away with it.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proclaiming almost on a daily basis that his administration is going to be the most "transparent" in the history of Chicago, the most expensive single public body, the Chicago Public Schools, is being allowed by the mayor who appointed its Board of Education members and "Chief Executive Officer" to escape virtually all accountability in the presentation of its Proposed Budget.

While the new administration is still in its infancy, Emanuel has provided the public with more information about the expenses of the City of Chicago than his obsessively secretive predecessor ever did. More than a month ago, Emanuel ordered the complete list of all City of Chicago employees to be posted on line, and anyone anywhere can now read through that list, from A to Z. When CPS officials were asked when they were going to provide the public with the same information about the schools system (which employes nearly 10,000 people more than the City of Chicago), they told Substance that they were doing so, which was not true. When they admitted that they hadn't provided the personnel list to the public since an unusual listing was produced in November 2010, they said an updated list would go up "soon."

Similarly, Emanuel's administration has published a list of more than 90,000 city contracts and contractors on line. The Board of Education continues to refuse to do so. With "contractual services" increasing under the Brizard administration at an unprecedented rate (the "Office of Autonomy" is not the only place), a similar transparency at CPS would probably be appropriate, but is not being done.


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