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'Schools will remain open until June 20...' Claypool states after judge calls his bluff by rejecting discrimination claim against State of Illinois...

Within hours after a state court rejected the claim by the Chicago Board of Education that the State of Illinois was discriminating against CPS because of "racism," Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool sent a message to all CPS families announcing that school would not be closed after all. The message came after more than a month of rumors (discredited only by a few sources, including Substance) that the massive ($5 billion) CPS budget would force a closing of all schools on June 1 because the State of Illinois failed to provide the school system with about $250 million. Discussion of the financial "crisis" at CPS followed the talking points of City Hall, the CPS leadership, and the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union, all of which were in agreement that the problems at CPS were, at least according to Claypool's lawsuit, caused by "racism" and not by poor management and by the refusal of the City of Chicago to increase local property taxes to fully find the city's public schools.

Part of the problem facing more than a half million CPS children and their families was that the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union decided in 2015 to evade its responsibility to do an independent critique of CPS budgetary practices. [This reporter had served as a consultant at the CTU on CPS finances from 2010 through 2014, when that job was abruptly terminated by the CTU officers]. After the sumer of 2015, the CTU slogan became 'Broke on Purpose' and the union stayed mum despite all of the obvious waste and cant in the CPS budget and the explanations of CPS finances by CPS officials.

By February and March 2017, the rumors in the schools were that schools would be closed on June 1, 2017 because CPS would be "broke" by then. Ignored was the fact that in March of each year the local property tax revenues are paid over to CPS, so that by April 1 there was a massive amount of cash in CPS cash funds. Nevertheless, the union's leaders continued to follow CPS CEO Forrest Claypool in his claim (also backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel) that CPS had to institute massive local school cuts and force all school workers to take four "furlough days" between January and May. During that time, while CTU officials talked about how sad the furlough days were, CTU eliminated from its website a part of the contract settlement under which the union agreed to allow CPS to implement furloughs if necessary.

As of this writing (April 29, 2017), CTU still does not have a Standing Committee on School Finance and Taxation, despite the fact that the committee is required under the union's Constitution and By Laws. The reason? CTU officers do not want to appoint the most qualified rank and file union member to chair the committee, instead choosing to let the union continue to go blindly behind CPS claims about Chicago school finances.

On April 28, 2017, Claypool issued the following statement to CPS parents [this reporter has two sons in CPS public schools and received it]....

April 28, 2017 [no date on the email, but provided here...]

We know that you are anxious for news about the remainder of the school year, and thank you for the patience and support you have shown throughout this challenging process.

Though we did not receive the outcome we had hoped for in court, the Judge harshly criticized the State’s education funding system, saying its approach to CPS is “out of touch with reality.” We could not agree more, and so we will not give up our fight to force Governor Rauner to fairly fund our schools. In the meantime, we will not fail in our responsibility to provide your children with the education they deserve. We will keep school open until June 20 - the scheduled end of the school year. Keeping schools open will require difficult choices. However, Governor Rauner’s mid-year veto of CPS funding means that we are facing significant financial hardships, and all options must remain on the table. Fortunately, Mayor Rahm Emanuel today pledged that he would use the power of his office to help us through this, because his foremost commitment remains the education of your children. While we didn’t receive the outcome we wanted in court, I want to leave you with a few words from the Judge, who said that equitable funding in this state remains elusive. His words are an even stronger call to action, and a clear justification for our continued fight. The judge wrote that the State’s position is “eerily reminiscent” of the last French Queen, Marie Antoinette, who upon learning that many of her people did not even have bread to eat, said: “let them eat cake.” He added: “A suggestion that the issues of chronic underfunding faced by a struggling inner-city school system responsible for the education and care of hundreds of thousands of children is easily remedied by simply ‘borrowing more money’ is starkly out of touch with reality.” We will communicate more details to you in the coming days; but for now, we are glad to report that your children WILL remain in school through June 20, 2017. We thank you for your continued support, and look forward to partnering with you in our continued fight for fair and lasting funding for our schools. Sincerely, Forrest Claypool Chief Executive Officer

STATEMENT BY CTU PRESIDENT KAREN LEWIS...

The events that will unfold today in two separate Chicago courtrooms are the result of the turmoil and financial irresponsibility that has defined our mayoral controlled school district for the past six years. First, former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett will be sentenced to federal prison for her role in defrauding Chicago Public Schools by soliciting and agreeing to accept bribes and kickbacks from her involvement with SUPES Academy, a third-party contractor to which she steered a $20 million no-bid contract as the head of CPS.

Shortly thereafter, a Cook County Circuit Court judge will issue a ruling in a suit filed by the Chicago Board of Education against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education over unfair funding for education in Illinois. It’s a legal challenge that has cost taxpayers both time and money, and ironically, finds its basis in the same racially discriminatory practices that have been a hallmark of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration and its policies regarding Chicago’s public schools.

For more than 24,000 Chicago public school teachers, clinicians, and paraprofessionals, however, today will be business as usual as they work tirelessly, as they do every day, to provide true sanctuary and the schools that Chicago’s students deserve. These are Chicagoans, heads of single-parent families, minority women of color and parents of CPS students themselves who have been battered by incessant cuts and indignities over the past several years—from privatized custodial services that have led to dirtier schools, to the loss of librarians and special education teachers, to the last two years of furloughs. Their jobs are challenging enough without the embarrassment of a SUPES scandal, or infantile bickering among elected and appointed leaders.

Underlying these indignities is a long-term crisis that has severely impacted school funding—our schools are simply not supported by an adequate, sustainable, progressive source of revenue. As a result, each year our members are forced to endure more cuts, and are doubly impacted as both residents and taxpayers of the city of Chicago. So no matter the outcome today in the war of the roses with Rahm and his handpicked Chicago Board of Education on one side, and Rauner and his handpicked Illinois state board on the other, unless hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed funding accompanies the judge’s ruling, we will still face the threat of budget cuts and mass layoffs in our schools.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has spoken of the budget cuts he and the mayor imposed in February as “tough choices,” yet these cuts came after their foolish choice of trusting a governor who has shown no desire to invest in nearly 400,000 children—the overwhelming majority of whom are Black and Latino. Tough choices would be taxing those who can most afford it, or exhausting all avenues to secure school funding, and not balancing budgets on the backs of educators, students and their families.

The Chicago Teachers Union is part of a vital group of institutions in the city that unfailingly argues for progressive revenue to fund our schools, and despite the political landscape, we have had remarkable success winning resources and legislation for our classrooms and students. But there is much work left to do. At our Union’s last House of Delegates meeting, I told a group of reporters that nothing is off the table should the district continue its plans to end the school year on June 1. And I meant that. Our goal is for CTU members and their students to finish the year strong and enjoy the summer break they have earned.

After the courtrooms clear today, our members will return to work Monday morning, rallying before and after classes in recognition of May Day, in their positions as the real leaders of Chicago’s public schools. They understand better than most that we are in a difficult climate, but they remain committed to their students and classrooms just as our union is committed to advocating for our schools, defending our profession and demanding fair funding for public education.



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