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Huberman administration works to keep proposed budget from public review prior to beginning of hearings on August 17

Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman and his top aides are working during the final hours before hearings on Huberman's proposed 2009-2010 budget to make it as difficult as possible for the average Chicago taxpayer to actually read what he has prepared in the form of the $6.8 billion proposed Chicago Public Schools budget.

Above, a photograph of one of the five copies of the Proposed Budget 2008-2009 that was available to the public at the headquarters of the Chicago Public Schools on August 12, 2009. The massive document was available in PDF form on line by August 10, but print copies were kept secret from the public for as long as possible. Only late on August 13 were people who asked eventually able to get copies of the print edition of the budget, and then only by going downtown to CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. By August 13, Substance reporters had found that the Board had still refused to provide copies of the proposed budget to the city's public libraries, public schools, and political offices as had been done for decades prior to the appointment by Mayor Richard M. Daley of Ron Huberman to head the school system in January 2009. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Hearings on the budget are scheduled to begin on Monday, August 17, at 7:00 p.m. at Amundsen High School at 6110 N. Damen on Chicago's north side. On August 18, the hearings will be held at Marshall High School at 3250 W. Adams on Chicago's west side. On August 19, the hearings will be held at Black Magnet Elementary School at 9101 S. Euclid on the city's south side. All of the hearings will begin with a budget presentation by CPS financial officials. Members of the public who wish to ask questions or comment on the budget are permitted to sign in to speak between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. each day.

But because the top officials of the Board of Education have refused to make copies of the budget accessible to the public, as the date of the first hearing drew near, almost nobody had been able to read the thing.

Copies promised August 7 appear finally on Monday August 10

At its July 22 monthly meeting, the Chicago Board of Education voted to hold the annual budget hearings on August 17, 18, and 19. The report detailing the scheduling of the hearings also stated that the proposed budget would be available for review at the Office of the Board August 7. It wasn't.

Although the Board of Education originally told the public that copies of the proposed budget would be available for review on Friday August 7 at CPS headquarters, copies did not become available until Monday August 10.

From August 10 through August 13, the only print copies that were available to the public were located in the sixth floor Office of the Board of Education at CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. There, five marked copies of the 345-page budget document (plus a CD) were available, but the materials included in the CD were not printed out and there is no place in the small CPS Board Office waiting room to print out or read the materials on the CD.

Informing the public "too expensive"?

On August 12, staff from the Office of Communications told Substance various reasons why the proposed budget had not been printed and provided to the public in the places traditionally used. For generations, the CPS budget has been distributed to all public schools, public libraries, aldermanic offices, and a handful of other locations across Chicago.

According to Malon Edwards in the Office of Communications on August 12, the budgets had not been printed because of the expense.

Monique Bond, who currently heads the Office of Communications, told Substance that the expensive was large but that the materials were being printed that day.

[Disclosure: In July and August 1989, this reporter served on the CPS "Budget Transition Team" which re-wrote the FY 1990 budget in time for the deadline of the School Finance Authority. At that time, we were told that the budgets were always printed in advance of the annual hearings and distributed across the city. At the time, CPS officials indicated that the procedure went back more than 100 years and was standard practice for the school system and the city. The last person at CPS who might have known when the practice began was former Secretary Tom Corcoran, who died four years ago. Beginning in the 1990s under former CEO Paul Vallas and continuing under Arne Duncan, CPS has tried to reduce the amount of information made available to the pubic through various methods, including delays and confusions in the budget]. On August 12, 2009, there was no official explanation as to why the materials were several days late by then, even if the public allows that the Board of Education can avoid its obligation to provide the budgets and budget hearings in June, prior to the end of its fiscal year.

For the past three years, CPS has claimed that it has the statutory authority to delay consideration and passage of the budget if a significant portion of revenue is not known by June. The CPS fiscal year ends June 30, with each new fiscal year beginning July 1. The fiscal year that began July 1, 2009 extends to June 30, 2010. Each fiscal year is described by the year in which it ends, so the budget currently being reviewed is "FY 2010". CPS has stated that it is permitted by law to work under and extension of the previous budget for up to 60 days if emergency circumstances require it to do so. This year is the third year of such an ongoing emergency.

Searching for the budget on August 13

By the end of the day on August 12, CPS had acquired a few additional copies of the budget, and one was made available to Substance. Substance also confirmed that dozens, if not hundreds, of people working in the school system's central office were provided with physical print copies of the "Proposed Budget." As of the beginning of the work day on August 14, Substance had not learned how that internal distribution was organized or who received copies.



Comments:

August 14, 2009 at 7:36 AM

By: budget info

url for CPS budget information

For those who may be interested, the budget information can be found at:

http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/FYBudget2010.aspx

August 17, 2009 at 4:03 PM

By: Management & Budget

Staff

Mr. Schmidt the writer of this particular section - receieved a FY10 budget book on August 11th, and another 3 copies were provided to him in person as well on Friday August 14th. This book was also filed in the Office of the Chicago Board of Education as required by law for public viewing. The Proposed FY10 Budget Book was also posted on CPS website on August 11th for public viewing.

August 17, 2009 at 6:40 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Budget was supposed to be distributed across Chicago -- as per custom and law

As will become clear over the next three evenings, the leaders of the Chicago Public Schools have made every effort to keep copies of their Chicago Public Schools Proposed Budget, 2009 - 2010 from the public. After first telling the public (in the Board Report announcing the hearings at the July 22 Board meeting) that the budget would be available for review on August 7, they deliberately delayed making any copies available until August 10 (late) and August 11. Since then, they have made any number of ridiculous claims that it was not their responsibility to distribute the budget to the city's public libraries, to ward offices, and to schools -- as has been done for decades, if not for more than a century.

This was not an accident. They do not want members of the public to review anything about their proposed spending, or to get a clear look at how they are managing the public's money. At different times over the past seven days, CPS officials have claimed that they didn't have to distribute the budget in print form because it was supposedly available on the CPS Website. As noted, to print out that basic document from the Web (assuming it could be done) at a public library would cost more than $50. But the "budget" is actually not the mere 345 pages in the print edition, but nearly 1,900 pages.

One of the more interesting claims made to one of my colleagues was that refusing to distribute the print copy across the city was an example of "going green."

Once more people get copies of the document -- and have some time to review it and ask questions -- there will be more and more questions.

But here is a start:

How much did CPS pay Kinko's to print those budgets which were created in print form by August 13 or August 14?

That's one of the many questions I'll begin asking tonight. You see, CPS used to have an in-house print shop that did this kind of work and was set up to do it. As part of the massive union busting and privatization that Chicago has witnessed since 1995, that capacity was destroyed, and as a result, those who now run CPS are spending 300 percent to 400 percent more than they would have to out source such work.

With each detail comes more reason for more questions.

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