On eve of hearings... Huberman continues to sabotage public access to the $6.8 billion proposed CPS budget

As the final weekend before the citywide hearings on the Chicago Board of Education's $6.8 billion proposed budget for "Fiscal Year 2010" began, the administration of Chicago's public school system, the third largest in the USA and now the model for "school reform" under the Obama administration, continued to sabotage the public's right to read, review, and criticize the massive document. On the even of public hearings, for the first time in Chicago history, officials of the city's public school system have refused to make available printed copies of their proposed budget at the city's public libraries, public schools, and aldermanic ward offices.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman (above with eyes closed at the Board's February 2009 meeting) is being accused of sabotaging the ability of the public to read and criticize the Board of Education's proposed $6.8 billion 2008-2009 budget. As of August 16, Huberman had ordered that CPS not distribute copies of the print edition of the budget to the city's public libraries, public schools and ward offices, as CPS has done for more than 100 years. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The hearings on the CPS budget are being held on August 17, 18, and 19 at 7:00 p.m. each night. The hearings include a Power Point presentation from CPS officials (probably led by Christine Herzog from the budget office) then "public participation."

Although the hearings (like all the other "hearings" CPS holds that many people in Chicago have come to know and love) are supposed to provide input for the vote of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education on August 26, not one Board member will be at the hearings. It is alos likely that none of them will have read what happens at the hearings (although transcripts will be taken) before they vote to rubber stamp the budget. The budget will be submitted by Ron Huberman, CEO of CPS, on August 26. Huberman is expected to avoid the hearings, too. Of late, he has been limiting public appearances where he might be asked factual questions by members of the public or press, limiting his public posture to carefully staged and controlled media events.

Will Ron Huberman be at the hearings?

The hearings are at...

Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen, August 17

Marshall High School, 3250 W. Adams, August 18

Black Magnet School, 9101 S. Euclid, August 19

SubstanceNews will be reporting on each of the hearings by the following day, and providing a complete transcript as soon as CPS provides us with it. We are asking people who prepare public participation materials to provide them to us via e-mail so we can report as accurately as possible on their presentations.

The Huberman administration has taken the unprecedented step of sabotaging the hearings in advance by refusing to distribute copies of the proposed budget to the city's public libraries, schools, and aldermanic offices in advance of the hearings. CPS officials who have been familiar with the budget process going back more than 30 years have told Substance they find it hard to believe that the Huberman administration would try to host public hearings on the largest public budget in Chicago (CPS is an independent tax body, and the CPS budget is larger than the budget for the City of Chicago this year) without providing copies of the budget to the public through the usual channels.

By contrast, the much maligned Cook County Board published its entire proposed budget in the Chicago Sun-Times earlier in the summer. This decision to limit distribution of the printed copies of the massive budget is unprecedented. For more than 100 years, these materials have been provided to the public at the schools, libraries, and political offices across Chicago. This year, Huberman has tried to claim that providing a PDF copy on line at the Board's Web Site is the equivalent to providing people with the printed copies that have been distributed every year for more than a century. At most libraries, printing costs 15 cents per page, so that it would cost a citizen $51 to print out the PDFs of the first part of the budget, and an additional amount of money to print out the material included in a CD in the back pocket with each of the printed books.

On Thursday, August 13, CPS officials told one teacher who requested a copy of the printed proposed budget that printing all those budgets was a waste of paper and that this was an example of how CPS was "going green."

On Friday, August 14, two members of the Substance staff were finally able to get printed copies of the budget at CPS headquarters, 125 S. Clark St. (Paying for downtown parking was an interesting experience, sort of like another "Daley Tax" like the other privatized thingies we suffer in this town. Parking at one of the parking lots privatized by Chicago cost $21 for a little more than one hour).

People who checked with libraries and other places across the city on August 13 and August 14 reported that the printed editions of the proposed budgets were still not distributed across Chicago. In one case, the reference librarian at one of the city's regional libraries told a Substance reporter that the budget was in, but she discovered she was talking about last year's proposed budget and later apologized. Despite the lack of public input, two civic organizations were mustered to provide the media with praise for the budget. 


August 17, 2009 at 4:58 PM

By: truth seeker

implications of recent improvements to the Open Meetings Act

Will Substance be covering the possible implications of the recent improvements in the Open Meetings Act law for the depradations of CPS?

August 17, 2009 at 8:25 PM

By: truth seeker

implications of recent improvements to the Open Meetings Act

Will Substance be covering the possible implications of the recent improvements in the Open Meetings Act law for the depradations of CPS?

August 19, 2009 at 6:04 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Coverage of Open Meetings Act and FOIA changes


We'll probably also be covering the fact that Governor Quinn and Attorney General Madigan continue to facilitate CPS violations of both laws.

Three years ago, when I tried to appeal the gross violations of the FOIA to Madigan, I got the brush off. Then Madigan's office simply referred the matter back to CPS, saying in effect, "But CPS can do Freedom of Information any way CPS likes."

Madigan is part of the problem, not part of the solution, as far as the ongoing violations at CPS of both laws goes.

What are the biggest of those violations?

1. Of the FOIA -- just about every paragraph. CPS stalls, then provides half answers, and often assembles information is incomprehensible ways -- DELIBERATELY. Example: the current budget lists "schools" (but not all) by First Name. That's right, according to CPS, "alphabetical order" means BY FIRST NAME. That makes the huge amounts of data impossible to sort or FIND in.

2. CPS has been in violation of the Open Meetings Act since Mayor Daley was appointed CPS dictator in 1995. I reported recently that CPS (again) voted to keep secret the minutes of their closed sessions. Since nothing is discussed in open meetings, everything that counts is in closed session.

Their secret meetings go back to July 1, 1995. And in July 2009, they voted (once again) to keep those minutes secret. Motion by Tariq Butt. Seconded by sundry. Passed unanimously.

Fifteen years of secret meetings.

If Illinois governors, legislators, and the attorney general weren't covering up for everything Daley does -- usually in violation of the Freedom of Information Act, the Open Meetings act, or both -- this would have ended long ago.

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