Chicago Board of Education delays budget hearings for second straight year

For the second year in a row, the administration of the Chicago Public Schools under Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan will fail to present the Chicago Board of Education with a budget before July 1, as required by law. Duncan will also fail to follow procedure and has delayed the presentation of the proposed CPS budget to the public for public hearings, which are supposed to be held in June of each year prior to the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

On February 14, 2008, CEO Arne Duncan held a press conference (above) to tell the press that, once again, he was going to be cutting “administration” because the Board of Education was facing a “deficit”. Because CPS did not have any reasonable budget figures to provide to the press at the time, most of the story was deferred until June 2008, when the administration is legally required to present a proposed budget to the public for public hearings. Again this year, instead of providing a proposed budget to the public, in June 2008 Duncan arranged to delay the budget presentation and hosted another media event. On May 28, the day the Board of Education was supposed to meet, Duncan left town for Springfield, and the “May” meeting was rescheduled for June. Substance photo by George Schmidt.In response to a query from Substance, Board spokesman Michael Vaughn said that Duncan had not prepared the proposed budget, and that CPS officials were expecting that the budget would be ready some time in July or early August and that the hearings will be held in August. The Board would then vote on the budget at its August 27 meeting — nearly two months after the previous fiscal year has ended.

The Board of Education got away with the same thing last year, and since there was no outcry in the corporate media or from powerful groups, it is apparently becoming a new Chicago tradition despite the law. In July 2007, Duncan held a media event with a group of clergy to ask for more money from the State of Illinois for Chicago’s public schools. It wasn’t until August that the public received copies of the proposed 2007-2008 budget and hearings were scheduled. A large number of people turned out for the August 14, 2007 budget hearings at Lane Technical High School. The Illinois General Assembly is not expected to remain in session into July, as it did in 2007, so there is less of a reason why the Duncan administration is delaying this year’s budget presentation and hearings. On May 28, 2008, the Board abruptly postponed its regularly scheduled meeting, because Duncan and Board President Rufus Williams decided to rush to Springfield to lobby for more funds for Chicago’s schools. The Board did not provide any explanation as to why the lobbying could only be done on the day of the Board meeting. As far as informed observers could determine, it was the first time in half a century that the Chicago Board of Education failed to meet as scheduled after the official notice of the meeting and the agenda had been published.

The “May” 2008 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education was finally held in June (on June 2). The “June” hearings on the CPS budget will probably be held in August, according to CPS officials. 


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