'Going Green...' is administration's pretext for not distributing Proposed Budget for public review... Huberman stalling annual budget hearings, apparently refusing to provide 'Proposed Budget' to citizens for review

King High School chemistry teacher Karen Lewis (above, holding the Proposed FY 2010 budget) questioned CPS budget officials during the August 19, 2009 hearing on the proposed FY 2010 budget. Like the other leaders of CORE, Lewis studied the budget each year and testified during the annual budget hearings. Ten months after the hearing (at Black Elementary School on the South Side), Lewis was elected President of the Chicago Teachers Union. Despite public claims that he is trying to put into place a new era of what he calls "transparency" in CPS finances, CPS CEO Ron Huberman is again making it impossible for most Chicagoans to get copies of the Proposed FY 2011 budget to study in advance of the budget hearings. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman has apparently ordered CPS officials to hold back copies of the Board of Education's "Proposed Budget" for as long as possible — and to make sure that as few citizens as possible have access to the massive document that is supposed to be the subject of three public hearings prior to a vote on it at the August meeting of the Chicago Board of Education.

Kristine Mayle (at the time a displaced teacher, following the closing of De La Cruz school by the Board of Education in June 2009) testified at the budget hearings at Amundsen High School and Marshall High School on August 17 and 18, 2009. Above, she is testifying about the proposed budget during the Marshall High School hearings (August 18). In front of Mayle, under the microphone, is a copy of the Proposed Budget for FY 2010, which she and others had studied prior to their testimony. Under the direction of Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman, CPS is trying to prevent members of the public from getting copies of the Proposed Budget before the 2010 hearings. On June 11, 2010, Mayle was elected Financial Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Prior to 2007, the annual CPS budget hearings had to be held in June, since the fiscal year ended on June 30 and the law assumed that the following year's budget would be reviewed by the public in early June and then debated by the Board of Education at its June meeting.

Beginning in 2007, and continuing in 2008 and 2009, CPS administration, under Arne Duncan (in 2007 and 2008) and then under Ron Huberman (2009, 2010) began stalling the hearings as long as possible, claiming that the budget could not be prepared for public review until after "Springfield" acted. During the final Duncan years, the budget hearings (in August 2007 and August 2008) were at least based on widely available public distribution of the Proposed budgets. Under Chicago tradition, the budgets had been distributed to all Chicago Public Schools, all public libraries, and to aldermanic offices.

Once Huberman took over, the distribution of the Proposed Budget was cut off. In August 2009, when the budget finally was printed, CPS refused to distribute the budgets to the public libraries, schools and aldermanic offices prior to the August 2009 hearings. When challenged about the lack of public information so that the public could comment intelligently on the Proposed Budget, Huberman's propaganda chief, Monique Bond, quipped to one Substance reporter that CPS was "going green" and saving money by not printing too many copies of the Proposed Budget.

Then Senn High School delegate Jesse Sharkey testified about the Proposed Budget for FY 2008 at Lane Technical High School on August 14, 2007, nearly a year before be became a founding member of CORE. At the press conference at Lane Tech on the first day of the August 2007 budget hearings (abvoe), Sharkey joined people from Austin and PURE leader Julie Woestehoff (above left) talking about the problems with the Board of Education's budget priorities. On June 11, 2010, Sharkey was elected Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. What may have been more than 100 years of public participation and tradition (Substance doesn't know how long the budgets were distributed across the city, but the history goes back around 100 years) was being undermined by Huberman and the team of media manipulators with which he has surrounded himself.

Those who began asking for copies of the Proposed Budget for FY 2011 (the 2010 to 2011 fiscal year, which began July 1) during the first week of August were told by CPS officials that the budget were not yet ready. An earlier claim by Huberman that the budgets would be available to the public by August 4 and that the hearings would be held August 11, 12, and 13 proved false. As of August 8, there were no indications on the CPS website about when the budgets would be available and when the hearings would take place.

One of the reasons why Huberman is so bold in his refusal to provide public information to the public is that in the years since the last June budget hearings (which took place in June 2006), Chicago's major media have virtually ended regular coverage of major Chicago Board of Education events. Even the publication and comment on a $7 billion budget (which is roughly what the CPS FY 2011 budget will be, when operations and capital are added together) is ignored by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, while other media cover the stories sporadically with a much reduced reporting staff. Often, the city's TV stations cover stories such as budget hearings and even Chicago Board of Education meetings with a camera crew but no reporter. The result is that Huberman's version of what is happening, usually a Power Point presentation, becomes the only available narrative, since camera crews are not allowed to ask questions.

Altgeld Elementary teacher Michael Brunson (above) questioned CPS budget officials during the August 19, 2009 hearing on the proposed FY 2010 budget. Like the other leaders of CORE, Brunson studied the budget each year and testified during the annual budget hearings. Ten months after the hearing (at Black Elementary School on the South Side), Brunson was elected Recording Secretary of the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Although at many times members of the public became discouraged as CPS officials seemed to go out of their way to make budget testimony by the public a serious concern, with the advent of CORE in 2008, things picked up for public participation. During both the 2008 and 2009 budget hearings, despite the difficulty in getting the materials and studying them in their opacity, CORE members testified at all the budget hearings and began a lengthy process of unravelling CPS finances, despite the obstacles put in their way by officials first of the Duncan and later of the Huberman administrations. By the time of the August 2009 budget hearings, more than 20 CORE members were to testify, including the four who would later become union officers following the June 11, 2010, runoff election and two who would be elected trustees of the $10 billion Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

One way or the other, the Chicago Board of Education will be voting on the school system's controversial budget at its August meeting, which is scheduled for August 25, 2010. If CPS officials have not made the Proposed Budget available across the city by the week of August 9 (the same day they will be hosting media events announcing the opening of the "Track E" public schools during some of the hottest weeks in history), it will be impossible for citizens to review and study the Proposed Budget prior the hearings (which cannot take place any later than the week of August 16).

June 2006 was the last time the Chicago Board of Education held its annual public budget hearings in June, prior to the end of the Board's fiscal year, as required by law. Above, on June 20, 2006, Jose Ocampo of the Advanced Youth Leadership Program testified against the proposal in the budget to cut $26 million from special education services. Ocampo testified from his wheel chair as part of a militant group of disability rights activists who challenged the Board of Education's claims that it had to cut special education services by $26 million because of a "deficit." The pressure from the disability rights community continued into October, when CPS restored some of the special education funding after disrupting the opening weeks of school for thousands of children and young adults with disabilities. The "deficit" claim made in June 2006 by then CEO Arne Duncan was proved to be another "deficit" lie from CPS in June 2007, when CPS ended its Fiscal Year 2007 with a record budget cash balance of more than $300 million. The same disconnect between CPS claims of a "deficit" and the actual final audit of the budget continues in 2010 under Duncan's successor, Ron Huberman. Substance photo from the June 20 CPS budget hearing at Lincoln Park High School by George N. Schmidt.Not that the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education care. Every year, they simply rubber stamp the CEO's Final Budget, either at the August meeting or (prior to 2007) at the June meeting.

The members of the Chicago Board of Education, all of whom are appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley and accountable only to him, don't even bother to read what's in the budget they approve. Most of them were surprised to learn, in 2009, that Chicago had more than 20 schools named "William." The CPS proposed budget was listing the schools by First Name, making it more difficult for citizens who were able to get the rare copies of the Proposed Budget to actually study their own schools.

So instead of Sherman ("School of Excellence", an elementary school currently being run by AUSL) being found under "S" (for "Sherman"), readers had to find Sherman under the "Ws" (since the school is named after Civil War general Williams Tecumsah Sherman. Other Williams ran from William Howard Taft to ...

Anyway, CPS continues to provide such information in that manner, and the members of the Chicago Board of Education do not care. 


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