CPS budget hearings don't include the budget

More than 200 people showed up at Chicago's Malcolm X College on the evening of July 11, 2012, for one of three public hearings on the massive ($5.2 or $5.7 billion) proposed budget for Chicago's public schools for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. They were there to talk about the schools and the relationship of the "budget" to those schools. The only thing they weren't permitted to read was the actual budget, which has been posted, in part, on line and was not available in print to anyone who couldn't get to the official version on a high-powered computer with Internet access. What the public did get, at Malcolm X and two other locations, was a slanted version of the fiscal reality of CPS via a 24-page Power Point presentation, narrated by the CPS "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley, who talked for more than a half hour as slides form the official version of reality passed above the audience on the big screen.

As usual, the Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard was not at the budget hearings. The presentation by CPS was done by "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley (above), who came to his role in public education after a career at Motorola and at the "turnaround" group AUSL. Cawley presented the Power Point but refused to provide the audience with copies of the actual budget. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. With the refusal of the nation's third largest school system to provide Chicago's three million citizens with actual physical copies of their proposed budget, CPS achieved its first "first." For decades, the Chicago Board of Education had provided these materials across the city so that citizens could read, study and comment on them at the annual hearings. Until 2006, the hearings themselves were held prior to the end of the CPS fiscal year (which is June 30). Since 2006, CPS has evaded more and more of its legal and ethical responsibilities to provide citizens with the necessary information to study and comment on the budget. In 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 CPS held the hearings in August, and each year provided citizens with fewer and fewer opportunities to read the budget in the city's libraries and other public buildings. Each year, someone at CPS would claim that it was "too expensive" to print copies of the budgets for review before the hearings, even though the claims were false and indicated a clear preference on the part of CPS officials for less and less "transparency" for the public. But 2012 was the first year when CPS completely refused to provide copies of the budget book to public bodies or to those who requested them.

The second thumb in the eye of democracy in 2012 came when CPS not only took the budget hearings out of the city's more than 600 public schools, but held them simultaneously on the same night. While one hearing was being held at Malcolm X College on the city's West Side, two other hearings were being held at the same time on the South Side. No hearings were held on the North Side. The attempts to manipulate the budget hearings (and thus the record of citizens questions and critiques) terminated another tradition of civic democracy that stretched back possible more than 100 years. That was a second "first" for the Emanuel administration.

Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appointed the seven member Board of Education currently in charge of the city's schools in May 2011, spin is the name of the game. Not one Board member was present during the hearings at Malolm X, and the highest paid school official in Chicago history, "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard ($250,000 per year salary; a $30,000 "relocation" fee; and an unknown "performance" bonus each year) was also truant.

Chicago Teachers Union organizer Marty Ritter kicked off the public participation in the hearings by asking about the facilities planning at CPS and pointing out that CPS would be putting an expensive charter school into the building where the hearing was being held in two years. After correcting Ritter and telling the audience that Chi Arts is not a charter but a "contract" school, Cawley confirmed that the "Chi Arts" school was going to be housed at Malcolm X College, and the the opinion of most of those at the hearing failed in his attempt to explain how the great expenses for Chi Arts (which is currently at Doolittle Elementary School on the South Side) is helping the city's real public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.When asked where Brizard and the Board members were, the minor level CPS officials who were present simply ignored the questions. Many in the audience were confused, because they believed that the seven people sitting on the stage we the members of the Board of Education.

Once Cawley completed his Power Point, which took more than a half hour, he announced that there would be two hours for the public to speak (no matter how many people were signed up to speak). The auditorium at Malcolm X College was ringed with both Malcolm X and CPS security (who, at one point, tried to stop this reporter from taking photographs from the balcony so that the photographs could show the faces of the speakers; the issue was resolved after a brief confrontation). In addition to CPS security, there were more than 20 CPS officials scattered around the hall, most not being available to speak about the budget.

CTU researchers Sarah Hainds challenged the increase in spending on charter schools, pointing out that most of them are no better than real Chicago public schools, and demanding that the Board freeze charter expansion. The money budgeted for charter schools for FY 2013 will increase by $76 million, bringing Chicago's total charter schools budget to a half billion dollars. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago politicians caved in last night, allowing the Board of Education to do three "budget hearings" on the same night (July 11, 2012) without providing the public with the budget, putting a "budget" on line that was full of lies and eliminated much of what had been standard in the past (so nobody could make year-to-year comparisons). Nevertheless, almost a thousand people turned out, with hundreds wanting to speak, to oppose the CPS version of financial reality.

Warning: This budget has been brought out in July with the "zero reserves" main talking point so that the Board of Education can vote "No" on it at its July 25 meeting. It's a negotiating budget, aimed at convincing the public that the Board doesn't have any money to fund union contract improvements (or school improvements). Watch as Rahm and Wall Street (beginning with the corrupt "analysts" at Moody's Financial Services) go with the Board's "zero reserves" BS and drum up all the corporate media and plutocratic apologists among the talking heads to repeat, over and over, their nonsense.

Not one citizen was able to walk in to those "hearings" last night and get a copy of the actual budget. All that was available was talking points and, for the press, a 24 page Power Point that had at least one misstatement or outright lie on each page or two. But looking at it, the real problem is that Chicago's politicians and corporate media people are simply going along with Rahm's agenda on this, so CPS doesn't feel enough heat to provide everyone with the facts. The blacklisting of me from "public" TV the other night was just part of all that, since there will be a blackout on facts as long as Rahm and his one percenters can control much of the information and script it where possible.

Many of the 200 people in the audience for the CPS budget hearings on July 11, 2012, thought they were giving their presentation to the Board of Education. Actually, not one member of the Board was at the hearing, and the seven people sitting in the front of the auditorium (the same number as the Board has members) were unidentified mid-level bureaucrats who work as interchangable parts for CPS. Only two of those above ever identified themselves for the audience: Tim Cawley (far left) and Akeshia Craven (center). Neither Cawley nor Craven, both of whom are among the highest paid public school officials in Illinois, has ever taught in a Chicago public school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The witnesses last night where I was (Malcolm X) did a great job, as I'll be reporting this morning at But the TV "news" people were barely there, and most of the so-called reporters had already gobbled down the pre-digested version of reality being fed to them by CPS officials, sort of like baby birds whose mothers eat their food and their squirt the juice directly into their mouths.


July 12, 2012 at 9:26 AM

By: Jean R Schwab

Is the CPS Budget really on line?

I looked for the budget on line but did not find it.

July 12, 2012 at 1:45 PM

By: Raymond Wohl

CPS Budget Hearing at Malcolm X College July 11

CPS Budget Director and 40 other CPS senior staff misinformed the public, made up stories, offered no real accurate budget numbers for the over 5 billion dollars proposed for the CPS 2012-1013 school budget.

35 citizens spoke from an audience of nearly 300 concerned Chicagoans, parents, ministers, students, teachers and community leaders.

Not one tax payer rose in support of the CPS unjust policies, misguided values, and unequal use of funding for public schools.

Mr. Timothy Cawley, budget guru made the night a one man show and all questions went to and through him. No other staff person (except on staff talking about restorative justice for CPS students spoke). The misallocation of CPS resources was evident in the fact that had the 40 CPS engaged the audience, everyone who attended could have spoken, asked a question, or gotten authentic answers.

Not one of Mayor Emmanuel's appointed members of the Board of Education attended any of the budget hearings, nor did CEO JC Brizzard.

Cawley told parents and teachers that if you school has a hole in the ceiling or roof that hasn't been repaired by CPS, have patience because another school has a bigger hole than yours.

Cawley said that Charter schools are public schools and admitted that some are underperforming neighborhood schools that have been closed by CPS creating a double standard.

He bragged that CPS is building the new Jones High School in the South Loop area for 100million dollars that is entirely funded by......TIF dollars. Cawley went on to say how important TIF's are to CPS but that neighborhood schools that have 90 year old toilets, broken ventilation systems, poor drinking water, bad plumbing, no AC even during summer school, and diminishing cleaning supplies can be fixed if these schools only did what successful schools do and that is to have Fund Raising Projects.

His breaking news story that Mr. Brizzard, a former NY High school teacher and administrator has spoken internally at CPS that the 7 1/2 day for high schools may be in fact too long of an instructional day was an offhand comment to the educated and engaged audience.

CPS's is not listening to parents, students, the community, or its teachers. Who is CPS listening to?

July 13, 2012 at 4:52 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Budget hearings

Thanks for your information, Ray.

Our readers can add to our coverage by sharing what they saw, heard, and said at these hearings.

Did others go the hearings at Kennedy-King or Daley college?

July 15, 2012 at 7:31 PM

By: Mary Galvez

Actual Physical Paper Budget for CPS

Have you ever seen \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"The Paper Chase\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"? Would it be possible, once located, to get enough concerned citizens to each print out a specific small portion of the latest CPS budget? Then bring it to one location to compile and have small groups go through it with a fine tooth comb (with notes) to get a better understanding of the ...... CPS is \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"proposing\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"?

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