Chicago Board of Education February 26, 2014 agenda finally includes CAFR... Was the delay because the audit shows that the 'billion dollar deficit' claim was a very Big Lie?

For the first time in a hundred years, the Chicago Board of Education did not receive the audited "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report" (commonly called the CAFR) at its December meeting, nor did the public get a look at the audit in January, as has been traditional. Instead, there was a two-month delay, without public explanation. None of the seven members of the Board mentioned the important document during the Board meetings of December 2013 and January 2014.

The seven members of the Chicago Board of Education did not demand the Board's audited financial report for the fiscal year from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013 after officials failed to provide it in December 2013, despite the fact that traditionally the CAFR was presented to the Board in December and available to the public in January. Above, the Board Report scheduled on the agenda for the Board meeting of February 26, 2014 indicates that the CAFR is finally going to become available to the public.Finally, the Board has noted that the CAFR for FY 2013 will be available to the Board members at the February 26, 2014 meeting. Copies of the CAFR were not included with the massive (190 page) agenda for the February 26 Board meeting.

However, it was widely speculated that the Board members knew that all the talk about that "billion dollar deficit" had been propaganda -- basically, a lie. Because of the improvement of the local economy in Chicago and other factors, the Board never -- as in NEVER -- could realistically claim that it was facing anything near the "deficit" of a billion dollars that had become one of the foundational talking points during the year when CPS, on orders from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, organized a massive deception to close the 50 real public schools the mayor had demanded as early as October 2012.

Between hearings in front of a "commission" appointed by CPS "Chief Executive Officer" and other hearings as the final list of the proposed schools to be closed, more than 30,000 people testified or appeared at meetings, virtually all of them demanding that the city's real public schools not be closed.

At some point in each protest, the public was reminded of the supposed "fact" that CPS was facing a "billion dollar deficit." Corporate media reporters never demanded the proof that such a problem existed, and in many cases lazy news reports portrayed the deficit (a projection of the relationship of future revenues and future expenses) was a "debt."

It never was. The "deficit" was based on an old CPS trick. The trick, reported at Substance over several years, has been for the Board to create a "magic number" of the proposed "deficit". According to former CPS Secretary Tom Corcoran (after his retirement), the "magic number" was created to get a major headline and prove that austerity was necessary. During the early 1990s, the magic number was usually "$300 million dollars!" By the early 21st Century the magic number was rising, until in 2009 then CEO Ron Huberman claimed it has reached a "billion dollars" -- amazingly, in his introduction to a CAFR that showed the number had actually become a surplus.

Since Rahm Emanual's Board of Education took office in May 2011, the money games have escalated in their mendacity. As early as June 2011, the Board members sat and voted with straight faces to refuse to pay the four percent raise that had been negotiated into the contract that was to expire in June 2012. Because of a loophole in the union contract negotiated by former Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart, the Board did not have to prove that it didn't have the money. All they had to do was claim that they didn't think they would have the money. The facts didn't matter. Hence, the CTU and the other unions did not have the legal basis to reverse the theft of the four percent raise, even when the CAFR for FY 2012 (which audited the fiscal year that had ended two weeks after Rahm's Board had voted to steal the four percent raise) showed that CPS not only had the dollars (roughly $100 million) to pay the raises, but had a significant surplus beyond that amount.

Undaunted, the seven members of the Board faced the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 with the claim that CPS was facing another "huge deficit." Rahm's first CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard, was replaced with his second CEO, Barbara Byrd Bennett following the strike, which headed off most of the demands of the Emanuel administration.

Within two months after the end of the September 2012 strike, CPS officials announced that because of the lack of money (the "billion dollar deficit"), CPS had to close a huge number of the city's real public schools. CPS propagandists referred to the closing as so-called "right sizing" the number of schools. As early as October, sources at CPS told various commentators that Rahm Emanuel wanted 50 schools closed. After months of hearings and massive protests (the Substance estimate is that 30,000 people in total protested against the closings between December 2012 and May 22, 2013, when the Board voted to close 49 schools immediately and one after its students graduated in June 2014.

Repeated over and over in corporate media stories was the "billion dollar deficit."

With the publication of the audited financial statements following the February 26, 2014 Board meeting, reporters who take the time and the public will finally be able to see whether the claim from the mayor of the nation's third largest city that the school system was facing a "billion dollar deficit" was a fact -- or another example of successful propaganda, a 21st Century repeat of the infamous BIG LIE that began in the 20th Century under the regimes of other tyrants in the years before Chicago's mayor was born.


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