BOARDWATCH: How many millions did the Chicago Board of Education waste on new and renewed privatization schemes at its April 27, 2016 meeting, while the Board was claiming that its problems would be solved by getting more money not from Chicago, but from Springfield?...

Three members of the Chicago Board of Education (above left) and three of the highest paid officials of Chicago public schools (above right and below right) during the April 27, 2016 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.How many hundreds of millions was it? While the "Better Government Association" and most of Chicago's corporate media were ignoring expenses -- and a massive 250-plus page Chicago Board of Education agenda -- how many hundreds of millions of dollars was the Chicago Board of Education preparing to vote to spend at one meeting, the meeting of April 27, 2016?

The answer: Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. And just about every one of those contracts -- each was in the form of what is called a "Board Report" -- was for services that were once provided, at less cost, by people who worked for the Chicago Board of Education.

Take just one: At its April 27 meeting, the Chicago Board of Education voted to hire a contractor to train students to repair seats in school auditoriums. The contract, was to hire someone from outside CPS to train students in CPS schools to repair auditorium seats! Not one member of the Board of Education asked why these services were not being performed by people who worked for the Chicago Board of Education or, if such abilities needed to be obtained by students, why students weren't learning such skills in public school shops.

After the six members of the Chicago Board of Education came out of closed session at its April 27 meeting, they voted, unanimously and without discussion, in favor of the entire agenda presented to them by executive officials of Chicago Public Schools. Although the initial agenda presented to the public was almost 300 pages long, when blank pages were deleted, the final agenda came to a total of 250 pages. And almost every item on that public agenda was for privatization work -- charter schools, contracting, etc., etc., etc.

The point of this analysis, and future research in this area, is simple: Despite claims by both CPS officials and a faction in the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union that CPS is facing what it has long called a "billion dollar deficit", and therefore requires another billion dollars in state aid from Springfield, neither is true. There is not a "billion dollar deficit" nor has there been during any of the years since Ron Huberman first proclaimed it several years ago. Huberman, some will recalled, was once "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, appointed to that job by Mayor Richard M. Daley. Since Huberman, the nation's third largest school system has had Terry Mazany (interim), Jean Claude Brizard, Barbara Byrd Bennett, Jesse Ruiz (interim), and, most recently, Forrest Claypool at "Chief Executive Officer."

Claypool is the sixth CEO in seven years, and yet the Board of Education members have continued to expand privatization while claiming, year after year, that the Board was facing a "billion dollar deficit." The difference this year is that a faction of the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union is affirming that the Board's lie about this deficit is true, and that the Board's claim that the only solution is more money from Springfield is also true.

But the fact, as demonstrated again at the April 27, 2016 meeting, is that CPS could receive another billion dollars -- from Springfield, from local revenues, or (as happened after the 2008 financial crisis) from the federal government -- and not one penny would go to the salaries and benefits of those who do most of the work of educating Chicago's children (two of whom are the children of this reporter) in Chicago's real public schools.


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