Chicago, IL … Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin today paved the way for a state-created Independent Authority to assume control over the Chicago Public School system. The proposal is consistent with current state law governing all other school districts in Illinois.
“We don’t come to this position lightly,” Leader Radogno said. “But the track record of Chicago and its public school system is abysmal. Despite a $600 million financial advantage provided by the state, Chicago continues to dig their financial hole deeper. It is constant crisis. The result always ends up a plea for more state money for Chicago at the expense of school districts in our suburban and downstate communities. It has to end. Taxpayers and school children deserve better. This is a lifeline” she said.
“CPS is facing massive layoffs and a possible teachers strike. And despite credit downgrades to junk status, CPS is now looking to long-term bonds to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term operating expenses. CPS and the City of Chicago are in a state of crisis, a crisis that they have had years to prepare for and that could have been averted,” said Leader Durkin.
In the face of continued financial mismanagement and near-collapse, the two Leaders are also considering giving Chicago the financial tools to declare bankruptcy, if necessary, and to give CPS the power of bankruptcy protection as well.
Two dozen other states have enabled struggling municipalities to file for bankruptcy. As recently as 2012, Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) and Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) introduced bills (Senate Bill 3679, House Bill 5609) to allow for municipal bankruptcy in Illinois.
State intervention into CPS governance will be introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday. The legislation specifically:
Recognize CPS’ financial difficulties and amends current state law, established by HB5537/PA 98-1155, to include the Chicago Public School system in the Illinois State Board of Education District Intervention law
Specifies the process for the Illinois State Board of Education to establish an Independent Authority (IA) to run the school district and the removal of the current CPS Board of Education
Specifies the State Superintendent of Schools must appoint 5-7 members to the Authority, who shall be selected based on expertise and knowledge in education policy and governance including local community members, in cooperation with local officials;
Authority members must not be CPS employees or have a financial interest
Authority members will serve without compensation
Grants the Authority the power to serve as the School Board, with the same powers and duties; specifics the Authority cannot unilaterally cancel or modify existing collective bargaining agreements
The Authority would serve until the State Board of Education determined CPS is no longer in financial difficulty; Provides the phase-in process for an elected CPS Board of Education and prohibits union contributions to those candidates
Establishes that the state is not liable for the school districts’ debt.
“This is not a bail-out. Taxpayers statewide should not and will not be held responsible for historically wrong decisions made by Chicago politicians,” said Durkin.
“There is a serious lack of confidence in the city leaders who are making the decisions. We have thought long and hard on this, and for the sake and protection of the school children and taxpayers, changes needs to be made,” Radogno said.
“The city doesn’t need a bail-out, it needs a renaissance,” she concluded.