State needs to analyze how current CPS funds are being spent
Illinois’ General State Aid (GSA) funds K-12 education and was originally intended to financially support school districts with the most need. Through the years, however, the formulas used to calculate the amount of state funding school districts receive has sparked outrage over the funding system providing large subsidies to a few select districts, namely, Chicago Public Schools.
In 2013, most of the $500 million-plus in special state education subsidies related to property wealth was appropriated to just 40 of the 102 districts in Illinois. All of the districts that received the funds were in Cook County and its collar counties. Chicago alone received more than $280 million while downstate districts received a mere 3 percent of the $500 million.
The formulas used to determine which individuals qualify as poor have broadened, resulting in the state recognizing thousands more students as low-income and placing a heftier burden on the state’s budget. In 2000, just less than $300 million from the GSA went toward supporting low-income children. By 2013, Illinois was spending an astounding $1.8 billion to support low-income students.
Since 1998, Chicago teachers’ salaries have increased by 80 percent, resulting in Chicago teachers receiving the highest lifetime salaries among school districts comparable in size across the nation.
CPS reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on teacher pension pickups over the past decade, enacted pension holidays that diverted close to $3 billion originally intended to fund pensions toward school salaries instead and allowed a 400 percent growth in accrued teacher pension benefits since 1987. And now CPS is on the verge of collapsing under the weight of its financial obligations.
In the midst of its financial crisis, Chicago Sun-Times reported that CPS spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on fast food last year – more than $150,000 on pizza and more than $200,000 on Subway sandwiches.
According to CPS, it spent $2.9 million on food from outside vendors between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, of which nearly $1.5 million was authorized by the district’s central office. CPS indicated, however, that more than a third of the money could not be accounted for due to the spending lacking detail or being miscoded, Chicago Sun-Times reported.
In May, House Speaker Michael Madigan proposed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that included a CPS bailout by increasing its subsidies.
Madigan’s plan sought an additional $500 million appropriation for target school districts and an additional $75 million for early childhood education.
The proposed budget passed the House, but did not fare well in the Senate.
Forrest Claypool, CEO of CPS, has also sought to increase state funding for the district by calling for the state to appropriate 20 percent of its education spending to CPS since CPS students account for 20 percent of the state’s enrollment.
In a February interview for Chicago Tonight, Claypool said that CPS students are “being discriminated against in a radical, radical way.”
But some believe Claypool is simply attempting to guilt the state into bailing out Chicago, which doesn’t offer a long-term solution to the district’s debacle.