Most Illinois schools won’t open without a budget deal, CPS head warns

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CHICAGO — Here’s how dire the situation is for the Chicago Public Schools: after the district makes its pension payment on June 30, it will have just $24 million dollars on hand. That’s enough money to operate the schools for just two days.

While the schools are in danger of not opening this fall, two of the biggest stakeholders are playing the blame game; the district administration is pointing at Springfield, while the teachers are blasting the district.

And today, in a one-on-one interview, the Chicago Public Schools CEO issued a dire warning: “Without a state education budget, I would say that most of the schools in the state won’t open,” Forrest Claypool said.

Claypool says the Illinois budget stalemate could prevent public schools from opening in the fall and he’s placing the blame squarely on the governor for opposing a new school funding bill.

“The problem lies with governor Rauner, so I would ask (voters) to pressure the governor to do the right thing,” Claypool said.

But Chicago Teachers’ Union President Karen Lewis says the financial mess is the fault of district leaders, not state legislators.

“We have clearly a failure on the part of leadership.” Lewis said. “It’s not right to just blame Springfield.”

CPS gets a third of it’s funding – about $1.7 billion dollars – from the state. The union says the city should increase taxes to raise $500 million in revenue for schools.

“Running down to Springfield and begging for money is not a plan,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

“Our plan is to get equal funding for our kids and our parents have been working on this for months, it’s the 20 for 20 campaign,” Claypool said. “Our students are 20 percent of state enrollment and we get 15 percent of state funding, the difference is $550 million, enough to save our schools.”

Chicago Public Schools parents are exasperated by the political disagreements.

"I might leave Illinois. This is what we pay property taxes for... For these guys to get educated,” said CPS parent John Yundt.

"We just need our elected officials to be grow ups and show our kids how to compromise and do their jobs. We just need a budget," said another CPS parent, Sarah Lopez.