Karen Lewis Shares Her Take on CPS Financial Crisis

State lawmakers were fleshing out a plan Wednesday night to help the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools.

The special session came to an end without a formal announcement on a budget agreement, but there are reports that a stopgap budget that gets the state through November elections could be voted on by lawmakers.

There's a deal that would include roughly $400 million more for CPS than current law provides, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

“Roughly $100 million would come from a new grant for serving large numbers of students from poor families. (Another $150 million would go to other high-poverty districts elsewhere in the state.) CPS also would not lose the $75 million Rauner originally had proposed because of its dropping enrollment, and would get $25 million for early childhood education,” Crain’s reports.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said she doesn’t think these numbers will solve the district’s money woes.

“We were told from the very beginning of our negotiations that CPS had a $1.2 billion deficit, and that what they really needed was maybe $941 million,” Lewis said to host Carol Marin. “That number is nowhere close, but it is a start in the right direction.”

In addition to funding, CPS would get the pension parity it’s been demanding. Beginning next June the district will receive approximately $200 million a year, according to Crain’s, but that amount is tied to statewide pension reform.

Lewis said she’s feeling optimistic about a compromise, and that House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have said they are as well.

But the possibility of teacher layoffs remains a huge problem, Lewis said. “We’re already cut to the bone. Class sizes have ballooned. This is like the hardest year ever, and a lot of it was that uncertainty and knowing that people got pink slips,” she said.

The movement in Springfield comes as the district prepares to make an almost $700 million teacher pension payment that's due Thursday.

Making that payment will leave CPS with just $24 million in the bank.


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