Mayor Rahm Emanuel has detailed the fallout he attributes to Chicago Public Schools making good on a $634 million pension payment: 1,050 workers will lose their jobs, 350 vacant positions will be eliminated, and several education programs will be discontinued as a result of $200 million in budget cuts.
The plan also includes $175 million property tax increase to help pay for teacher pensions — but that can only happen if the state and Chicago’s teachers invest in what the mayor described as a “grand bargain” to end the district’s perennial money woes. Much of this plan requires approval from state legislators, who remain stuck with their own budget problems.
“In my view, these cuts are intolerable, they’re unacceptable and they’re totally unconscionable,” Emanuel said. “They’re a result of a political system that’s sprung a leak and now it’s a geyser. There’s a series of political compromises and patchwork over the years that can no longer continue.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, CPS interim Chief Executive Jesse Ruiz has stated that the budget cuts will not affect the length of the school day, although classes will start and end 45 minutes later to “reduce transportation costs.”
Cutting out 1,400 faculty jobs will also mean that extracurricular programs, such as athletics, will be downsized. This means that from the time children are placed in public education programs — possibly as early as four years old, for the average preschool program — they won’t have as many opportunities to cultivate creativity and teamwork-focused mindsets. Most preschools serve three-, four-, and five-year-olds — a time when creativity and expression are of utmost importance.
District officials say that this time, they tapped into borrowed money, which included $200 million of tax anticipation notes to make the pension payment. A bill was recently passed which aims to ease pension pressures at CPS, while giving Governor Bruce Rauner the tax freeze he has been pushing for. Any solid plans on fixing the problem in the long term have yet to be released.