The Chicago Board of Education recently sent members of Illinois' General Assembly a letter urging them to consider the dire funding needs of Chicago Public Schools as they set out to balance this year's budget. On behalf of the Board, Board President Michael Scott and CEO Arne Duncan encouraged legislators to prioritize General State Aid, the State program that guarantees minimum funding per student, and provide a fairer, more accurate measure for counting poor students in schools: both high priorities for the Network 21 coalition.
Dear Members of the
Illinois General Assembly:
For decades, public
school children in Chicago and Illinois have been shortchanged by a state that
has failed to meet its fundamental responsibilities to fairly fund
Today, with new
leadership in Springfield, we have a historic opportunity to begin correcting
the wrongs of the past and give our children the education they need and
In recent years,
the Chicago public school system has made enormous progress in raising test
scores, attendance, enrollment, and the graduation rate.
Through better management, we have cut
tens of millions in waste, and shifted hundreds of millions of dollars from
administration to the classroom.
have invested more than $3.6 billion to expand and improve our schools – with 84
percent of the money coming from local taxpayers, and the remainder coming from
Springfield and Washington.
Just last year,
Illinois cut school funding by $170 million, which reduced funding to the
Chicago Public Schools by $35 million, forcing even deeper cuts in non-classroom
Any further cuts will
directly impact classroom programs.
While we all
recognize that the State of Illinois is facing a major budget deficit, we
implore you not to balance this budget on the backs of our schoolchildren.
As you look to ways to meet your own
fiscal challenges, please bear in mind ours:
General State Aid
The State School
Funding Formula has already left Illinois 48
in the nation with
only a third of Chicago’s education budget coming from Illinois and the district
overly reliant on property taxes.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, 80 percent of the school
districts in the state are operating at a deficit.
Elsewhere around the country schools are
cutting days and increasing class size.
Chicago must avoid these kinds of measures in order to continue improving
A drop in the
poverty count based on the 2000 census could cost us $17 million.
On the other hand, changing the way
poverty is counted so that it more accurately captures all those with real needs
could earn us as much as $40 million more.
Please consider the recommendations of the Education Funding Advisory
Board (EFAB), which suggests a fairer poverty count.
adequately funds every teacher’s pension except Chicago’s teachers.
This is unfair.
State funding for the Chicago Teacher
Pension Fund (Fund) has dropped from 26.5 to 7 percent of what the state gives the
downstate Teacher Retirement System (TRS).
Actuarial projections suggest that CPS will have to start contributing $5
million to the Fund in FY 2005, and an additional $40 million each year
This is $40 million
annually that could be invested into academic programs.
We need the State to assume funding
responsibility for the Chicago Teacher Pension Fund.
Rising Costs of Health Care
Health care costs
for the Chicago Public Schools increased more than 30 percent in the past two years and
will likely climb another 14 percent or $30 million next year.
We expect to spend $250 million on
health care benefits for our employees in Fiscal Year 2004 — $100 million over
Fiscal Year 2000.
This cost will
grow even more if Illinois cuts Medicare and Medicaid.
Studies have shown
that there is a dramatic danger to our children throughout Illinois because
school buildings are in severe disrepair.
Financial projections indicate that there is a $6 billion school
infrastructure need in Illinois.
Currently, the state has funded a $500 million school construction
program through FY 2003.
you to at least continue funding at this level in FY 2004 and the years
This program provides the
Chicago Public Schools $100 million annually in capital funding.
Teacher Salaries/Union Negotiations
salary increases alone will cost CPS $20 million more next year, and we begin
contract negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union this spring in which we
anticipate a rise in labor costs for all 27,000 teachers.
categorical programs, including special education, bilingual, and
transportation, as well as unfunded federal mandates under No Child Left Behind
further exacerbate what already appears to be a critical shortfall for the
Chicago Public Schools.
All told, we
conservatively estimate that we will need at least $250 million more next year
just to meet our continuing obligations and advance school reform.
To correct the imbalances of the
past and begin to offer the schoolchildren of Chicago a truly first-class
education without overburdening the taxpayers of Chicago, we really need
significantly more, but we understand that in the current climate this is not
Nevertheless, we ask
that, as you develop your budget, please give Chicago schoolchildren every
Michael W. Scott,
Chief Executive Officer