Mayor’s budget for desperately under-resourced school communities shows distorted priorities that rob working class students.
CHICAGO, August 10, 2020—Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in response to CPS’ release of the 2020-21 budget:
Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools have invested almost nothing in safety precautions for school communities, and have yet to reveal what they are planning to do with $18 million that will not be going to Chicago police to patrol our school buildings.
CPS and the mayor claimed that the hybrid proposal to bring students back to school this fall was budget neutral, with no additional spending on safety measures. Yet, when banking on $300 million in federal funds to address COVID-19, their capital budget invests zero funds for school needs like HVAC improvements. The mayor is also sitting on a record TIF windfall, yet none of those funds will come to our schools.
The last time CPS relied on potential legislation to balance the budget, school budgets were slashed mid-year. We agree that more federal funding is necessary. At the same time, CPS must do more to shore up school communities with downtown wealth.
- CPS’ COVID-specific spending totals just $75 million for the full budget year, to cover “remote and school reopening” costs. Yet last spring, the mayor’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education approved $75 million for CPS to spend on COVID-19 costs over just four months (from March through June). That’s not equity. That’s indifference to student need in this time of economic crisis and a global health pandemic.
- CPS’ proposed budget fails to utilize hundreds of millions of dollars in TIF surplus funds that would have come to our schools had TIFs not been siphoning off public resources into the mayor’s slush fund. Last year, CPS budgeted $160 million in public resources from the mayor’s TIFs. This year—in a record year for TIF revenue—CPS has cut that number by almost 40 percent. That’s wrong.
- The CPS capital budget makes no mention of capital spending for COVID-19 safety, like improved HVAC and ventilation systems that are decades old and in terrible shape in many schools. That’s not just a missed opportunity—that’s dangerous.
- Our schools serve predominantly Black, Brown, poor and working class students. Yet our district never has enough to serve the needs of these children in a system stacked against them because of their race and class. And CPS promises inevitably ring hollow. They certainly do in this budget, which does nothing to change that ugly reality, because it still relies on student-based budgeting as a formula to chronically under-serve neighborhood schools in Black and Latinx communities, while claiming equity with funds that many schools have no hope of receiving.
Our students’ families have joined rank-and-file CTU educators to clearly explain what we need from the district: adequately resourced classrooms for both remote and in-person learning, and the supports that students desperately need. This budget instead merely replicates failed neo-liberal education policies of the past, while leaving working class and low-income school communities across the district in the lurch.
We can—and we must—do better by our students.