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Demonstrators Call For TIF Surplus To Be Used For CPS

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 20, 2013 7:40PM

Protesters during last year's teachers strike hold banners calling for TIF funds to go to the school district. (Photo credit: Ann Fisher)

On the heels of the quick and dirty demolition of the field house at Whittier Elementary in Pilsen, a group of demonstrators renewed calls for Mayor Emanuel and the City to spend TIF funds on schools. After education advocates and others spent two days at Whittier with community members attempting to stop the building from being razed, demonstrators held a rally in Logan Square Sunday to demand TIF funds be used to shore up the CPS budget. Some of those who stood outside Whittier Friday and Saturday pointed out that TIF funds could have been used to save the fieldhouse were among the demonstrators.

Alonso Zaragoza, a community member on the school council for Kelvyn Park High School, told the Sun-Times “These cuts are devastating our students’ morale. We need our TIF funding restored.” Kelvyn Park lost $3.1 million in the wake of CPS budget cuts. Like Whittier and other schools, Kelvyn Park has become a symbol of the devastating effects parents and students say CPS cuts and money mismanagement have had on their schools.

Phil Cantor, a CPS teacher and parent, criticized Mayor Emanuel for spending TIF funds on the proposed arena for DePaul University near McCormick Place, as well as money spent on principal training. “There’s no money to pay for toilet paper in the schools, but we have $20 million to pay for a no-bid contract to do really mediocre principal training for three years,” Cantor told Progress Illinois.

Last month, the mayor rejected the idea of TIF funding for schools, saying that the surplus isn’t all that much in the face of the massive $1 billion deficit CPS claims it faces. DNAInfo Chicago reports Emanuel responded to questions about declaring a TIF surplus. “You cannot either tax your way or TIF your way out of this problem.” Many have said that the mayor’s lack of using alternative funding sources like TIF money points to a desire to privatize the school system. Tim Meegan, who wrote an op-ed for the Sun-Times on the matter, recently told DNAInfo Chicago “I used to think the administration of CPS was incompetent, but they're really intelligent. What they're doing is privatizing our schools.”

At the rally in Logan Square, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) agreed, saying “One day we're going to wake up and find the entire city has been privatized. They're building charter schools but they're not telling you about it.”